There’s an app for that…

I’ve spent enough time sifting through climbing, rigging and other apps related to the areas in which we operate to recognize that most are poor shortcuts to obstacles and not all that useful. Good apps support learning, instruction and/or the actualization of work while being easy to use. They supplement practical knowledge and experience rather than try to replace it. Here’s a short list of good apps suggested for radicals in the vertical world. Get creative and remember to lanyard your phone when working at height.

KNOTS 3D provides a multi-dimensional approach to knot tying with a catalog of over 120 knots.  Available on a free website catalog or for $2 on iOS and Android.

RIGRITE is an app that calculates vector forces common in rigging. Any unit can be selected and applied to multi-point anchors, redirects/directionals, tripods, highlines , slope lower/raise, tension and compression. Available for $3 on iOS and Android.

EASY ANGLE is a simple tool for measuring angles using photographs. Available on iOS for $1.

CMC RESCUE FIELD GUIDE compiles CMC’s Rope Rescue Field Guide and Confined Space Entry and Rescue Guide into a full-featured app that includes reference charts, diagrams, and how-to information. You can even customize it with your own notes, photos, and documents for reference in the field. Available for free on iOS and Android.

THE PHOTOGRAPHER’S EPHEMERIS (TPE) is a tool to help you plan outdoor photography in natural light. It’s a map-centric sun and moon calculator that lets you see how the light will fall on land or buildings (day or night) for any location on earth.  This makes it extremely useful for planning with consideration to photo ops, field work, and deployment. Available on a free desktop web app (browser-based) or on iOS and Android for $8.99.

5-0 RADIO POLICE SCANNER is a mobile scanner that allows you to tap into a large collection of live police, firefighter, aircraft, railroad, marine, emergency, and ham radio frequencies. Stay ahead of important news, events, emergency responders and happenings in your town/area.  Available for free on iOS.

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The Magnet Anchor

I’m an advocate of creative approaches to ropes and rigging — both in training and in the field. These are the spaces that turn gears and illuminate light bulbs. These are the spaces where we evolve as vertical practitioners.

This little experimagnetment all started with the simple pull of a magnet fixed to a refrigerator. The magnet popped off in my hand. “That must be around 5lbs of force,” I thought.  I just wrapped up a section on load sharing anchors while leading a climb training for Greenpeace USA in the Summer of 2014 and curiosity got the best of me.  Could I build an anchor out of these simple magnets?  How many would it take?  And so it began.

I weigh around 160lbs. Divide that by 5lbs (my estimate of how much force it took to pull the magnet off the fridge) and I was left with 32 — the minimum number of magnets needed to hold my weight.  This is assuming that my estimate was accurate, that I would be able to equalize all the magnets ‘perfectly’ and that additional forces don’t exist when getting onto or suspended from an anchor.  Knowing better I decided to double the amount but after searching the warehouse for every magnet available I was left with 51 magnets so 51 magnets it was.

My friend and fellow rope nerd, Van and I quickly got to work tying loops made from random bits of 2-4mm accessory cord to the plastic knobs on each magnet. These would become the individual anchor points for each of the 51 magnets.

magnetanchor-close

photo by Basil Tsimoyianis

We divided these into clusters that we painstakingly equalized into seven load sharing anchors.  These seven anchors were then brought together and equalized to create a single master point.

photo by Basil Tsimoyianis

photo by Basil Tsimoyianis

The end result was one master point made from eight equalized anchors whose loads were shared across 51 individual anchor points – in this case magnets.

photo by Basil Tsimoyianis

Untethered magnets will fall if they fail so if using this for training purposes don’t make the same mistakes pictured here – wear a helmet, have a separate belay line, and place a crash pad underneath you. Photo by Basil Tsimoyianis

The anchor was weight tested by people of varying sizes/weights and some even chose to bounce test it. Minimum breaking strength was never determined but I think it’s wise to call this one body weight only.

