There’s an app for that…

I’ve spent enough time sifting through climbing and rigging related apps 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.

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.


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.

Radical Soles


Stone mountain tops

Used, worn, passed on

Spattered paint



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.

Stuck Carabiners

contributed by Harmony Lambert

We’ve all been there: you’re climbing and go to unlock a carabiner, only to find it stuck closed. It’s frustrating and can lead to a dangerous situation. Here, we’ll explore ways to deal with a locked carabiner that won’t budge.

Why it happens

This common problem is usually the result of screwing down your carabiner while you already have weight in it.

A stuck carabiner is usually the result of screwing the gate closed while you already have some weight in it — carabiners flex and stretch slightly when under tension.

Once you lock it down and unweight it, this small shift of weight jams the gate even more shut (dramatized in this image), resulting in a stuck carabiner.

When unweighted the carabiner returns to its resting state. This small change in shape jams the gate even more resulting in a stuck carabiner.










How to Deal

Put weight into it

The easiest way to unlock most stuck carabiners is by trying to unscrew the gate while putting weight into it. Sometimes you can simply pull the carabiner apart with your hands (applying force in line with the spine) while another person tries unscrewing it. Other times you’ll need to sit into it—possibly even bounce on it—while working the gate.

Use some cord

If weighing it doesn’t work, you can get a better grip by clove hitching some spare cord (accessory line, shoelace, etc.) onto the stuck gate. Pull in the direction you’re trying to unlock while lifting the gates sleeve. The more textured the gate, the easier this will work. The hitch may slip a few times, but with enough friction, it will eventually grip.

You can also use a sling or tied loop to fix a friction hitch onto the gate.  Snug it up tight and turn it in the direction needed to unlock the gate — make sure to tie the hitch in the correct orientation.

Hit it

If troubleshooting up to this point hasn’t worked, a last ditch effort is to hit the gate. It’s recommended to try to hit the gate in the direction you want it to move, but that can sometimes be hard. Often, just wailing on it in any way will do the trick.

I’ve seen this work before, and it’s pretty surprising how much force it can take to get the screw unlocked. While setting up scaffolding at a climb training camp a carabiner on a safety lanyard became stuck and nothing was working to get it open. “Just hit it,” my friend shouted. The climber above tapped the gate against some metal but it didn’t budge. “Really hit it. Like, don’t hold back. Just nail it.” A couple solid hits against metal frame of the scaffolding and it finally unlocked.

This method has been met with concern about hairline fractures compromising climbing equipment. Richard Delaney of RopeLab summarizes his lab test (Dropped Carabiners) thusly:

“From these tests, the lack of manufacturers related recommendations, and the lack of any credible account of a carabiner having ever broken in normal use, I am satisfied that the often quoted ‘dropped carabiner causing micro-fractures’ statement appears to be unfounded. I feel confident to say that, regardless of history, a carabiner which passes a rigorous inspection undertaken by a ‘competent person’ should be considered fine for normal use.” — RopeLab

Take your time researching hairline fractures, then deciding for yourself exactly what kind of protocol you want to take for dropped carabiners and other hard PPE that has generally taken a beating.

Screw Links

A problem I’ve run into a handful of times is a screw link jamming up and being hard to open. A spare makes for a great wrench — simply open the link and match it to the gate you’re trying to unlock. It’s one of those beautifully simple solutions you stumble upon once in awhile.


As with most problems that come up in life, the best remedy is preventing them from happening in the first place. In the case of stuck carabiners, this can usually be done pretty easily. Simply screw it down (finger tight) when unweighted. If you have to lock a weighted carabiner, then it’s especially important to not over tighten.

Tightening screw lock carabiners as much as you can may feel good and more secure but it’s unnecessary. You only need to tighten it enough to keep the gate locked; the strength of the carabiner will remain the same here as when the screw lock is tightened down all the way.


Angles and vector forces are an intimate part of rigging and it’s easy to get lost in the numbers.  Heck, it can even get frustrating!  Use this simple exercise to cut out the math and get a feel for how vector forces and angles play into rigging.  The math, numbers, and vector charts can come after.

Tug-O-Angle draws on experiential learning and is a fun way to kick-off an anchor workshop as it puts a variety of concepts into perspective and provides participants with an opportunity to feel and experience forces directly.  This exercise requires a minimum of 3 people but the more the merrier.


There are multiple ways to set-up this exercise.  My preference is to have two separate lengths of rope.  Find the middle point of one of these lines and tie an eight on a bite — these are the legs for your anchor.  Tie an eight on a bite at the end of your other single line — this is your load line.  Attach your load line to your anchor line using a carabiner.  See below.


Assign an equal amount of participants to each leg of rope.  This may not look fair but that’s the fun part.  Start with the legs of the anchor at a 45° angle with the load line positioned for a straight pull.  Make sure that each leg of rope and it’s assigned participants run straight in the intended direction.

The job of those on the anchor side (left in the image above) is to be a solid and strong anchor.  Direct them to hold fast and strong with legs shoulder width apart and one leg in front of the other — they must only hold and not pull!  Check in with your anchor teams and make sure they’re ready and “bomb proof” before moving onto the load team.

The job of those on load side (right in the image above) is to apply their load to the anchor.  Direct them to start with a static pull — if the anchor side holds strong direct them to apply some dynamic pulls or shock loads.

Observe what happens and debrief with participants on both the anchor and load side.  How did it feel?  What did they notice?

Repeat the exercise increasing the angle of the anchor side to 90° then 120° and finally 180°.  What do you observe each time?


Pull from the group and debrief the overall exercise.  What conclusions can be made?

Have fun with this exercise.  Add a change of direction, throw in some pulleys, change up your anchor, etc.  Find something cool?  Let us know what you discover.

Contributed by Basil Tsimoyianis