What would you do?

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What would you do?

Postby jeffkruse » Feb 15, 2013 9:15 am

In my last thread I asked if I could make a 3:1 with biners only and if this gave me any advantage at all. I am trying to think of what I would do during a real situation for the type of caving I do with my wife using only what we have on hand, not what I should have on hand.

What would I do if she was stuck on rope be it either from medical or equipment failure?

Most of our drops we do are 50 feet or less. Rarely is it just the two of us, it’s usually 3 in the group.
I always carry some 50 feet webbing, a 15 foot 8mm rope, and some biners. If we are doing vertical work then I use a frog system with one ascender, one croll, and a figure 8.

If she is stuck/unconscious 30’ - 40’ down. What should I do? I don’t think I could downclimb that far. I have practiced downclimbing and it’s hard work. I think anything more than 15 feet would be too much? Help would be hours away. All I can think of is pulling the rope up. I can’t figure out if lowering is possible or helpful?

I would put my ascender on the rope as close to the edge as I could. With my small rope I would use a figure 8 on a bight and clip it to the ascender with a biner. I would put another biner on an anchor nearby and run the rope through it. I would bring that rope back through the biner attached to the ascender. I would then put the croll on the main rope for progress capture. We would somehow have to pull the main rope through the croll to capture the progress while we were pulling on the small rope.

She weighs 115# + 10# pack + the rest of the rope 5#’s? = 130#’s. With a 3:1 made from biners giving us an effective 2:1 that would be like pulling 65# and then some for the friction of the main rope on the lip. I think two people could do that. We would have to reset every 5 feet or so.

Is that practical or does it make matters worse? I know harness pathology sets in quickly so does waiting 2 hours (best case) for help mean probable death?
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Re: What would you do?

Postby nathanroser » Feb 15, 2013 9:42 am

I would recommend getting some 7mm cord to make prusiks. They won't cost much and they work well for progress capture. I have successfully used biners for mechanical advantage before but not in a rescue situation. If you are using your own ascenders for progress capture and there are more drops above you to climb you could find yourself stuck as well since you wouldn't be able to get them off the rope if they are being used in a haul system. Two prusik minding pulleys would cost a bit more money but with two prusiks, two pulleys, some webbing, and a few carabiners you can build a second anchor using the webbing and then build a haul system with mechanical advantage with that.
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Re: What would you do?

Postby jeffkruse » Feb 15, 2013 10:23 am

I wanted this thread to take the direction of using only what is on hand, not what I should have on hand. That should be another thread and may have been covered before. If it hasn’t been covered before maybe I should ask what is the minimum you carry when doing any vertical work.
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Re: What would you do?

Postby Chads93GT » Feb 15, 2013 10:26 am

lowering her to the bottom will prevent her from dying in minutes from harness pathology. if you are rigged to a tree it is rather simple, only lower enough rope into the pit for the drop, rig your high strength tie off, and leave the rest of the rope up top. IF ever there were a problem you rig a rack into the rope, anchor it, undo the high strength tie off and lower her to the ground. You can then figure out how to haul her out after she is on the ground safely and not slowly dying in her harness ;)

If she is unconscience then I would personally lower her to the ground first, then figure it out.
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Re: What would you do?

Postby wyandottecaver » Feb 15, 2013 10:40 am

I agree with Chad, without plenty of help hauling really introduces a lot of risks. Get her to the ground.
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Re: What would you do?

Postby Scott McCrea » Feb 15, 2013 10:44 am

Usually, the best/fastest/safest way to get a stuck person off rope is to lower them. It's not really a big deal if you prepare when you rig. You know, rig for rescue. Rig a 50' drop with 120' rope. Leave all the excess rope at the top. Anchor with a munter, thru a fig 8 descender, a rack, etc. As long as someone is at the top when a person gets stuck, the lowering can happen in minutes. If everyone is at the bottom, someone would need to climb past the stuck caver to the top. Passing someone on rope is a good skill to practice.

Don't forget about the tensionless hitch for rigging. It's great for the lowing option. Just start undoing it until the rope/load starts to slip around and lower away. It's also easy to add more rope, if necessary. And, set up a belay or something to catch the load if it goes bad.

You need muscle and equipment and time to set up to raise someone. Raising a person with only two pulling is very hard. Remember that edges and rub points add a lot of friction. Also, there is rarely enough room at the top of drops to set up a nice haul. 12 pullers is the rule of thumb. 1:1 needs 12 pullers. 2:1 needs 6. 3:1 needs 4. Etc.