I’ll be the first to admit that this magnet anchor is not the most practical when it comes to field use but it’s an excellent training tool that highlights the concept of load sharing anchors and importance of equalization.

WARNING:  Magnets are not reliable anchors. Using a magnet or magnets as life support can and will likely kill you.  Untethered magnets will fall if they fail so if using this for training purposes don’t make the same mistakes pictured here – wear a helmet, have a separate belay line, and place a crash pad underneath you. Heck, grab yourself an umbrella while you’re at it.  Have fun but be careful.

D.C. Lockup

contributed by Karen Topakian 
words originally from Tour De Farce
A reflection of the 'Resist' banner that was displayed in view of the White House on January 25, 2017.

Reflection of the ‘Resist’ banner that was hung in view of the White House on January 25, 2017. Photo by Basil Tsimoyianis

“Why are you all dressed alike?” asked a woman seated on the floor in the Washington DC lockup. Four of us shuffled past her, hampered by our ankle chains.

She was right. We were all dressed alike – wearing dark one-piece zip up fleece body suits – onesies. We stood out amidst a sea of women wearing jeans, baggy shorts, jackets and hoodies. But we didn’t have a choice. The police had taken away our clothes after arresting us for climbing up a construction crane a few blocks behind the White House to unfurl a banner that said RESIST.

The 12 women occupying the cell eyed us with quiet curiosity as we – two white women (Zeph and Karen), one African American woman (Pearl) and one Latina (Nancy) – searched for a place to sit on the dark linoleum floor or lean against the white cinder block walls. The bright lights didn’t provide a dark corner to hide in this 12’ by 15’ cell.

At 7:30 a.m., we all focused on one thing – Superior Court arraignment at 1 p.m. We all wore a DC Police issued plastic wristband identifying us by photo, name, birth date, gender and race. When we arrived at lockup, the DC Police handed us over to the U.S. Marshals who used a black sharpie to write a number on our bracelet corresponding to the order we arrived. I was #76. And they would refer to me as such all day.

A steady conversation hum filled the room. Two women who thought they lived in the same neighborhood, tried to figure out friends in common. Others explained in expletive-ridden detail how they innocently ended up in lockup. Four women slumped over four metal stools fixed to the floor in front of dark screen window where defendants could speak to lawyers or other court officials. The rest stayed quiet or dozed. Exhausted hungry and thirsty, we kept to ourselves.

Finally, one of us responded to the query, “Did you see that RESIST banner hanging above the White House? That was us.”

In a flash, a woman wearing dreadlocks and long baggy gym shorts, #23, jumped to her feet and high-fived us. Another young woman, in torn jeans and a red hoodie, #57, strutted around the packed cell exclaiming, “I need a selfie. I’m famous. I’m in-car-cer-ated with the crane people.” A young woman sporting a turquoise and cream streaked Afro wig, long pointy fingernails and over the knee boots stopped her conversation and exclaimed with a big bright smile, “That was you. I saw that.”

She was Sunshine. And this wasn’t her first time in jail. She too had been arrested for civil disobedience. When she lived in Los Angles, she joined a march to protest a Missouri Grand Jury’s failure to indict the police officer that shot Mike Brown. In response, Sunshine had occupied Rte. 110 and shut it down.

When she lived in Texas, she rushed to the jail where Sandra Bland died to see for herself what had happened. According to the police, Sandra had hanged herself using a standard issue trash bag in her cell. Sunshine rooted through the jail’s dumpster to find an identical bag. When she tied it to a fence to see if it could hold her 125 pounds, it broke. “There’s no way that bag held her,” declared Sunshine. “They fuckin’ murdered her.”

In July, she attended the Democratic Convention because Sunshine loved her Bernie. “I don’t like many white men but I love my Bernie.”

When Trump’s name came up, she stated unequivocally how much she hated him and Hillary Clinton. But never Bernie. She felt Hillary and her people had robbed him of his opportunity to lead and could never forgive her.

