/ SPA Question - Accompanied Abseil

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thomaspomfrett on 25 Sep 2013
Hi,

A quick question for instructors out there. I was running through group abseils in preparation for my SPA assessment and was trying to remember the exact procedure for the accompanied abseil in the instance that no amount of coaxing will get the person abseiling to move.

In essence what I think I want to do is:

1. Make them safe
2. Escape the system
3. Abseil down to them
4. Attach them to me
5. Detach them from whatever was making them safe before
6. Abseil down

I was just trying to work out the best way to do this. So, first off I'd tie off the safety rope to make them safe. Escaping the system should be easy as you would likely just be attached to the masterpoint by a sling.

In terms of abseiling down to them, would you use a completely separate rope through the same masterpoint? You can't use the safety as that's keeping them safe so the other option would be to pull their ab rope up through their device and go descend on that but that felt wrong.

So assuming I've now abbed down and have attached them to me (using a sling knotted to form two cow's tails) I then need to detach them from the safety line. This could be difficult if it's under tension but presumably you'd just try to unclip the safety line karabiner and in the very worst case cut the safety line?

Apologies if these questions sound naive but it's the one part I've not had much call to practise and I couldn't remember it all!
Richard Wilson - on 25 Sep 2013
Why not just lower them using the safety rope after releasing the ab line? Or even lower them on the ab line as it is releasable is'nt it?

The only time that wont work is if they have managed to get on a ledge (bad rout choice) or are clinging on to the rock (they will tire in the end).
Jamie Wakeham - on 25 Sep 2013
In reply to thomaspomfrett: that's horribly over-complicated, and in fact a chap I was on assessment with was failed for doing pretty much what you've described (no the only reason but it was the last straw, I think).

What you will be expected to demonstrate is locking off the safety line, releasing their ab rope, taking them back onto the safety line and lowering them.

In real life this seems to work almost all the time... I've once had a child cling on for dear life so when I tried to lower on the safety line it went slack. I had a colleague throw him another rope from below ("to make you safer") and, when he'd krabbed it to his harness, gently pull him out into space so he had to let go of the holds.
top cat - on 25 Sep 2013
In reply to Jamie Wakeham:
> (In reply to thomaspomfrett) that's horribly over-complicated, and in fact a chap I was on assessment with was failed for doing pretty much what you've described (no the only reason but it was the last straw, I think).
>
>

So why were we taught this on training then? {Glenmore Lodge]
Neil Williams - on 25 Sep 2013
In reply to Richard Wilson:

He's talking about an accompanied abseil (perhaps for getting a stuck climber down, or an injured or unconscious one) not a releasable abseil (for getting someone down who is scared or who has something caught in the abseil device).

Neil
Bluebird - on 25 Sep 2013
In reply to thomaspomfrett:
in the accompanied abseil eg to retrieve an unconscious climber, tie off your safety line, untie the ab line, pull through about 2m at the top of the crag. Clip in your ab device and prussik in the normal way after re-tying the abline into your rig. Ab down to victim, Y-sling set up so you and injured climber are attached on your ab line, detach from existing safety line that injured climber was attached to, and continue on your ab line to bottom.
All of this is assuming you don't have a separate ab rope to hand. you can use the existing ab line itself if required.
(funnily enough, this came up on my Scout climbing assessment just the other day...)
thomaspomfrett on 25 Sep 2013
In reply to Bluebird:

Thanks Bluebird that's exactly what I was after (and what I ended up doing when I practised!)

Obviously this is far from first port of call as would usually be able to tie off, release the ab line then lower on the safety but seeing as we were taught it in training I thought I'd better practise it.

Fingers crossed I don't have to do it in the assessment...
Gavin - on 25 Sep 2013
In reply to Bluebird:

Out of interest, what was your solution to getting them off the weighted and tied off safety line and on to the floor? Was it the obvious 'and here's my knife to cut the rope' or something more elegant?
Bluebird - on 25 Sep 2013
In reply to Gavin: in the assessment we had the "unconscious" climber tied in on her safety line so it was a case of un-tieing her figure-8 which she helped with. In a real-life unconscious casualty situation, for speed and ease I'd just cut the rope. THe assessor didn't want his ropes cut - fair enough.
I wonder if the safety was krabbed onto her belay loop instead of tied in, how easy it would be to physically take someone off safety. If you can get some purchase on the wall itself and you've got the casualty across your lap I guess you could try and get just enough lift to unhook... but a figure 8 tie in on a free dangling abseil... knives out.
dutybooty - on 25 Sep 2013
In reply to thomaspomfrett:

DISCLAIMER: Don't hold an SPA.

if its abseil practice whats wrong with releasing the abseil rope and lowering on safety line as others have mentioned?

If its a climber, unconscious on a single pitch route, surely you can just lower the climber?
JIMBO on 25 Sep 2013
In reply to dutybooty: l think the scenario might be if climber gets their foot stuck in crack or on a ledge - where lowering wouldn't help.

Can be avoided with good route selection.

