TCC Aerial Rescue scenarios

The quality of Aerial Rescue scenarios at tree climbing competitions is decisive as to how competitors are able to perform. Apart from that, a good scenario and set-up will also have an educational element – which is obviously a good thing.

For me, working towards a scenario goes a bit like this: I will look back at the current year and try to recognize clusters, or unusual occurrences, to then consider whether these might offer an interesting theme to attempt to turn into a scenario for a comp. By doing so, you encourage further discussion on how best to handle such a situation, so I firmly believe this is one valid way as an industry to try to gain a better understanding of appropriate responses to given situations – even if this is “only” taking place in a competition environment.

The incident being simulated shall be as realistic as possible and not demand of competitors to imagine all kind of things. Set it up the way it is! Give competitors options. Set-ups that are biased towards one specific solution will not introduce much spread into scoring and tend to be a bit monotonous to watch. Again, same as with the Speedclimb post from Tuesday, my message would be: get creative!

Next there will be discussions with the event head judge and tech, especially if the implementation of the scenario needs tweaking to be in line with the event rules.

Obviously the prime objective is for the event to be run in a safe and professional manner. This can encompass considerations regarding in-tree technician placement, visibility from the ground, line placement, back ups or belays.

For this year’s ETCC in Monza we decided to do an on-spikes stem rescue, something I have been itching to do for years (for the scenario, see image below).

One obvious worry was the risk of injury to the competitor from the spikes worn by Ken, the Simulaids dummy we were using as the casualty. Secondly there was the issue of the damage caused to the tree by the spikes and thirdly, as we wanted people to be able to perform a pick-off rescue, we needed to have Ken on a belay.

To mitigate the risk posed by the first to concerns, I asked Bernard Pivot, the rather lovely blacksmith in our yard to make up some blunt spikes out of rod – for the end result, see the picture below. Very humblingly, Bernard declined payment when he found out they were for ETCC, so thanks go out to him for that.

Come to think of it, I probably ought to try and market these as the ultimative training aid for powerful climbers. The spike that never needs sharpening! The spike that will never injure you or your climbing line! The best spike to use on really rotten trees! 😉

Next we ratcheted blocks of wood to the stem, two for the spikes that we drilled corresponding holes into to locate the spikes (non-spikes, I suppose I ought to say!) into, and a third block to place the lanyard over, ensuring consistent positioning of the casualty.

We had a belay running of the dorsal attachment of the full body harness Ken was wearing, this ran over a series of re-directs down to the belayer. We initially used a I’D, because of the rescue load rating is has on it, but realized that depending upon descent speed, there was a risk of the dummy clamp jamming and stopping the descent. Therefore we switched to a RIG, which is rated up to loads of 200kg, with the Petzl caveat of “for expert use only“.

The dummy was suspended from a steel-core flipline with a macrograb as a positioning device on it, so the competitors had to lift the casualty to release the lanyard prior to descending. Ken, despite the sand he spent the weekend leaking, weighs in at a hefty 90kg.

It turned out in the course of the prelims that Ken’s plastic knee joints were not up to him standing on them when he dropped a lower leg at the end of Johan Pihl’s run (luckily this only happened once they had reached the ground). This lead to some over-lunchtime field surgery to get him ship shape for the rest of the day…

Doctor Van Bouwel doing a spot of field surgery, ably assisted by nurses Bridge and Künzler

After strapping up the knees with webbing slings, he handled the rest of the day without a problem.

All in all, this scenario made for a challenging and interesting event for competitors and spectators alike, as the action took place close to the the ground and was easy to follow. Thanks to the team on Aerial Rescue for running a tight ship and for getting the job done competently and safely.

Ken later joined in the partying during the announcements on Saturday evening, overdid it – and had to be retrieved from a field on Sunday morning.