Catching up

After a whirlwind couple of weeks, finally finding moment to sit down and sort through some of the impressions which have piled up – and to try a sort them into something half-way coherent for a blog post.

First off was two weeks up in the mountains, which I always enjoy. Not being much of a mountain person, to be honest, I never cease to be fascinated by the myriad moods and atmospheres caused by weather and light filtering through the high peaks. The week of exams was intense and demanding, I love to see people succeed – finding it hard in equal measures when they struggle and fail. But both are part and parcel of an exam, so you get both – as well as average performances.

The site we were, the golf course in Thun, is right next to a military tank practice range, which made for some… interesting noises. We also had gliders launching and landing right over the top of the trees we were working on. I probably spent too much time admiring them passing overhead 😊

We started our days really early every morning, leaving the B&B we were staying in in the dark. I finished off the week with a most inelegant episode, where I stumbled down the steps, in the dark, fully loaded up, both hands full, miss the bottom step, twist my ankle – and ended up doing a full length face plant! Eek. Apart from feeling very sheepish, this left me with two bloodied knees. Très élégant!

End of the week it was on up to Gadmen, a wee spot on the way up to the Susten pass. The forecast was pretty abysmal, with the possibility of snow even. When I left home, it was 30°C! I was most certainly not prepared for this, neither mentally nor in terms of kit I had brought with me. We had a three day workshop planned there with Richard Delaney from Rope Lab with a very special group of people. Come to that, the place we were staying in, Evergrin, was really rather spectacular, run by Chrigu and Isa,  two of the nicest people you could wish to meet. Some of the rooms they let out are in the converted farm house that they live in with their children, the rest are in old circus caravans. Highly recommended if you are looking for a place to stay in the hills.

The three days with Richard involved a rambling discussion revolving around various aspects of working on rope. We ended up rigging gin poles, bi-pods and tripods over the Gadmerwasser, the river flowing past Evergrin.

Certainly a big thank you goes out to all involved in that project.

After that, it was set-up time for vertical-connect 2018.

After weeks of fine weather, the forecast was mixed, so we decided to rig the big red tarp offering a degree of protection, same as we did last year. But the really big thing this year was the scaled-down wind turbine which was added onto the drop tower in the Seilbahnzentrum, including a perspex tube below it, offering the possibility to demonstrate confined space operations in its 80 cm diameter.

The two day topics this year were Access on Thursday and Resilience on Friday.

A broad range of takes on access were covered during the day, ranging from rescue plans for “simple” use of PPE, such as when working on small-canopy trees or working off pre-rigged life lines, accessing a casualty in a cave or in a silo, planning  a work site on steep, inaccessible terrain or rigging accesses in wilderness, all the way through to accessing and working on wind turbines.

The first day ended with the second vertical-connect challenge, which was highly entertaining, involving, amongst other things, a horizontal ascent event, where competitors “ascended” a horizontal line, lying on their backs on trolleys. An added difficulty here was that they had to avoid the Pendulum of Death, a huge spiked ball which looked like something escaped out of Game of Thrones, filled to the brim with water balloons. You get the picture…

That evening there was the traditional vertical-connect dinner on site, followed by the afterparty in the Sherlock Holmes pub, with treemagicbeers from Belgium going hard.

The second day was all about resilience. Again, a wide range of speakers exploring lots of different facets of the topic, from the concrete to the abstract. One session I found specially moving involved two friends who sustained very serious accidents describing the return back to life after their falls. Interesting, moving and intense stuff. Further topics included designing resilient configurations for mechanical advantage systems or a theatre portraying the same job site run by three crews of different levels of competence.

All in all, I had a great time, met a lot of old friends and made some new ones. The diversity of topics offered lots of food for thought. I see a great benefit in dialogue between people working in different areas on rope – after all, there is no need for all of us to constantly reinvent the wheel when there may be applicable solutions out there already.