I've used accompanied abseil from the top with disabled or very scared person.
dutybooty - on 25 Sep 2013
In reply to JIMBO:
> (In reply to dutybooty) l think the scenario might be if climber gets their foot stuck in crack or on a ledge - where lowering wouldn't help.
>
> Can be avoided with good route selection.
>
> I've used accompanied abseil from the top with disabled or very scared person.

In a caving scenario the answer would be to abseil down, render assistance, attach to your harness and cut the rope. This would be easily workable on a single pitch group setting.



thomaspomfrett on 25 Sep 2013
In reply to thomaspomfrett:

Thanks all, agree this is a very unlikely scenario and lowering would be used in almost all cases. Just trying to remember the finer points as it could, in theory, be assessed.
Si Withington - on 25 Sep 2013
In reply to thomaspomfrett:

For what it's worth, if you've got a climber hanging on steep ground you can get the weight off the knot/krab by setting up a relatively simple(ish) hoist.

Assuming you've already attached them to the cows tail of your rescue setup:

Tie a prusik (French) onto the weighted rope above the climber and clip a screwgate to this, then attach a long sling to the climber's harness (screwgate or larks foot) and feed this through the prusik screwgate.

Let the rest of the sling hang down and use it as a stirrup for your foot - stand in this and and try to pull the climber upwards. This takes the weight off the climber's tie-in knot or screwgate allowing you to undo it. Once done, you gently release the weight back on to your rescue setup.

I've only done this once and it wasn't in anger! It does work though, but is pretty hard to do when hanging in space!

Definitely not one to pull out of the bag on an SPA assessment, but good knowledge and worth trying out in a safe environment so you can experience the merits/problems for yourself.

Si
muppetfilter - on 25 Sep 2013
In reply to thomaspomfrett: In any rescue the best method is the simplest and safest, to me this is exactly as has been described above. You will have rigged a releasable abseil rope with a backup rope you belay from above and can lower the abseiled with. To escape the system, rig an abseil, tandem abseil the casualty all add time and unnecessary complication to the scenario. Each extra step has the potential to introduce an element of unnecessary risk to a simply resolved problem.
Bluebird - on 25 Sep 2013
In reply to siwithington: like it Si, even if you could shift just a proportion of their body weight it might be enough (I'm a short*rse)
Stone Idol - on 26 Sep 2013
In reply to Bluebird: In fact, if its your mate on the only abseil rope you can still descend (using some sort of prussik system) and then attach the victim to your harness and lift them with the prussik system whether its a free hand or not. You can release their descender, attach yours and progress more normally.
Scott_vzr on 21 Oct 2013
If they were unresponsive, you would lock them off. Get the rest of the group safe. Then ab down. Make a first aid assessment. They may be inverted if unresponsive. So you would support them as you ab with them.

Sounds like an assessment scenario for sure.

Never had to do it since my SPSA assessment in 1996.

Did have to 'rescue' a kid, climbing at Auchinstarry. A kid got scared on Access Route, the ledge below the top. Had to climb up and clip her on to me as I abbed down with her. Always have two prussiks, krabs, sling and a knife on your harness.
The Green Giant - on 21 Oct 2013
In reply to thomaspomfrett:

Just a quick note to make things a bit easier. If you do end up abbing with the v sling (can't remember the proper name); Stay and clip them in from above them. In most cases it's easier to pull a person up towards your y sling than to push them up to it.

Getting the length of the slings right is important too. You'r supposed to have the shorter side available to clip to the casualty, so theoretically they will be sitting on your lap once the are released. If you do that correctly then you almost sit side by side maybe get a knee underneath them and push them up to the clip. Both these methods should make the safety line slack enough to remove it.

On another note, with the stirrup hoist mentioned above is needed (if all else fails, but unlikely). Rather than using a prussik you can simply clip into your belay carabiner another carabiner. this way also pulls the casulty up and towards you.

Just thought, if you think you need to do the stirrup lift, it is easier to stay above them and clip the v sling into them thus taking the weight off of the safety than it is unclipping the safety and then them potentially dropping onto your line if you don't lower the stirrup slowly.

Also think about what rope you're using to ab down on. Dynamic, static. Stretch will make a difference on bigger abs if you're trying to get them from their dynamic safety to your (theoretical) dynamic ab rope.

Sorry for writing such an easy! Just my minds musings on the subject!
WhenImReady - on 21 Oct 2013
In reply to thomaspomfrett:
Just a note of caution here folks: lots of gung ho "use my knife" comments. Tensioned ropes and a knife are a dangerous combination. Be very careful, as soon as your knife touches a rope with weight on it all hell breaks loose. It makes a dramatic noise and things, including where you and your knife are, change rapidly. Much better to use the prussil and sling technique mentioned above. If you can't get your head round this, then maybe leave the knife on the back of your harness. I've done a fair bit of rope rescue stuff and mostly just use my knife for sandwiches.
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nocker - on 22 Oct 2013
In reply to WhenImReady: Further note of caution courtesy of my PYB Assessor many years ago. Real scenario was reported as a girl abseiler whose hair became entangled in device. Her weight was taken on the safety rope and the releasable abseil rope released. Unfortunately the "instructor" then threw the abseil rope down which we were told resulted in a scalping injury !

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