As an argument AGAINST rigging releasable a former student bragged that he could convert from static block to lower in 2.5 minutes. Ok. Under “controlled” conditions I can do it in under 1.5 minutes, but I still lean toward rigging releasable the majority of the time.
There are some partner rescue techniques that I teach one way in locations where the anchors tend to be bolts placed on the wall near the edge and another way when the anchors tend to be natural and potentially far back from the edge. More than one student who has attended my courses in multiple locations has asked me why.
Do I need to say it? ... IT DEPENDS
Let’s start with the example of converting a static block to a lower. My fast time is the result of practice, practice and more practice. But I qualified my time with “under controlled conditions”. If I practice in the same spot, with the same convenient anchors, with the same gear and rope, and with the same partner hanging on the wall, I become really efficient — in that scenario with those variables.
But what if I tweak the scenario and/or the variables?
By convenient anchor I mean one that provides me sufficient work space. An inconvenient anchor might be one so close to the edge that I have no choice but to hang over the edge to perform the rescue (which is ok for counterweight systems, but less-than-ideal for others). An inconvenient anchor might also be one that is low to the ground or in an awkward position for creating a mechanical advantage system if it is needed.
What if I lose a piece of gear? I can get really efficient performing a rescue with a VT Prusik, but what if I drop it? Can I still perform the rescue with whatever gear I have available to me?
And why does it make a difference if the anchors are two bolts placed on the wall near the edge vs a natural anchor far back from the edge? In the first situation I can use counterweight most of the time, even if the subject is heavier than me because (a) it is less likely that I have to overcome friction where the rope passes over the rock and (b) I have the ability to hang over the edge to put more of my weight into it.
In contrast, when the anchor is far back from the edge I am more likely to need mechanical advantage when lifts (or raises) are involved because I have to lift the weight of the subject AND overcome friction where the rope passes over the rock.
So, can I perform the rescue in under 1.5 minutes in all scenarios? No, I cannot. But I am still reasonably efficient. Before I even start the rescue I can look at the situation and know that I can do it this time with counterweight. Another time I look at it and know that I can do it with 6:1 mechanical advantage. Another time I look at it and know that it will be nearly impossible with a system that requires a lift, so I might rig a lowering system with a rescue rope and cut the original rope so I can avoid the lift.
How do I know what will work in various situations? Practice. Practice that is not limited to going to the same cliff with the same gear every time. I practice in multiple locations with different gear. I practice with someone who weighs 90 pounds and someone who weighs 170 pounds and someone who weighs 250 pounds. I practice with 8mm rope and I practice with 9mm rope and I practice with 10mm rope. I practice with my favorite gear and I practice with gear that I consider my 2nd and 3rd choices and I practice with gear that sucks. I practice with various combinations with all of these variables.
And even with all that practice it is impossible to anticipate every situation so there is no such thing as too much practice.
Instructor and Adventure Travel Addict
What a coincidence. Today we decided to go out for practice. Vic lost all her self-rescue gear, and she got some old gear that she wanted to test and get aquatinted with. Turns out that the silver lining is that by practicing with new gear the was of lower design quality, she was forced to focus on concepts, not specifics about gear.
In my list for practice: Pass knots rappelling down without a VT
I have been in a couple of occasions where a knot sneaked on me, and I did not have even enough rope to lock off. I was able to get out those binds, but I wanted to make it more efficient.
And finally, some pick off with the poor mans jag...and without the JAG.
Great practice session.