NCRC and rope bag use

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NCRC and rope bag use

Postby ek » May 12, 2008 8:49 pm

Having now done NCRC level 1 and level 2, I am wondering...why is it that we always coil our ropes, instead of packing them in bags like firefighters (and many cavers) do so that they can be easily deployed and are protected from the elements in the cave? Packing ropes in bags seems to be much more efficient than carrying them in coils, and for rescue use it seems to me that this efficiency would really come in handy.
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Re: NCRC and rope bag use

Postby mgmills » May 12, 2008 9:30 pm

ek wrote:Having now done NCRC level 1 and level 2, I am wondering...why is it that we always coil our ropes, instead of packing them in bags like firefighters (and many cavers) do so that they can be easily deployed and are protected from the elements in the cave? Packing ropes in bags seems to be much more efficient than carrying them in coils, and for rescue use it seems to me that this efficiency would really come in handy.


Just a couple of thoughts off the top of my head.

I agree that for deployment of the rope at the point of use the efficiency of a bag could be a benefit. However, on a long steep hike to a cave with a cave pack full of gear it sure is nice to be able to sling the coiled rope over your shoulder or hook it over your pack. To carry a second pack would be awkward.

Also, depending on the size of the rope, the bags might be large and hard to fit through tight spots in the cave. A coil can easily be "reshaped" to push it through tight places.
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Re: NCRC and rope bag use

Postby NZcaver » May 12, 2008 9:33 pm

ek wrote:why is it that we always coil our ropes, instead of packing them in bags like firefighters (and many cavers) do so that they can be easily deployed and are protected from the elements in the cave?

:exactly: I've often wondered about this myself. This is the method I much prefer for my own ropes, although I can also see how chaining a rope for travel can be useful too (this is often done by cavers in NZ and elsewhere, from what I recall). However the "climber's coil" or so-called "caver's coil" seems tedious, awkward, and virtually pointless to me in a caving environment. Of course my lack of patience and apparent inability to neatly create said coils has nothing at all to do with my jaded opinion on this. :wink:
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Re: NCRC and rope bag use

Postby paul » May 14, 2008 6:22 am

For what it is worth, cavers here in the UK (including cave rescue teams) always carry SRT ropes in tackle bags (as fed in manually rather than coiled).
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Re: NCRC and rope bag use

Postby shibumi » May 14, 2008 7:59 am

ek wrote:Having now done NCRC level 1 and level 2, I am wondering...why is it that we always coil our ropes, instead of packing them in bags like firefighters (and many cavers) do so that they can be easily deployed and are protected from the elements in the cave? Packing ropes in bags seems to be much more efficient than carrying them in coils, and for rescue use it seems to me that this efficiency would really come in handy.


It's harder to pile lots of rope on the youngest caver ;)

As a rope bag manufacturer I'd like to see more rope bags used. As a rescue person they aren't
automatically better.

Rope bags have good points and bad points, and like EVERYTHING we teach at NCRC, few things
are perfect.

Pros:
RBs allow fast deployment.
Protect rope.

Cons:
Harder to see condition of the rope at a glance (did a mouse get into the rope? seen it.)
Bigger package/harder to move through cave.
Harder to estimate length at a glace.
Harder to carry more than a couple ropes (you can pile a half dozen ropes on the youngest caver!)

There's other pros/cons, but you get the idea.

In the Central Region Cache we have some haul/lower systems and belay systems in a bag ready
to deploy, and the rest are coiled. We have 1 600' rope coiled and 1 in a bag.

