Going back through the photos of the last few months, I came across this pic of the connection point between the lead and the fall of my access system…
I thought it might be worth a chat about how it is set up, or to put it differently, what the thought process is behind it.
First off, the set-up.
I am aware I have discussed this before on this blog, but bear with me: the fall of the line, i.e. the part between the anchor point and the base anchor is a 60m length of Teufelberger’s 10.5mm Platinum arborACCESS. I like how this handles, find it reliable and it wears well. Being an EN1891 line, it also allows me to install a Petzl RIG on the base anchor, making the system lowerable. The Platinum has an eye stitched into the upper end, which is attached to a small DMM Rigging Hub via a Nexus Compact Swivel with small shackles on both sides.
The part of the line immediately above the Rigging Hub gets subjected to the most wear and tear, as this is the part that will always run over the anchor point, consequently I protect it with a rope protector. As a by-effect, I have found that this also allows the line to move backwards and forwards a wee bit whilst under load, while the protector sleeve stays in position, reducing damage to the bark of tree species with bark susceptible to abrasion damage.
The lead of the line, i.e. the part the climber ascends on offers two choices: either a 30m length of 10.5mm Platinum arborACCESS, which is girthed onto the Hub or a 30m length of Teufelberger’s xSTATIC, this is attached with a looped back figure of eight. On this line I have a Petzl Zigzag and a Chicane permanently installed for access. The reason for the two lines is that the diameter of the 10.5mm Platinum is too low for the Zigzag, which will work on lines from 11.5mm up to 13mm diameter.
This set-up allows for various techniques to be used with a range of tools, Lov2, Zigzag/ Chicane, rope walker systems etc. Conversely, it can also be footlocked, which I enjoy doing to switch things around. I find that using a different techniques in ascent is stimulating, good for the body, as it activates different groups of muscles, as well as fun. The technique I choose will depend on my form on the day, the height of the access and the structure of the tree.
The reason for adding the Nexus swivel is that I found the lines in the lead below the anchor point were twisting for reasons that were not totally apparent to me. My guess though was that it was due to twist being introduced over the anchor point, adding a swivel there allows the Rigging Hub to freely rotate, thus mitigating the twist. Ideally this is an area in which I really try to minimise connectors, as it is remotely installed and therefore not possible to perform a visual inspection prior to starting the ascent. Having said that, both the Rigging Hub as well as the Nexus swivel are as close to closed rings as you can get – without it being a closed ring. The other feature I appreciate about the Nexus swivels is the way the shackle is attached to the unit: first it is attached via a Nylock nut – which is where many manufacturers would leave it. Not so DMM, they go the extra mile, using an extra counter-locking bolt at 90° to the bolt attaching the shackle to the swivel unit. This locates into a grove on the top of the bolt, thus retaining it, adding an extra layer of safety. All in all, this gives me a high degree of confidence in regards to the hardware used at this connection point, whilst offering a high degree of functionality at the same time.
The Rigging Hub offers a range of attachment options, it is the place where everybody can store their ascent kit once they arrive at the top of the access, as well as a point one can attach into by switching ones lanyard to the rope bridge on the harness and connecting into the Hub, during hot summer days this is also often where I will park my water bottle.
I actually think it is a matter of courtesy when there are a number of climbers in a tree to store away ones ascent gear in a tidy, compact fashion, as otherwise the last climber up has to fight his or her way through a thicket of gear, making for a more cluttered, less clear situation.
Do I work off the access line? In principle, I suppose I could, using the Zigzag and the Chicane. With the Rigging Hub pulled all the way up to the anchor point, this still leaves one line free in case of the need of an emergency access. Having said that though, in practice I very rarely find myself doing so. I prefer using this system for ascent only, selecting a sound anchor point for my work positioning system, gaining an overview of the tree, adapt my plan should it prove necessary due to unforeseen factors not visible from the ground – and then taking it from there.