Sunshine sat on the floor next to her wife, often holding her hand. They had met five years earlier at a lesbian poetry reading, which Sunshine had helped produce. Now they lived in DC with their pit bull dog. Sunshine worked as a cosmetologist doing hair and make-up while her wife cooked at a senior center.

“Let me fix it,” cooed Sunshine to her wife who squirmed as she re-braided her hair. “I’m a professional and she never lets me touch her hair.”

“I bet I could use help with my hair,” I said, tugging on a hank of grey hair matted down by the ski hat and hardhat I had worn on the crane. “And certainly make up.”

Sunshine stared at me, nodded in agreement and said, “I am all about contours and shading.”

Suddenly the door opened, a hush fell over the cell. A male US Marshal half entered and yelled, “Number 36.”

“She’s not here,” responded my cellmates in unison.

Before the marshal left, a woman seated by the door, #43, called out, “I need something to eat, I’m starving. I’m pregnant and my baby’s eating the walls of my stomach.”

“I told you we don’t have any food,” responded the marshal exasperated.

The woman dropped her head.

“What time is it?” yelled several other women.

Before closing the door, he shouted, “8:45.”

After spending the night in lockup, these women anxiously awaited Superior Court arraignments beginning in four hours. Without a clock, everyone depended on a visitor to share a simple piece of information, the time.

Number 43, thin and on edge, told us her father had entered her home, where he didn’t live, pistol whipped her and threatened her. Then called the police on her.

Sunshine jumped in. “You need a restraining order against him.”

“How the fuck do I do that?” asked #43.

“I’ll tell you how,” responded Sunshine who walked the woman through the process step by step telling her where to go and what documentation she needed. “Then when your father comes back, you call the police because he’s violating the order. They will arrest him.”

“She knows her shit,” called out one of the other women.

Sunshine’s wife smiled proudly. “She filed a restraining order against our landlord. Now he can’t come near his own property.”

Number 43 appeared happy for the help but too distracted to absorb it all.

“I need a restraining order against my husband’s fuckin’ ex-wife,” announced an older woman with short close-cropped hair, #50. “She and I got into it when she came by for money. She’s an addict. I’m clean. I won’t give her any fuckin’ money.”

Everyone nodded in agreement.

“The cops shot my brother on Christmas day and I’m the one in here,” announced #23 as she attempted to pace but couldn’t get past women sprawled out on the floor. “I didn’t even know they had a bench warrant for me.”

“My brother was wrapping up his kids Christmas presents. He wasn’t threatening no fucking cop. They said he had a fucking knife. Why’d they have to fuckin’ shoot him?” she searched our faces for an answer, then stood quietly.

No one spoke for a few minutes.

“How many tasers did you have in your car?” asked #57 to # 38, the only white woman of the 12 in lockup.

“Two. But they were both broken,” answered #38 as she ran her hand through her blonde hair.

“Then they were toys,” announced #23.

“When they asked to look in your car, you should have said no,” declared Sunshine. “Remember next time.”

Sunshine’s wife smiled in agreement.

As the morning wore on, the cell door opened again. This time a female marshal entered and called, “Number 36?”

Again the women yelled back, “She’s not here.”

Before the marshal closed the door, the pregnant woman, # 43, asked for water.

“Drink out of the sink,” instructed the marshal, pointing to the partitioned off bathroom, which included a metal toilet and sink.

“That water’s like Flint,” declared Sunshine. “Don’t drink it.”

“What time is it?” shouted another prisoner.

“11:07.”

A collective sigh followed.

Exhausted, I lay down on the dusty floor to rest my eyes and my brain. The last 24 hours’ events bubbled up inside me, from the many hours chained and safety harnessed to the crane ladder, to conducting media interviews, to tweeting and posting on Facebook, to the arrests at 10 p.m., to a night on the DC jail cell floor and now to this lockup.

