Woodland Tyrolean Development

Recently I headed out to our private woodland site to have a play with my new Rock Exotica Enforcer. We have recently developed a tyrolean crossing here along with calculations of anticipated loads and safety factors. Using the Enforcer on this tyrolean would give a real world check of my calculated figures as well as giving me a relatively safe and controlled location to experiment.

The tyrolean spans a 20m gully and is rigged using large trees slung with Lyon steel strops and the tensioning is done on the lower end using a 3:1 system through a Petzl RIG clutch. In this testing I purposely tried to over tighten things to see how much tension, and hence force at the anchors, it was possible for 1 person to produce.
I used a 5:1 pulley system and installed the Enforcer between the anchor and the RIG so it gave a reading on the total tension force being held by the lower anchor strop.

The calculations I had done previously were based on an average weight of participant of 100Kg. The span was measured and the sag was estimated at 10% as in practice we’ve found it impossible to achieve less than that with semi-static rope (usually more like 15-20%). The load on each anchor (so x2 for the rope itself) was calculated using a number of methods, some involving scary trigonometry, but the simplest equation was:

Tension = (Load × Span) / (4 × Sag)
Tension = (100kg × 20m) / (4 × 2m)
Tension = 250kg (roughly translated to 2.5kN)

The WLL (working load limit, or safe working load) of each component was calculated at a fairly standard ratio of 5:1, that is a fifth of its MBS (minimum breaking strength). Using this ratio the lowest figure was 4.8kN for a Petzl OK Oval karabiner. Technically the Petzl RIG is weaker but as it will slip before it’s WLL is reached then it can be discounted*.

*providing the RIG is not locked off and the rope is dogged back into the rigging so a running slip could not result in a complete slackening of the system.

So the maths with a 10% sag gave me 2.5kN tension force on each end of the tyrolean.

The tension force graph is downloaded off the Enforcer to iPhone and then edited in Microsoft Excel looks like this, with Time on the x and Force in kN on the y axis. Click to expand:

Little T 5to1 Graph

The graph starts with me applying tension to the system and having a few test bounces. The main force peak near 2m20s is me hanging suspended and pulling myself to the centre of the crossing and bouncing. I then pull up to the higher end, take a breather, and run back off, giving the last spike.

Little T 5to1 Graph top end

The second graph was me installing the Enforcer at the high end of the tyrolean crossing and tensioning it back up again with the 5:1 system. The tension at the top anchor was a little less than before on the lower anchor but the peak tension (me doing a running jump crossing) was similar to the previous graph.

Some interesting observations from the day:

  • At no point was it possible to install more than 1.5kN of pre tension in the rope prior to crossing. This was tested up to 9:1 and on 2 different tyroleans.
  • Tension in the line always dropped after the first crossing and remained at or below 1kN. Probably after the knots tightened up.
  • Tension could then be raised back up with additional hauling but the force remained below 1.5kN. Do not keep re-tensioning in real use as the increase in tension for each loading may cumulate to break a rope. See BMC technical reports.
  • The peak force was close to our 2.5kN calculation. This is predicated on having at least 10% sag in the system. A set of specifications for mechanical advantage systems and number of people pulling should be set by a company to limit over tensioning.
  • Whatever the tensioning method, we could not achieve less than 10% sag on a tyrolean in use with a correctly installed clutch.
  • Even on a 9:1 tensioning system the peak force created was only 2.8kN, probably because the Petzl RIG slipped at that point.

The 2.8kN high figure was achieved on a 50m tyrolean set up later that day. Here I was using a 10mm Beal rope today with a MBS of 24kN and 5:1 WLL of 4.8kN. The 5:1 safety factor is acheived with this rope. The rope I have on order for this when it is done with the public is a Mammut 11mm, the same as we use on the 20m line. It has a MBS of 35kN and hence a 5:1 WLL of 7kN, far above the expected loads in use.

Why all this effort? I like to know that the real world forces are actually near to how we calculate things, especially in tyrolean systems. Vector forces are scary and you just need to watch YouTube clips of slackliners breaking rated kit to see that. I can sleep well knowing all our research and calculations are backed up by real world testing and I can be confident that we are delivering as safe a service as we can.

Thanks for reading and remember, I can be hired to come to your site and test your rigging with the Enforcer too. Contact me direct for a quote and a chat.