Remember answer number 1, Eliah: "It depends on the situation!"
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Re: NCRC and rope bag use

Postby Bill Putnam » May 14, 2008 10:23 am

One reason I have heard people give for not using bags is the belief that it takes longer to stuff a rope than to coil it. That may be true for some ropes and some cavers (i.e 200-feet or longer, people who don't know how to stuff properly) but it is clearly not true for all. I can stuff a 300 or 600 foot rope about as fast as I can coil one, and I can coil as fast as you can feed it to me. Even if it is true, the time difference is negligible for the typcal multi-hour cave trip. I have always been meticulous about coiling my ropes small and tight so that I can wear them through the cave, but I recently decided to make the switch to bags for all my ropes. I like the fact that it keeps them clean and reduces twists and kinks.

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Re: NCRC and rope bag use

Postby johnlhickman » May 14, 2008 10:31 am

Eliah,

You weren't the only one that discussed the use of bags for NCRC. I agree that it does keep your rope a little cleaner in muddy caves. We were lowering with munters in the back of the cave and it looked like we were shaving the rope. That said, I would much rather be able to see the rope and tell how long it is and the diamater and color when I am not familiar with them. When we used the ropes the first thing that I had done was to flack them out to get out any kinks. One of our ropes had a break in the sheath that we identified and tied a butterfly in to isolate. This might not have happened if we were feeding out of the bag.

For our cave rescue team, we keep almost all the ropes in bags. They are all marked with the length and diameter. We have a lot of rope, and we aren't going to have the time to wash every rope after every trip into the cave. This works well when you train this way.

We did suggest getting some extra bags to put haul bags in. We have these and they work well. Again, the current system works well for training.

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Re: NCRC and rope bag use

Postby ek » May 14, 2008 10:52 am

johnlhickman wrote:One of our ropes had a break in the sheath that we identified and tied a butterfly in to isolate. This might not have happened if we were feeding out of the bag.

True, you might not have seen it if it were in a bag. But then, it might not have been damaged if it were in a bag. If the damage occurred during use (rather than transport), which is most likely, then the damage would have been noticed when the rope was inspected prior to it being put away in its bag and classified as being in service.

If the rope had a break in the sheath when it was brought to the rescue (or mock), then that was itself a problem. There was no guarantee that the break in the sheath would be noticed as it was being deployed in the cave.

Like you say, if you train to use ropes in bags, that seems to address these issues. But it seems to me that the only training that is needed is common sense--if you have a bag that says it's for a 50' rope, put a 50' rope in it.

johnlhickman wrote:We have a lot of rope, and we aren't going to have the time to wash every rope after every trip into the cave.

This is the only part of what you're saying that I don't understand. You're using these ropes for rescue--which is just about the most intensive legitimate use a life safety rope is ever going to be subjected to--why aren't you able to care for them properly? Are you saying you commonly go into a cave to rescue someone with a dirty rope? If you can't make time to wash it before it is used again, how do you make time to inspect it before it is used again?
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Re: NCRC and rope bag use

Postby johnlhickman » May 14, 2008 3:52 pm

Eliah,

You are either overthinking this or maybe I wasn't being clear.

I doubt the rope was damaged in transport. It was likely cut while being used in the cave or brought into the cave that way. I agree this is bad and should have been caught.

We typically have around 5000' feet of rope on one of our trucks. Each section is in a rope bag that is marked. We will clean a rope when it becomes excessively dirty but don't clean all the ropes after every call. We have a lot of other gear to maintain besides rope. The rope bags help maintain the ropes during transport to the cave besides being a very good SOP for protecting them during transport. Even if I coil my personal rope, I will put it in a duffle bag during transport to/from the cave. It's a lot easier to detect damage to a bag from some type solvent that comes into contact with it.

Finally, I never saw common sense on the NCRC check off list. A lot of people might have been in trouble if it had been manadatory.

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Re: NCRC and rope bag use

Postby wyandottecaver » May 14, 2008 4:30 pm

for me at least, its simply a lot easier to carry a coiled rope than a rope bag. does it take longer to deploy? yep. Does it expose the rope to travel wear? yep. But unless I am driving up to the edge of a open air pit, or deploying a LOT of rope, rope coils just seem more effecient. I do use bags in some situations but like shibimi said, it depends on the situation.