I thought back to our first ride in the police van, where we sat shoulder-to-shoulder, thigh-to-thigh on a long metal bench, our hands cuffed behind us. The men sat on one side of the van and the women in identical formation on the other side, separated by a metal partition. The officer instructed us to hold on to the blue fabric ribbon attached to the seat behind us as he lowered a big heavy metal bar across our chest to hold us into place on the ride to the police station. As our driver drove fast, cut corners and slammed the breaks, I instantly thought about Freddie Gray, the man who died in Baltimore police custody of injuries to his spinal cord after riding unsecured in a police van. A subsequent police officer confirmed my thoughts about Freddie Gray when he referred to the heavy metal bar as a “Baltimore seat belt.”

Some law enforcement members applauded our actions or even suggested we scale the Capitol building next. But one incident stood out in my mind, which had only occurred a few hours earlier. A gruff female staff person at lockup ordered me to face the wall and stand with my legs apart and my arms out stretched. As she patted down my arms, she leaned in to whisper in my left ear, “I’m only going to say this once, Congratulations.” Then she stepped back and barked aloud, “Now spread your legs.”

Despite thoughts and emotions swirling through me, sleep finally overtook me until I heard someone call out my name. “Karen, is that you? It’s Tom,” announced a voice from behind the mesh screen. There sat Tom Wetterer, Greenpeace’s General Counsel.

A woman seated on the stool in front of him moved so I could sit across from him.

He and I both put our hands up to the screen though they couldn’t touch. I fought back the tears as he asked about our well-being and shared the news about our story. The press remained interested in our plight, had filmed us leaving the jail for Superior Court and was waiting for our arraignment. Supporters and staff also waited for our release. My three fellow activists and I crowded into the space to listen to Tom describe the charges, explain the process and answer our questions.

Before he left, I asked him the most important question to which he responded, “12:50.”

Turning my head to face my fellow prisoners, I repeated the time. Whoops of joy followed. We could almost taste 1 p.m.

After Tom left, Sunshine offered her advice, “Don’t worry, they’ll let you go. I’ve never seen DC keep anyone.”

One p.m. came and went but no one came for us. Later we found out that the court arraigns the men first and on this day lockup held 80 men. Eventually, a marshal opened the door and yelled out a number of someone actually in the cell. Slowly, the cell emptied. With each departure, everyone said good luck and no one talked smack once they left.

When they called for Sunshine and her wife, the cell turned cold and gloomy.

Eventually, all who remained were #57, #23 and the four of us. With extra room in the cell, my fellow activist Nancy led us in a few yoga poses and Pearl commanded us to do three sets of 10 squats. We felt our energy return, briefly, then succumbed to lying on the floor and dozing.

The marshal opened the door to hold a headcount. We rattled off our numbers, which he checked off on a small yellow Post-it, then asked, “Number 36?”

“She’s not here,” we groaned.

After the marshals called #57 and #23 to court, female marshals returned, called us by number into the hallway and attached belly chains and handcuffs. Before she directed us back into our cell, I spotted the time on her watch 5:50.

And so we waited again for our turn to walk into Superior court for our arraignment

At 6:45, when they called us, we shuffled in wearing ankle chains, belly chain and handcuffs to proclaim our innocence. After pleading not guilty, they removed our chains and we emerged from the courthouse by 7:30 p.m.

Radical Soles

ropeguerrilla-boots

Stone mountain tops

Used, worn, passed on

Spattered paint

 

Soles

Artifacts of actions past

Traversing society

 

Actions where boots (pictured above) have been worn:  Mount Rushmore. Keystone, S.D. July 8, 2009.  Fisk coal-fired power station. Chicago, IL. May 24, 2011.  Agios Dimitrios lignite power station. Kozáni, Greece. December 9, 2015.