Unconscious on rope can be deadly quickly—some say minutes, especially if hanging spread eagle with head back. Conscious people can sit in harnesses for a long time as long as they can move their legs around and keep the blood flowing.

Pick-offs are risky for the patient and the picker. I don't consider it a good option. It rarely goes as planned.

A Jigger is a great thing to have in a rescue cache. And, it is small enough to bring to the top of a drop for just in case.

If you are the only other person and did not prepare a lowing option. I'd say you are in trouble. Your first step is thing about what you would do. You're doing that. :clap: Then, prepare for it, realizing that it will probably never happen.
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Re: What would you do?

Postby Mike Hopley » Feb 15, 2013 11:04 am

I know harness pathology sets in quickly so does waiting 2 hours (best case) for help mean probable death?


If she is unconscious, she'll be dead in minutes -- about half an hour maximum, but could be much less. If she's just stuck, she could be okay for much longer. At my first hanging rebelay, I was stuck for two hours...

A stuck caver could rapidly deteriorate, so in any case you must be prepared to act. Lowering is almost always the fastest option. If you have enough rope to lower her, do that. If not, it is possible to carry out a midrope pickoff, and the most efficient methods involve cutting the rope so that you do not need to lift her bodyweight. These techniques require plenty of practice, a knife, and courage!

If it is practical to have enough spare rope to perform a simple lower and not a pickoff, then this is obviously much better.

If you choose to raise her instead, you could use the Spanish Pendulum method, or another counterweight method. The Spanish Pendulum allows you to remain at the top of the pitch, but does not confer a mechanical advantage. Lifting can be made easier by using a different counterweight system where the rope end is passed back through her harness maillon, so that the maillon is used as a "pulley", creating a theoretical 2:1 advantage.

With this latter counterweight method, as with a pickoff, you will need to downclimb to her on your ascenders. Downclimbing is slow, but it is the only safe way to descend a loaded rope. 50 feet is not that far; I think you would manage that with more practice. Nevertheless you are wise to be thinking about your own capabilities when selecting a rescue method.

Unless you have three people to haul, a hauling system will likely be less effective than a counterweight. This is certainly the case if you are alone.

If you are raising her, you will of course need to get her safely off the rope when she reaches the top...
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Re: What would you do?

Postby LukeM » Feb 15, 2013 11:16 am

Scott McCrea wrote:Pick-offs are risky for the patient and the picker. I don't consider it a good option. It rarely goes as planned.


I hear this sentiment a lot and it's made me curious. Are there many document cases of pick-offs being attempted in rescue situations and if so, what is the success rate? I think I recall hearing about one incident where someone was stuck on rope and another attempted to help with fatal results, but IIRC there were two ropes getting tangled and a waterfall involved. I don't even know if a pick-off was what was intended.

Chads93GT wrote:IF ever there were a problem you rig a rack into the rope, anchor it, undo the high strength tie off and lower her to the ground. You can then figure out how to haul her out after she is on the ground safely and not slowly dying in her harness ;)


How does one rig a rack to a weighted rope? Hauling to release tension? I have rigged to a rack on the surface before on beginner trips and have also rigged tensionless with half the rope on the surface. Nice peace of mind.

As for down-climbing 30-40 feet. That should be possible, though annoying. Maybe practice that some more.
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Re: What would you do?

Postby jeffkruse » Feb 15, 2013 12:42 pm

OK, what I think people are saying is to lower. I am thinking of the caves we do and the ropes we use. From now on I will rig a tensionless hitch (three raps around a tree with a figure 8 on a bight and a carabineer clipped onto the rope) with all the leftover at the top.

Lets say I only have 20 feet left over and I need to lower 40 feet. I always have 50 feet of 1” webbing with me. Should I tie the webbing to the end of the rope and continue to lower the person? If I did that then no one could rappel down to assist the person but the patient would not be hanging by their harness. We would then have to wait for help to arrive.
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Re: What would you do?

Postby Scott McCrea » Feb 15, 2013 12:53 pm

Good plan, Jeff!

If the webbing is all you have, you should use it. You can rappel on webbing. I've seen some emergency escape kits, like for firemen, that use webbing. I'd even climb on it, once, in an emergency.

So, what knot do you use to tie webbing to rope? I would say a sheet bend. Or maybe a Fig 8, follow thru.
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Re: What would you do?

Postby Mike Hopley » Feb 15, 2013 1:11 pm

Scott McCrea wrote:So, what knot do you use to tie webbing to rope? I would say a sheet bend. Or maybe a Fig 8, follow thru.


