The Truth About How We Learn

When we created Rigging Lab Academy, we had a few things in mind before we stepped foot into the world if online video training for rope rescue and rigging athletes.  Five of them are listed here.

1) Our brain craves EASE & ORDER

It will always choose the easy route. It hates complexity. It will automatically seek out shortcuts. People want an EASY experience, more than anything. Unfortunately, much of our society won’t let that happen.

Rigging and Gear Implication: Eliminate the unnecessary so the necessary can work even better. Don’t overwhelm. Simplify everything.

2) We have a very limited ATTENTION SPAN

Did you know our attention spans is roughly eight seconds now?  To many options are a hindrance to many of us. If we’re presented with too many choices, we end up choosing nothing or reducing the outcome to “less”.

Rigging and Gear Implication: Thin out the rigging systems that are old, worn out or require to many people.  Remove gear that no longer makes sense or doesn’t have multiple uses. Make choices clear and easy to understand. Always align the rigging and rescue techniques with the intended goal and the goal must be understood and agreed upon.

3) We are VISUAL

90% of what we learn is visual. We learn by seeing. Images over words!  We scan now… reading takes to long. Motor memory is huge, so whether improvisations with anchor systems, raise and lower changeovers or understanding mechanical advantage system progression… visualizing prior to motor skills improves the outcome greatly.

Rigging and Gear Implication: “Show” rather than “tell.” Video training built into learning a new belay device or pick-off technique is always better.

4) We respond to EMOTION

The brain remembers events triggered by emotion. We remember first impressions, because 90% of the decisions we make are driven by emotion (in our subconscious). Want your team to remember you are teaching them?.. making things exciting.  Learning rappelling is always more exciting at the cliff than indoors.  Creating an entire team based 5th class litter scenario using a 2 tension rope system will always be more memorable on location than stuck indoors…

Rigging and Gear  Implication: Making sure people are connected to the goals and vision is crucial. Never “sell” your vision without a story.  Give them something to believe in. Remember, at best 30% of your technical rescue team is vested into the process… the rest are along for the ride for other reasons.  To get them onboard, they need to believe in what you are asking them to do.

5) We are attracted to BEAUTY

We are visceral creatures and  visually pleasing outcomes are better than not. Make a photo opportunity for every rigging and rope rescue scenario you build. Good design is the first rule of success. Significance is built into the design.  Design matters way more than you’d think. There is a reason why Petzl, Black Diamond and others are so socially attractive… their products match the goal of aesthetically pleasing systems start from aesthetically pleasing product which began at the design phase.

Rigging and Gear Implication: Consider the Petzl I’d and Petzl GriGri. The I’d is the industrial version of the GriGri  The design revolutionized first lowering, then revolutionized raise and lower systems.  Why?;  the design was exceptional.  So much so that transitions and changeovers are now “no brainers”.  The hold-down is the friction gain in the raise, but that is mis-use of the intended purpose… Yet even with this, a Petzl I’d for both MA and MdA (disadvantage) is an common as the rescue rope being used in the system  NOTE… watch.  I believe someone (Petzl or otherwise) will fix this Kirk Mauthner / BaseCamp Innovations  has changed much of the “first world” rigging operations because he continues to life and a process of innovation.

Rigging and Rescue Training and Equipment should be…

  • EASY


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Why are rescue and rigging anchors more important than anything else?

In our heads, we know that anchors are the most important part of any rigging or rescue system.  We know that because it has been drilled into our skulls, but I would venture to say that the reasons for this is inescapably unclear for many.  

My goal here is to simply bring about a general understanding of what is considered “best practices” within the discipline of anchor building.  This “head knowledge” must be applied at the ground level as well… best through hands on instruction first and then field practice.  If you do this, your “rigging life” will be long and prosperous.  If you don’t, things could end rather abruptly.

There two functional elements to anchor systems.

  1. Choosing the “object”.
  2. Rigging the anchor.

We have put together an amazing ebook that walks through 10 types of rigging systems.  Now these are “rigging”, as opposed to the “objects” being rigged to.

  1. Wrap 3, Pull 2
  2. High Strength Tie-Off
  3. Fixed Multi-Point Anchor System (Load Sharing)
  4. Back-Ties
  5. Opposition Anchors
  6. Floating Anchors
  7. Artificial Anchors (Cams, Tapers, Hex and bolts)
  8. Artificial Anchors (other types)
  9. Bolts
  10. Picket Anchor Systems

Anchors are the most critical component of any rope rescue system and the entire rescue is in jeopardy if the anchors are not reliable. We hope that you found the material inside this eBook to be helpful, insightful, and encouraging. If you’d like to continue learningabout anchors and other rigging disciplines, we hope you’ll join us over at Rigging Lab Academy.