Vertical Tools of Protest

Climbing, ropes, and rigging can be used to draw attention to an issue, communicate a message, and/or directly interfere or stop an activity from happening — events often referred to as actions.  All climb actions will fall under one or more of the following categories.

noun_camera-Alexander Blagochevsky

Photo-ops: Used to boldly articulate a demand, to rebrand a target, or to provide a message frame or larger-than-life caption for an action. Photo ops are reliant on third party media to carry and spread a message/image.

noun_megaphone-Gardenia FairDirect communications: Speak directly to the target. They take place at the location of a target audience (CEO, shareholders, etc.) and are not reliant on media.

created by Mete EraydınOccupations: Used to hold space, to pressure a target, to reclaim property, or to defend against development. Occupations at height can take a myriad of forms and are often used to heighten a message or to stop something directly.

noun_occupy-Luis PradoBlockades: Used to physically shut down something, to protect something, or to make a symbolic statement. Aerial blockades can be used as a form of direct action or as a means to support another activity.

Tools and Tactics

Knowing the category/objective behind an action is essential when thinking thru tools and tactics.  They range from the very specialized to the multi-purpose and there’s a lot to be considered. Below are some examples of tools and tactics used by radicals in the vertical world – keep an eye out for future articles exploring these and others further.

Reclamation

Removing, covering, or changing something as a form of resistance, expression, and/or direct action.  Flag poles can present strong opportunities for this.

Bree Newsome takes down the confederate flag. Photo: Adam Anderson/Reuters Media Express

“You come against me with hatred, repression, and violence. I come against you in the name of God. This flag comes down today.” – Bree Newsome before taking down the confederate flag from the South Carolina state house grounds on June 27, 2015. The flag no longer flies. Photo: Adam Anderson/Reuters Media Express

Banners

Most often made of ripstop or similar materials — net banners are also used in cases where wind is of high concern. Banners are used to boldy articulate a demand or message. They can be extremely large requiring multiple people or small enough to be handheld by a single climber.

Three protesters climb the Golden Gate Bridge cables and unfurl a banner reading, "One World One Dream, Free Tibet", in protest of the Olympic Torch coming to San Francisco, CA on April 7, 2008. Photo: Jim Herd/SFCitizen

Three protesters with Students for a Free Tibet climb the Golden Gate Bridge cables and unfurl a banner reading, “One World One Dream, Free Tibet”, in protest of the Olympic Torch coming to San Francisco, CA on April 7, 2008. Photo: Jim Herd/SFCitizen

Painting

Painting, like banners, can boldy articulate a demand or message.  It can be used to tag/rebrand a target and has some staying power after things are cleared out.

Greenpeace paint "Go Solar" onto the cooling tower of the lignite fueled Agios Dimitrios Power Station in Kozani, Greece on December 9, 2015. Photo: Takis Grigoriou

Greenpeace paint “Go Solar” onto the cooling tower of the lignite fueled Agios Dimitrios Power Station in Kozani, Greece on December 9, 2015. Photo: Takis Grigoriou

Platforms

A platform is a strong sturdy frame, usually wood, designed to be suspended from height. They’re very rigid and can be fairly comfortable for extended periods of time. Platforms are commonly noted for their use in tree sits and can range from the very simple to complex.

The impressive platform built for the Jerry Treesit in Freshwater, CA as see on August 12, 2004. Photo: Aaron Maret.

The impressive platform built for the Jerry treesit as seen on August 12, 2004 in Freshwater, CA. Photo: Aaron Maret

Portaledges

A portaledge is a packable and deployable fabric-covered platform surrounded by a metal frame that hangs from a single point and has adjustable suspension straps. A separate cover, called a stormfly, covers the entire system in the event of bad weather — think hanging tent. Their portability make them great for urban, industrial, or even marine based actions.

Activists with Greenpeace occupy a portaledge hanging from the side of Gazproms Arctic oil platform, Prirazlomnaya, off the North-eastern coast of Russia in the Pechora Sea on August 24, 2012. Photo: Denis Sinyakov/Greenpeace

Activists with Greenpeace occupy a portaledge hanging from the side of Gazproms Arctic oil platform, Prirazlomnaya, off the North-eastern coast of Russia in the Pechora Sea on August 24, 2012. Photo: Denis Sinyakov/Greenpeace

Nets

Nets are a packable and deployable alternative to a portaledge that must be stretched and anchored between multiple rigging points. The result is a greater footprint with the capacity to take up a larger amount of space and hold more people.