Tie the webbing end with an overhand loop (with plenty of tail), and the rope end with a figure-8 loop. Use a maillon or carabiner to link the loops. This will definitely not slip. "Experimenting" is unwise here; many knots that hold in rope will slip in tape.

Consider whether you are safe rappelling on webbing. Have you practised it before? Are you able to control your speed? One casualty is better than two...

Even better, take something more useful than webbing instead, like 8 mm caving rope. Or just take a longer main rope.

Bear in mind that an unconscious person must be supervised, or she could easily choke on her own tongue or vomit. If you lower her, you need to get down too. Her airway must be monitored.
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Re: What would you do?

Postby jeffkruse » Feb 15, 2013 1:28 pm

Thanks Scott. I can do a Fig 8 follow thru. My goal is to keep things simple as possible. I have taken NCRC Level 1 training. It was great training but in reality what do I remember and what could I do on my own. I can rig a tensionless hitch and I can tie a figure 8 follow through, I carry 50 feet of webbing and an extra carabineer or two. I have two ascenders and a croll so I can easily do a change over or pass a knot on rope. These are skills I can do and the equipment I carry. The heat and humidity already knock 20 points off my IQ, add in being tired and an emergency and I become as dumb as a rock. I need to think of these things when I am at my sharpest in a comfortable environment.
Thanks for everyone's input.
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Re: What would you do?

Postby Carl Amundson » Feb 15, 2013 1:33 pm

If the person is just stuck on rope, go down (or up) and render assistance.
If they are unconscious, lowering is your best bet. But, if they are near the top, then raise them.

Whatever course of action you decide to take; you should practice it in a “non-rescue” situation.
Practice is your best friend. In a real situation your mind is going a mile a minute and you will forget much. Practice will help bring things in focus.

You might consider bringing more rope then you need for a drop and rigging mid-rope. Alternatively you can bring extra rope with you. This gives you options. Also think about getting a couple of small pulleys & prusik loops or a small pulley & a Petzl micro-traxion. This adds to the complexity, but also gives you more options. Being able to rig a simple haul system is a skill that also needs to be practiced.

Whatever you do or additional equipment you get, you need to practice with it regularly. Run thru various scenarios above ground in case you need to use those skills underground.
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Re: What would you do?

Postby Stridergdm » Feb 15, 2013 4:52 pm

My thoughts:
1) The NCRC offers a "Small Party Rescue" course (you'll have to talk to your regional coordinator to get one arranged) that helps with stuff like this. I would recommend the weeklong course (in New York this year) but some of the techniques you really want for this particular scenario aren't covered so much in Level 1. (But hey, take Level 1 and then take the other course :-)

2) I fully agree, if you can lower, that's a great option. It may not solve the full problem, because you still need to get her out) but gets her out of the hanging situation. As others have said, this can be very dangerous (though if the person is conscious and can move, the risk is much lower.) (see Dr. Mortimer's excellent article on the subject.)

3) I agree a pick-off should be a last resort. I MIGHT do it in a specific situation, but that's pretty rare. I know few people who practice it enough to be comfortable doing it in an emergency. Keep in mind, when you DO need to do it, you'll be tired, probably cold, possibly wet, and quite probably in a minor panic, especially if it's a loved one. The situation you're thinking of in the waterfall may be the incident 2 (or is it 3 now?) years ago in Ellison's. They were poorly prepared and not experienced. That incident is not relevant here. That said, there's at least one incident in the ACA about 6+ years ago of two people on rope. Both survived. I believe the second person had tried to pick off the first person and gotten stuck.

3) Another option may be to lower the other end of the rope and rappel down next to her and be able to talk her through the situation, help out, etc. This can prevent you from getting stuck on the same rope as her.

4) Bring a small pulley or two with you and leave them at the top of the drop to add to options available.

5) Another technique you may want to learn too is a counter-balance (climbing, rappelling, diminishing loop).

6) Also I'd practice downclimbing longer distances and also how to climb past your wife.
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Re: What would you do?

Postby GroundquestMSA » Feb 15, 2013 5:54 pm

Recently someone caving with me became stuck on rope, and being able to downclimb 30' was very useful. While I was using a frog system, I had a couple of long webbing footloops in my pack that I sometimes use for the "Jumar" system or "jugging."
While it's hard on the arms over long distances, this system make it very fast and easy to downclimb, especially when negotiating past the stuck party. I was able to get down there and adjust an improperly adjusted chest harness that was causing the trouble. If you needed to downclimb and were worried about being able to do so with a frog, you could easily tie a couple of footloops with your webbing and use your croll as you normally would an upper ascender.


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