Pick up your FREE copy of The Foundations of Rescue and Rigging Anchors Systems


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The Difference Between Leading and Bleeding=Changing The World

To change the world, leading will always have some bleeding, but never mistake bleeding for leading.  Almost every one of us feel at some point that we can or should be a part of changing the world.  Now, before you brush this off, think about it.  We all have opinions right?  We make judgements towards, with or against someone or something.  Many of these sentiments are incredibly emotional.  These are elements of paradigm shifts.  These shifts are what’s needed to create movements.  Movements create the shifts that ultimately change the course of people’s lives… thus becoming world changers.  Are you this person?

If you are (and I believe you are)… there are a few things that need to be worked out.  First… there are a few challenges.  The world is too big of a place for me to change. I don’t really have the talents or skills to make much of an impact.  Or how about…?  I am not meant to be anything more than what I am currently doing.  So while these three challenges to change the world are possible… I want to suggest they are neither logical nor factual.  As you have heard me say before… perspective is everything right?

Changes to large systems normally occur in shifts of degrees.  Having the authority to change something doesn’t always mean we have permission to do it.  Yet permission being granted is more often a response to a request.  “Can I help change the world”?  And the response… “Well of course!  Where would you like to start”?  So now that we have permission, the one giving permission just authorized you as well.  So my friend… you are clear now to move about the cabin and start making shifts.

So while this forum or post is directed towards riggers and rescuers, you might be asking “how in the world does rope handling and pulley systems change anybody’s world much less my own”?  In some respects, it might not.  But in the real world of people, courage comes from not just knowledge, but by people believing in them.  See, just as say Rigging Lab Academy helps to focus and guide people and departments towards a heighten understanding of systems and capabilities, when people intersect with the lives of others there can be an exponential increase in motivation, understanding and knowledge…. resulting in greater skills and thus strengths.  When this happens the resultant focus on any one particular person… when positioned correctly, will create a paradigm shift in the atmosphere they work in.  I have personally seen this in Mexico, Nicaragua and in Honduras.  The people in our training, were also highly positioned government officials and this set off an incredible “lift component” and transformation was well under way.

The plan is always the same…

  1. Find the talent needed for the increase
  2. Increase the skill levels commensurate for the requirements
  3. Then focus those strengths directly towards the intended target


The biggest aspect or challenge at this point is… yep!…  What am I focusing on?  Your Action Requirements.  It is never enough to simply focus on the “job at hand”.  Single focus never has the same impact as does  multidimensional focus.  This means focusing not just on the task, but person contributing to the task.  This requires leadership qualities and to remain in “learning mode” at all times.  See, everyone is waiting for “a promotion”.  A promotion without a proper alignment with the person’s talents and skills is actually a demotion.  The critical failure of any organizational system is a failure in true leadership.  A leader leads people in proper alignment.  A dictator tells people what to do and where to go.  One will succeed and the other will fail.  Guess which is Leading and which is Bleeding?

With success comes a level of trauma right?  Everything worth fighting for is worth failing in the attempt.  When it comes to Leadership, the leader must always invest themselves into the process.  When one person bleeds, the other must as well.  Why?  Because Authority and Respect are levels of leadership that only come from The Fight.  Fear and respect are not the same and authority without respect is fear.  Fear never builds, it only destroys.

We are created to be world changers!  All of us.  You have and will continue to hear me talk about cross-pollination and hybridization and both have the same goal… to alter the DNA and to achieve an intended purpose not available by one element alone.  So we start here… learning from other world changers in industries we may not understand or know about.  What this will do is bring about the clash between Principles (Guidelines) and Process (rules).  I am looking forward to seeing the clash!! 🙂

Peace on your days!






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Hybridize Your Processes

I guess the question at hand is do we really understand our systems and what they are truly capable of?  And with all the talk about catastrophic failures… what exactly is a catastrophic failure anyway?  Under manufacturer’s specs,  it isn’t the rope (good ropes don’t snap).  When was the last time you saw a knot explode?  The hardware doesn’t break.  So is it human error?  And while a catastrophic event is horrific, something tells me that upscaling our “design thinking” is a better approach than overbuilding.