Greenpeace activists occupy a net rigged to the conveyor of a coal-fired power plant in Brindisi, southern Italy on July 8, 2009, making it inoperable. Dozens of activists from 18 countries simultaneously occupied four coal-fired power plants across Italy calling on leaders at the G8 summit to take the lead in fighting climate change. Photo: Max Frigione/Associated Press

Greenpeace activists occupy a net rigged to the conveyor of a coal-fired power plant in Brindisi, southern Italy on July 8, 2009, making it inoperable. Dozens of activists from 18 countries simultaneously occupied four coal-fired power plants across Italy calling on leaders at the G8 summit to take the lead in fighting climate change. Photo: Max Frigione/Associated Press

Tripods, bipods, monopods

Made of wood or metal a tripod is a three legged structure that is occupied by a person on top — safely out of reach. They can vary in height and are great for blocking vehicle traffic, entrances, or intersections. They can also be used to display a banner and/or occupy space. Bipods (two legs) and monopods (single leg) serve a similar purpose but are more difficult for authorities to take down — they’re also more difficult to set-up. Train and take caution!

Climbers practice with a variety of pod formations during an Earth First! Climbers Guild camp outside of Eugene, OR. Photo: Basil Tsimoyianis

Climbers practice with a variety of pod formations during an Earth First! Climbers Guild camp outside of Eugene, OR in July of 2012. Photo: Basil Tsimoyianis

Aerial Encampments

A combination of methods used to occupy space suspended from or in the path of a target or something of interest. Highlines and/or traverse lines are often used as a means of transit within encampments and can be rigged to make them more difficult to remove.

Activists with the Tar Sands Blockade occupy platforms and scaffold constructed in the path of TransCanada’s planned Keystone XL pipeline construction. September 2012. Photo: Laura Borealis

Activists with the Tar Sands Blockade occupy platforms and scaffold bordering the tree camp they’ve woven in the path of TransCanada’s planned Keystone XL pipeline construction on September 26, 2012. Photo: Laura Borealis

Suspended Body Blockades

Placing or suspending a climber in a position that physically shuts down something, blocks something, or protects something — this may include other climbers.

Climbers suspend themselves under the St. Johns Bridge in Portland, OR and join kayaktivists in an effort to block the Shell leased icebreaker, MSV Fennica from meeting with the rest of Shell’s Arctic drilling fleet on July 29, 2015. Photo: Tim Aubry/Greenpeace

Climbers suspend themselves under the St. Johns Bridge in Portland, OR and join kayaktivists on July 29, 2015 in an effort to block the Shell leased icebreaker, MSV Fennica from meeting with the rest of Shell’s Arctic drilling fleet in Alaska. Photo: Tim Aubry/Greenpeace

Pods

A pod is a hard shell enclosed capsule designed to keep a small team of activists warm and dry in the face of extreme weather and violent opposition like water cannons and projectiles during an action. Sleeping accommodations, communications equipment, food supplies and water can all fit into a pod — making it possible for activists to stay in place for weeks at a time. The use of pods in the vertical environment is most associated with Greenpeace who have regularly used them in marine environments when taking residence on ships and oil rigs.

A Greenpeace activist stands on top of an Arctic Survival Pod secured to the Leiv Eiriksson oil rig on May 29, 2011 during an attempt to interfere with Cairn Energy’s Arctic drilling schedule. A Danish navy ship can also be seen in the background. Photo: Greenpeace

RG-jolly-roger-5x7

Have something to add to the vertical toolbox?  Send a photo and caption with proper credit, location, and date to contribute@ropeguerrilla.org.

Icons via the nounproject.com, created in order of appearance by Alexander Blagochevsky, Gardenia Fair, Mete Eraydın, and Luis Prado.