I also will voice a personal opinion, that UNLIKE hardware, excessive washing of ropes is both un-needed and in some cases detrimental. Certainly they should be washed when excessively dirty and they should always be clean enough to be inspected, but it certainly SEEMS that the effect of normal dirt and grime on ropes has a very negligible effect in their field use and lifespan with the major exception being in changing the shorrt term handling stiffness in extreme cases.
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Re: NCRC and rope bag use

Postby shibumi » May 14, 2008 5:01 pm

wyandottecaver wrote:I also will voice a personal opinion, that UNLIKE hardware, excessive washing of ropes is both un-needed and in some cases detrimental. Certainly they should be washed when excessively dirty and they should always be clean enough to be inspected, but it certainly SEEMS that the effect of normal dirt and grime on ropes has a very negligible effect in their field use and lifespan with the major exception being in changing the shorrt term handling stiffness in extreme cases.


The biggest disadvantage to dirty ropes is that they eat ascenders/descenders. I usually replace 1-2 brake bars a year and an ascender or two (yes, I cave a lot). Of course, my Gory rope (the rope I use to bounce Gory Hole every couple of weeks) rarely gets washed and usually gets replaced every couple of years because it's worn out. I also cave in some extremely muddy caves in Kentucky.

Not that this is a pro or con for rope bags (did I mention that I am happy to sell more of them?), but the last cave rescue
Frank Reid participated in was in Freemans Pit (97') in Indiana. It was about a month before he died. I asked him to rig a redirect for the haul line, and was the first time during a rescue that he did something other than comm. The reason for the rescue was the cavers who rigged the pit rigged the rope and were rappelling out of the bag. Too bad the rope was rigged 20' short with no knot on the end... The guy was banged up, but the hospital said he had no significant injuries. We hauled him out in a SKED/OSS/C-collar and used the redirect to get a straight up haul and then to deviate the line to the landing point, eliminating the edge problem.

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Re: NCRC and rope bag use

Postby ek » May 15, 2008 1:49 pm

johnlhickman wrote:Finally, I never saw common sense on the NCRC check off list. A lot of people might have been in trouble if it had been manadatory.

I thought common sense was an advanced technique that they teach you in Level 3...
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Re: NCRC and rope bag use

Postby Carl Amundson » May 15, 2008 2:09 pm

ek wrote:
johnlhickman wrote:Finally, I never saw common sense on the NCRC check off list. A lot of people might have been in trouble if it had been manadatory.

I thought common sense was an advanced technique that they teach you in Level 3...

OUCH...
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Re: NCRC and rope bag use

Postby Brucesmith » May 15, 2008 2:45 pm

Everything that has been said about Rope bags and coils (good and bad are true). Depends on the situation. There is one point I would like to add.
Rope coils can be carried while keeping both hands free to balance the sherpa up/down the mountain trails and through the woods over uneven terrain. I know of one very active fire Department who responded to a remote wilderness call out in the Little Rive Canyon gorge to help a stranded drowning kayaker. In the dark, the responders fought their way down the difficult terrain. With all of the responder's hands occupied with handled rope bags, one after another, they tripped and fell, got scraped and bruised because the firemen's hands were occupied carrying the rope bags and gear bags. Their back packs of medical supplies and personal gear already occupied their backs. The next day the Chief sent me 18 or so rope bags that he requested be outfitted with shoulder straps.

Also, I know personally that coiled ropes take up much less space in one's vehicle than bagged ropes. I can haul twice the rope when it is in coils.

Respectfully,
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Re: NCRC and rope bag use

Postby Carl Amundson » May 15, 2008 3:08 pm

One other thing, coils are much easier to drag through tight passage.
We carried 400' of rope into Corkscrew cave a few weeks ago in a coil.
It would have been impossible to do this if it was in a bag...

As others have said, it depends on the situation.
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