Hybridization is about “breakthrough design(In chemistryhybridisation (or hybridization) is the concept of mixing atomic orbitals into new hybrid orbitals (with different energies, shapes, etc., than the component atomic orbitals) suitable for the pairing of electrons to form chemical bonds in valence bond theory).  While the concept and term is most notably attributed to science, the real notation is about collaborative efforts that lead to innovation and solving real world problems.  See, hybridization and design thinking are interlocked; Reorganizing and rethinking systems and teams within the existing structure.  The goal is to build uniquely different, a system whose efficiency and efficacy is multiplied, and uses less of everything. For this to work, we have 3 aspects of design thinking…

  • Inspiration – mentally and emotionally stimulating
  • Ideation – the formation of ideas or concepts
  • Implementation – the process of putting a decision or plan into effect

Example… Is a two person load in rescue a real world problem?  No… It can be solved through building single person load systems.  What?  We can do that?  Of course we can… and should!  It changes everything. The crazy thing with this thought is that climbers, rope access technicians, arborist, slackliners, entertainment riggers ect… all use single person loads.  Can the fire service do the same?  Of course.  However, I will wholeheartedly admit, this is not a stone easily moved.  The best, quickest and surest way to move any “stone” is to learn applied concepts from other fields.  No one who is serious about this stuff ever wants to take shortcuts right?  In music, jazz is a prime example of “fusing” and creativity within a matrix.  They even change the rules!

Our hero (Chad) is on a journey.  He wants to make a difference. Everything he reads, the people he talks with and the classes he attends all have the same look, feel and end result.  The classes are good, but he is not sure he can expand past where he is.  The people he sees stepping outside the norm get ridiculed; a danger to the system.  He struggles inside… a clash between what he sees vs what he hopes for.  As a young up and comer, he knows philosophically, “we should be doing better” and this “ought not” be so complicated.  He is looking for someone to help him.

In comes his mentor (Luke) and he knows exactly what Chad is thinking and feeling.  Luke has been around the rigging world for a long time.  He isn’t perfect.  He has made his fair share of mistakes, but his mistakes have an interesting twist to them.  They seem toknot tying expand his vision, his understanding and his depth of field.  It is as if his mistakes actually catapult him into another sphere of understanding and his influence along with it.  Chad notices this and asks Luke why… “how is it your mistakes don’t seem to have the “costs” or pain points associated with normal mistakes?  Luke’s answer was simple and to the point.  And with a sobering stare he says… “I learn a great deal from others.  What they do.  How they do things.  What their mistakes have been and the solutions they used to move past their own mistakes.  I am a student of others and their own game”.

Luke suggests some advice to Chad…

  1. Think about what you need and then look around to see what others are doing about the same type of need. Always look outside of your own sphere as well as your own.
  2. Ask yourself…”will it make my life easier and the lives of others”?
  3. Lastly… “what do I need to do to make this change happen”?

I (Lance) want to encourage everyone to always seek solutions to challenges and problems from outside of what seems logical or normal.  We have an amazing world to explore and within our own world of rigging and rescue… solutions could come from mountains, oceans, caves, structures, and even trees.  It has been shown that the whole 6 degrees of separation is more like 4 now. Your “call to action” as it were, is to first find those low hanging gems and learn all you can from them.  Don’t get caught up with the differences, but glean the similarities and the strengths.  Cross pollination or hybridization is the best way to learn anything and most certainly, anything new.  With lower barriers of entry, other’s thoughts and strengths become yours… You will literally see things with more clarity and substance.  I can promise you this… being a student of another’s game as well as your own is the most efficient and cost effective way to multiply your own efforts.

Yes… 🙂  Rigging Lab Academy is a great place to start.


Peace on your days…


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Why “cross pollination” (hybridization) is crucial in rope rescue and rigging.

So what exactly is “cross pollination”?  Well… glad you asked.  Most understand this term through botany channels and while this is true, it is also true that cross pollination is “a sharing or interchange of knowledge, ideas, etc.” and it is through this that I want to make a statement.  “Without cross pollination, civilization as we know it will no longer exist”…  This is also true for the world of rigging.

