Rigging A European Pit,
Doing it the French Way.

Translations from the French

By Peter Grant, NSS #5719 (Bristol, VT)

(From "Techniques de la Speleologie Alpine", by Marbach and Rocourt, a review. Techniques Sportives Appliquees France 38680 Churanche)

Primary considerations:

  1. Protecting the rope from any rubbing points (frottements) against rock
  2. Have two anchors at the top of the rope, Principal (P) and Security (S) backup,
  3. The principal anchor allows the rope to go the extent of the drop without rubbing, or at least no rubbing to a deviation or fractionment.
  4. Use Deviations to keep the rope from the rock, by using a sling from the opposite wall or a metal loop welded to a bolt. See illustrations.
  5. Use Fractionments, tying the rope off on an anchor, fractionments are called rebelays by the British.
  6. Don't just drop the end of a rope down the pit. Carry it down in a rope bag, letting it be pulled out as the rigger descends and places rebelays. That prevents tangles ropes and rocks falling on coils on the bottom.
  7. Avoid rope bends, which are knots used to connect two ropes, in the middle of a drop, if possible. Start the next rep oat a fractionment, tying the excess of the upper rope off in a loop below the anchor.
  8. Use a slip knot (Noeud Amortisserr, NA) between the safety and principal anchor. If the principal anchor comes loose, the shock of the climbers weight hitting the safety anchor will not be as severe due to the slipping know giving a dynamic stretch effect, to keep the rope from breaking.
  9. Be careful of natural anchors (amarrages natural) like rock loose and stalactites that might break or the rope being at an angle that might slip off. Other anchors are rock climbers pitons and nuts as well as bolts. All these should be used with care and instructions for proper use should be reviewed.
  10. Use a second security anchor if the first one is far form the principal anchor, also the climber doesn't swing too far if the principal breaks.
  11. If two principal anchors are used at either side of a drop, to get the rope to hand in the middle, far from each wall, make sure the angle at the center knot is not too near 180 degrees, that is, make sure the rope between the anchors sags a lot. An angle of 90 degrees is safest, puts less strain on the rope, than 120 degrees and getting near a straight line, or 180 degrees, can easily break the rope with a small weight below.
  12. Keep track of where the rope would go if the principal anchor breaks. When the tension is caught by the security anchor, will the rope be over a sharp edge that may cut the rope?
  13. Make sure the deviations and fractionments can be crossed by standard climbing techniques. The deviations can sometimes be disconnected for crossing and then reconnected. Be careful as sometimes this may be difficult. A fractionment means moving gear from one rope to the other, so a two meter loop is needed at he bottom of the upper rope to allow this action.
  14. Make sure one of the anchors is accessible to the climber without having to get too near the edge of the drop. The climber would use a longe longue (British long cows-tail) as a safety to get to the mail drop rope.
  15. If the fractionment is over 45 inches below the last anchor, use two anchors, again a principal one and one for the security.


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