Who is Taking Rigging to the Next Level?

Written By: Lance Piatt

Yosemite SAR Technicians perform a climber rescue from the Royal Arches NPS Photo/ Dave Pope
Yosemite SAR Technicians perform a climber rescue from the Royal Arches NPS Photo/ Dave Pope

So who is taking this industry to the next level?  Manufacturers?  Riggers? Trainers? Who?

So this might offend some and others may agree… still others may not have even thought about this.  Having watched Valley Uprising for the umpteenth time, I am simply flabbergasted at how the levels keep getting raised. Now I am not sure of the how many people die each year in climbing accidents, but the National Park Service estimates that within it’s jurisdiction, it is about 2.5 deaths per year and about 15-25 people require rescue each year.  I am only guessing the Yosemite NP ranks pretty darn high.

I remember the first time I went climbing in Yosemite… It was bigger than I could have imagined and man, was I scared!  I took a complete novice with me.  My lead climbing was minimal at best.  We made it out alive… barely.  That was over 20 years ago.  I could have been a statistic, but I wasn’t.  What did happen though, was that I understood my gear much better.  The cams took their fair share of hits.  The rope got stretched longer than ever before and I became a much better climber and rigger.  My knowledge grade was up’d significantly.

It was a few more years before I joined the county SAR team and for the next 10+ years, I became a student of not just rescue, but of rigging as well.  When Rescue Response Gear became the priority, I listened more than practiced and now… and 20+ years later, I am watching a whole new generation of riggers coming into their own. 20 somethings even!!!

Richard Delaney of RopeLab discussing the finer things of rigging light with a gin pole setup in his beloved Blue Mountains.
Richard Delaney of RopeLab discussing the finer things of rigging light with a gin pole setup in his beloved Blue Mountains.

I am watching AMGA guides, fire service young bucks, slackline dirt bags… all testing the limits of what is now and what should be tomorrow.  And so my question is… “who is going to take it to the next level?”  In my opinion, the whole “catastrophic” event is over emphasized with intentioned folks who actually aren’t even pushing the limits of equipment.  Those that do push the 10:1 or even less, do either because they literally have calculated everything out and know it or… the system gets severely down graded because the weak link are the prusiks (or something worse), not the main or core elements of the system. So what are the “core” elements of a system?  This is a topic I will explore soon.

I will go out on a limb… manufacturers will lead the way, but with the strong assistance of some “rule breakers”.  Why?  Because we need some dirt bags/rule breakers to really push things beyond the intended limits.  Who are dirt bags?   Well, if you are one, you know it and are nodding YES!!!!  If you aren’t one and are asking “what is a dirt bag?”… then you’ll never know. For those who remember Dan Osman and his team of riggers, the exploits of what they were doing were incredible.  Yes, he died, but I will let you reference the actually facts of what happened.  The system was solid except for one thing… he changed a critical component of the system and the angle of trajectory changed and thus the system failed because of the lack of progress of one pulley and misguided ropes touching each other. A fatal mistake, but one that can be rebuilt and understood.

Ropes That Rescue Page Liked · July 17, 2015 · Steep angle gin pole with TTRS — in Los Alamos, New Mexico. Photo Ropes That Rescue
Ropes That Rescue Page Liked · July 17, 2015 · Steep angle gin pole with TTRS — in Los Alamos, New Mexico. Photo Ropes That Rescue

Am I suggesting this is what is needed? Absolutely not!  What I see happening though are people without a predefined perception of what is possible, will push limits because they know the purpose and they calculate what needs to be set for a given event.  They calculate the worse case scenario and know it in advance. They don’t guess and they don’t over build.  For years, I watched in awe at what Reed Thorne put together.  Mastery in art form.  And now his sons are taking over and who knows where things can go.

The status quo can be considered a rule… Those that question the status quo could be considered a “rule breaker”.  Why?  They dare to push the established boundary of safety.  They are pushing boundaries, because they know about product development.  I have had some amazing conversations with Rich Delaney about this.  Listen to this man and watch what he does and talks about.  Leaders who learn, pass on not just the successful attempts but of the failures as well.  Leaders will always fail more than followers… Always!  Because they take the chance to look like a failure and often are misunderstood. Yet we owe the next chapters and successes to such as these.

So in the coming weeks, I want to look into what a Next Level Leader (NLL) looks like and why.  Thanks for putting up with my mini rant.  Check out our Rigging Lab Academy Facebook page or the Rigging Lab Academy Group page and lets here your thoughts.

 

 

Until then…

Peace,

Lance

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