DIY webbing slings

webbing_slingsPre-sewn webbing slings come in a variety of sizes and colors to help you stay organized.  The downside?  They’re expensive.  A cheaper option is to buy a spool or length of tubular webbing and tie your own using a water knot.

To get the right size every time I cut webbing lengths twice the length of the intended sling and add an additional 18 inches (46 cm) to accommodate for a water knot – this will leave you with approximately 4 inches of tail. Cut the webbing with a hot knife or other appropriate method to prevent fraying.

I like to create webbing slings of multiple lengths so I can quickly choose what’s best for any given situation.  I find 2.5ft, 4ft, 7.5ft and 10ft webbing slings to cover most urban situations.

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Use different colors of webbing or put colored tape on the tails to help you quickly distinguish between sizes.

Get into the habit of marking webbing slings clearly before placing them into general circulation.  The tails are best for this since they’re easy to identify and not load bearing.  Use a Sharpie to write the length and service date onto the tails for tracking.  Check and ask about the history of any unmarked slings and inspect all slings before using.

Warning:  Set the knot! Apply weight and secure all DIY webbing slings prior to use for life support (standing and bouncing on a freshly tied sling is a good way to do this).  Short tails have the potential to slip under tension and a loose water knot is dangerously susceptible to snagging so be sure to keep water knots clear of any edges or snag points.

Improvised prusik minding pulley

Pulley_improvisedprusikminding-cyIt’s common practice to use a method of progress capture to hold a load.

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Prusik minding pulleys are designed with extended side plates to prevent a prusik hitch from entering the sheave (wheel) of the pulley when capturing progress in a haul system.

You can also improvise a prusik minding pulley with a simple pulley and some hardware.  This configuration is best used for banner rigging and should be prepared in advance.

Pulley_improvised-prusikminding

Start by finding the correct size nut and washer.  You’ll want the opening of your nut and washer to be slightly larger than the diameter of the rope.

Thread the rope through the nut, washer, and pulley before finishing with a friction hitch on the load end of the line.  Clip this back to the same carabiner on the pulley.

Warning:  Do not use a nut and washer to capture progress with a live load.  The threads in the nut and imperfections in the washer can damage a rope.

Water knot

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The water knot, sometimes referred to as a ring bend, is used to join two pieces of webbing together.  Tying_waterknotGreat for making your own webbing slings or tying off wrapped webbing anchors.

1. Start with a neatly tied overhand.

2. Thread the 2nd end in reverse – make sure to take out any twists!

3. Nest the 2nd end along the path of the overhand.

4. Follow it thru until you’re able to pull the tail from the opposite end of the overhand.

5. Keep the knot loose and adjust as needed to for adequate tail length.

6. Snug up neatly and compact.  The water knot should have no less than 4 inches of tail remaining once tied and pulled snug.  If creating a sling step into it and weight the knot before use.  This will set the knot (leaving closer to 3 inches of tail).

Warning:  Apply weight and secure all water knots prior to use for life support (standing and bouncing on a freshly tied sling is a good way to do this).  Short tails have the potential to slip under tension and a loose water knot is dangerously susceptible to snagging so be sure to keep water knots clear of any edges or snag points – video here.

Knotty word basics

Tying knots and hitches requires the manipulation of rope in a variety of ways. Use these basic terms when describing the process of knot building and avoid getting lost in the language of rope shapes.

rope_partsWorking end: The active end of the rope used to tie the knot.

Bight: Created by grabbing the rope and forming a tight U-turn shape.

Loop: A circle formed in a rope by crossing a bight over itself.

Twist: A loop that is rotated once more.

Standing End: The end of the rope not active in knot tying.  A rope system may have multiple standing sections/ends depending on your focus at any given time.

 

Tension traverses and pendulums when lowering

These techniques can prove useful in a variety of scenarios where tension, together with movement, can be used to access something that is lower and to the side of your initial anchor. These techniques are commonly used by big wall rock climbers to move from one crack to another or over a blank section of rock but can also be used for retrieving a line, rigging a banner, or positioning oneself for work – among other things.

To do a tension traverse you must have a surface in front of you to move on; the less vertical the easier.  Lower yourself off your anchor and keep your feet flat against the wall for added friction; now walk yourself across the wall and keep eyes on your target as you make your way towards it.

A climber sets up for a tension traverse on Mount Rushmore in order to retrieve a banner that had shifted due to high winds.  The red arrow marks the direction and distance of the traverse.

The farther you have to move horizontally then the higher you want the anchor you lower from to be from your intended destination.  You want the tension to help you so keep your angle small to avoid fighting additional forces and think about the distance you’re moving – including what you may swing in to if you lose purchase!  It may be easier to have a partner lower you in cases where you need to use your hands and feet to pull yourself along as you go down.

A climber fixes a line to the corner of a banner on Mount Rushmore following a tension traverse.

A climber uses a line lowered from above to retrieve the corner of a banner on Mount Rushmore following a tension traverse.

With the tension traverse complete and retrieval line fixed the climber ascends to their initial anchor and uses the fix line to haul the banner to the intended position.

With the tension traverse complete and additional line fixed for retrieval the climber ascends to their initial anchor and uses the retrieval line to haul the banner into position with a partner.

A pendulum is the dynamic version of a tension traverse.  Consider the swing and risks involved.  Do not do this in cases where obstacles and hazards exist.  Lower yourself off your anchor and stop along the same horizontal plane of your intended destination; lower yourself slightly below this point and lock off your descent. The tricky part is judging how far to lower so when in doubt start out high.  Now run back and forth across the wall until you’re able to swing past the blank section to your final destination – don’t risk taking an uncontrolled swing, anchor in and get safe.

Greenpeace Climbers deploy a banner on the face of Mount Rushmore National Memorial in Keystone, SD, on July 8, 2009. Photo: Kate Davison/Greenpeace

Warning:  Tension traverses and pendulums when lowering involve movement and this can be damaging to your rope.  Protect any edges, use rope protection, get eyes on your lines, tie stopper knots at the end of your rope(s), and assess all associated risks before proceeding.