We cruise through a number of different segments of the rigging population:

  1. Rope Rescue (Fire Service)
  2. Arborists
  3. Industrial Rope Access
  4. Climbers
  5. Slacklining
  6. Canyoneering
  7. Tower Rescue and Access
  8. Small Team Rigging
  9. Fall Arrest and Fall Protection
  10. Entertainment Rigging
  11. Water Rescue
  12. Mountain and Climber Rescue

My feeling is this.  Everyone can learn from someone and cross pollination is the quickest and most efficient means of strengthening your strengths. I don’t believe that working on weaknesses leads to better success.  Many may argue with me on this point, but strengths are strengths and weaknesses are just that.  Let an industrial access guy learn what an arb guy knows and watch the amazing feats that come about.  You ever wonder what goes into making those seriously gnarly long highlines you see in Yosemite and other wild settings?… the rigging of these monsters are nothing less than incredible and forces exerted on the anchors are seriously huge!  Remember what the forces are at each anchor at 160°-179°?  That is what these guys are trying to do.

For years, I have been pursuing a place where ideas flourish and have a high risk of irritating and or pissing people off.  I saw this in the early Ropes That Rescue days with Reed Thorne, Pat Rhodes and others… Arguments, yelling and shouting matches, accusations, and eventually an “agree to disagree”.  It raised the bar many notches from where it was.

I camRich Hattier - Rigging Lab Academye through the rigging ranks being more of student rigger than a true student of rigging.  The main reason for this is that networking and watching the lights “switched on” with people was more stimulating and glorious than coming up with some new form of overcoming friction, building multiple resultants within a single system, or determining what is better… the mainline-belay line system or a twin tension system.

Rigging Lab Academy was born out of a desire to see outrageous ideas come to fruition.  To answer the question of the “chicken or egg” (chicken BTW)… will technical needs breed new gear or will gear bring more strategy options?  What are we solving for?  Should the process of solving a problem always include the desire to see another problem to solve?

My resultants start at where my footprint needs to be (first) then create the main anchors, mainline, mechanical advantage system, artificial high point, retrieval, leverage options for change overs or reverse directions and eventually complete the evaluation… all through the one main idea; What am I trying to solve?  And the answer to this is… a riggers diet.

Our bodies need proteins, fats, carbs, hydration, minerals and a host of other things.  Not every body requires the exact same level of nutrition… some climbing, arb access, mountains, industrial access, theater rigger, fire rescue and the list goes on. No one diet serves everything… and this I love.

I remember the conversations about the Petzl I’d or brake bar racks, the CMC MPD or the Petzl I’d, Sterling HTP or Sterling Super Static.  Side Note… When filming for the Tower Rescue series in 2005, when Sterling’s HTP first came out, the issue of sheath slip, abrasion resistance, melting points etc… all of which were really new and often conversationally problematic.  Now, no one thinks twice about it. Two products with two separate job requirements and to show the blessings of Sterling’s risk taking, how many “htp” or “polyester rescue rigging ropes” are there?  A ton!!!!  Everyone has them.

So why am I doing this?  Those who know me will laugh… I like offending people with really really good ideas.  I promise to stay in touch with updates and insights into the amazing minds of people of simply think differently…

Oh… and why it important to cross pollinate?  Science shows prolonged repetitive training  leads to unhealthiness and cross pollinating (hybridization) with the strength and wisdom of others, leads to better skills and thus strengths!!!!  Training needs to be able to connect on multiple levels.

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Building Anchors with Spring Loaded Cams- Pull Test Using Metolius Camming Units

Building Anchors with Spring Loaded Cams- Pull Test Using Metolius Camming Units

So we did some back yard testing and while what we found wasn’t particularly astonishing, it was never the less, very interesting.

We purposely used some marginal placements with our Metolius camming units.  Some more marginal than others.  We found a range from 1.8 kN (400 lbs) to 7.8 kN force or (1700 lbs).  That former was super marginal and the latter was solid and bomber.  As the video describes, we never really failed the placement due to the stretch in the rope.  Who knows what it would have been.  NOTE:  We used a 32:1 MA!!!!

I pulled this video piece out as it became much more relevant to us at RLA due to some of the projects we have coming up as well as personal project Torrey is heading next week.  I can’t say where or what at this point, but I can tell you it has to do with using natural anchors and placement anchors (nuts and camming units) to build slackline/highline systems in the backcountry.  We’ll be able to relive and retell the tales… so stay tuned.

In short, what we found was the culture of the rock and not cam itself was the determining factor of failure.

About rock strength
Rock fails in 2 basic ways: either a relatively large piece breaks off or the surface layer is crushed under the pressure of the cam lobe allowing the cam to “track out.” You must assess the integrity of the rock and choose the soundest possible location for your placements. Look for fractures in and around the walls of a potential placement that could denote weakness, as well as pebbles, crystals or micro-flakes that could snap off.

Be extremely suspicious of placements behind flakes or blocks. As we said before, cams exert a tremendous amount of outward force in a fall, so they can expand or even lever off even seemingly solid flakes or blocks. Passive protection is often a better choice behind flakes or blocks.

Mitigate the danger of rock failure by spreading the force between the cam lobes and the rock over as large an area as possible — always use the largest cam lobe surface area that will fit in any given placement. In other words, choose the largest unit that will fit the placement and always opt for a 4-cam unit over a 3-cam unit, if it will fit — if the placement is deep enough to accommodate a Fat Cam, even better.

Check out the video here….







Here is a bit more information on the Metolius Camming units.



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Tom Wood PMI-VRS Interview Part 1: The Gears Behind The Art and Science Of Rigging and Rescue

Tom Wood PMI-VRS Interview Part: The gears behind the training

In this first of a two part series, we are spending some time with Tom Wood, Director of Training at PMI VRS.  Tom shares a lot of his life, both private and public, with us.  The first half of our interview looks through his life as the training director of PMI VRS and how it all came into being.  Tom, being the adventuring sojourner he is, didn’t take the most direct route and likely wouldn’t change a thing and he tells us why.

Training and Education is the focus for Vertical Rescue Solutions, which exemplifies Tom’s perspective on life. Tom’s feeling that life should embrace all aspects.. people, events, jobs (paid and non paid). There is or are no compartmentalizing and each represents “aspects” or pieces of his life.  Family and the devotion to helping others often creates a mosaic of choices and as colorful as this may sound, pain and challenges are always part it.

Tom’s philosophy surrounding gear (whether high angle rescue, mountain rescue, cave rescue, rope access or canyoneering) is that to know gear is to use gear.  To train hard and with excellence.  The PMI company handbook goes so far as to encourage all employees to be involved in “volunteer” rescue service (non paid rescue).  Juggling long SAR missions can have quite the impact on the office if it isn’t organized well to begin with.  Tom shares some of his insight into how best to work this out… ahead of time.

To Vertical Rescue Solutions, a premiere training and education company… known on a global scale, “continuity” is huge!… and what kind of impact does PMI VRS want to have on the industry?   Identity, growth and staying true to the spirit of the company can be a struggle when balancing “life and work”.  How does this work?  Tom feels Community is key.  His perspective in living his life; resources, networking, and legacy… is a responsibility he has chosen to embrace and pass on to the incoming generation.

We talk about “what creates the hunger to learn more”?  Is it training?  Is it how we learn?  Is it the person or people we are learning from?  Our environment?  Tom talks us through his relationships with Pat Rhodes, Steve Hudson, Loui McCurley and many others and how they impacted his life and thus how this has impacted his training and the educating of a generation.

Tom also talks about his new book, Trading Steel For Stone.  For more information on this book… Stay tuned to Part 2 of this interview. See Tom and Vertical Rescue Solutions courses…









Thanks for joining us… Part 2 is coming soon.

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Slow is Smooth, Smooth is Fast: A Common Sense Approach to Your Next Rope Rescue

Slow is Smooth, Smooth is Fast: A Common Sense Approach to Your Next Rope Rescue

“Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast”. This is an old adage that was passed on to me in my first dealings with the fire service. At first it seemed like some sort of cliché or one of many one liners the senior guys used to further confuse the new guys. It wasn’t until I truly examined the saying and embodied it myself that I have come to swear by it. To break it down it’s a method of describing the progression of learning a new skill and mastering it to the point that it can be executed with speed and efficiency. In order to do something with speed you must first practice the skill enough to do it smoothly, and in order to do it smoothly you must master the skill by practicing it slowly. With enough of this practice, a muscle memory is built and subconsciously that skill because extremely expedient. Now that we have  common understanding of what the phrase means, how in the world can it relate to your team’s next rope rescue incident? Allow me to explain..

Continue reading “Slow is Smooth, Smooth is Fast: A Common Sense Approach to Your Next Rope Rescue”

Our Strongest Points Are Never Far From Our Weakest Links

“Our strongest points are never far from our weakest links”. Is this really true? Whether individual or team, both are created to do amazing works. Teams are components of people, so there is no individual at all. So understanding and knowing how our lives are wrapped up with other people, is crucial. And since there is no such thing as a “self-made person” having a Proper Identity is the key to this question… Oneness! Continue reading “Our Strongest Points Are Never Far From Our Weakest Links”