About Pete

Outdoor professional and enthusiast.

Tutor XG rope – Nov 2019 Update

As written about in a previous blog post, I have been testing some rope that was kindly given to me by Spanset. The rope is Teufelberger Tutor XG, a 10mm semi-static Type A.
A few months on and with a good bit of use made of it so far, I thought it was time for a quick review on how it is doing.

Since receiving the rope and chopping it down to 40/30/18m sections at the start of September, it has been used a fair bit. From memory and a glance at the dairy:

  • SRT rigging in P8 with clients
  • Used for assisted handline in Giant’s Hole
  • Used by a candidate I was assessing for their LCMLA Module 3 & Tyrolean certificates in Cwmorthin
  • Used as lifelines and SRT rigging on a vertical trip in Knotlow with clients
  • Used for SRT while doing a bit of coaching with a friend in Aberllyn mine
  • LCMLA Tyrolean Module training day in Cwmorthin
  • Fixed rigging over a weekend to allow cavers access into Snelslow Swallet for a conservation project. Must have had around 20 ascents and descents on the 18m & 40m sections.

It has been wet, plastered with slate dust, zinc mud, and proper gritty Derbyshire cave mud. Each use has been followed with a good clean like all my ropes do. I use a low power Karcher K2 domestic washer on daisy-chained ropes and then give them a good rinse whilst they are hanging to remove the last of the abrasive particles that might remain from washing on a concrete surface. Ropes are allowed to dry naturally in the hall or on the washing line if the sun is not directly out. Being a full nylon rope, it does seem to take forever to air dry!

I have just done an inspection on the 3 lengths of rope now they are clean and dry and I can report that they remain in excellent condition. The rope used as fixed rigging for a few days in Snelslow did show some damage (40m). This might have been around one of the anchor points where there was a little area of rough rock below the anchor eye. It probably would not have been an issue for a single trip, but being in the same spot for so long might have contributed to the small rub point making a bigger impact. It is still well within safe wear margins though and not at all a concern to me.

Light abrasion damage following repeated use in one location during November.

The key to supple ropes is cleaning. Clean your kit well and keep as many particles out of the textiles as you can. Dusty stiff ropes are invariably a byproduct of poor washing. I am pleased to say that the suppleness of this rope remains very good. Unlike it’s doppelganger, the Mammut Pro, which goes like steel wire eventually, this seems to be retaining it’s off-the-reel flexibility. Obviously it has a lot more use ahead of it before I declare the stiff rope problems a thing of the past.

In use it is easy to rig with, takes a knot well and feels solid in the hand. It interacts with the Petzl RIGs I use very effectively when abseiling or lowering and I have no complaints about it when ascending using an SRT kit. It might even be a bit better to SRT on than the Petzl Parallel rope I also have. The Parallel is my favourite rope, but being super supple, it takes a while to get it to run through your chest ascender on it’s own. With the Tutor XG being just slightly stiffer owing to the increased sheath percentage, the rope seems to push through the ascender’s cam quite soon after take off.

So, thus far the rope remains supple, intact and solid.

I have noticed that Caving Supplies has begun selling the Tutor XG rope, so those local to Derbyshire can get hold of some at a pretty reasonable price. I’m also happy to lend out the 3 lengths of it that I have in anyone wants to have a go before they buy some.

I’ll probably hold off on another review now until it has had a really good spell of use. Maybe check back in 6 months.

Tutor XG rope test – Thanks to Spanset

I have spent some time at Spanset in Middlewich over the last couple of months, doing my IRATA L1 and a few other bits. Some of you will perhaps know that Spanset have been particularly friendly to cavers, donating large amounts of new rope to expedition groups and competition winners on places like UKCaving forum. On my last visit to Middlewich last week, I was offered some rope to play with and provide feedback on. Although this is not a new type of rope, it is something that is only recently been taken on by Spanset and as far as I’m aware, there are no cavers out there using this stuff just yet. I’ve been kindly given 100m of this rope to test and report back on. If anyone wants to borrow a bit for a day or 2, just ask.

The first thing that some of you will notice is that this looks exactly the same as the Mammut Pro Static that has been available for some time. You might be tempted to click away now as that rope was truly terrible once it had stiffened up, but this is not the same stuff. From my understanding, Teufelberger took over the production of Mammut ropes some time back and now produce similar looking, but different spec ropes. Only time will tell if this doppelganger remains supple.

So, the details are as follows.

Teufelberger Tutor XG 10.0mm
Semi-static EN1891 Type A

Polyamide construction divided into 41% sheath and 59% core.
Stretch in normal use <5%
Shrinkage <6%
61g per meter

Apparently this is designed with teaching in mind (hence Tutor) and as a general rope access rope. Off the reel it feels supple and as you’d expect a new rope. The instructions provided did not give specific advice on whether it needed a pre-soak before its first use, so I did so anyway. Soaking for 24 hours, with 2 changes of water, before air drying and cutting. The 100m drum was reduced to a 44m, 33m and 19m rope, showing some shrinkage straight off the reel (as expected). In use, the ropes are marked up as a 40m, 30m and 18m. This is my most frequently used range and should permit me to get lots of use out of this stuff.

The rope was prepared and logged onto my system on the 1st of September. I’ll be keeping a track of how much use it has and reporting back when I have something interesting to say. I’ll probably start with an initial use post as soon as I can and follow it up with something longer term.

Mineral ID

It is sometimes really hard to relate the minerals I see underground to the professional sample pictures on places like Wiki and Google. All I wanted was to be sure that what I saw was a certain thing. Well, I’ve started a Flickr album showing actual minerals in actual mines in the hope that I can make it easier for everyone else to identify what you’re looking at. There are loads of omissions still, but it is a start!

Sphalerite (Gerionydd) (2)
LCMLA Mineral ID album.
A collection of various minerals that you are likely to encounter in LCMLA caves and mines around the UK. It is hoped that these real sample pictures will aid you in identifying what you are looking at underground. All specimens were collected for education purposes from waste hillocks or loosely on the floor and no mineral chipping occurred!

New Petzl Stop

Rumers have been circulating for a while now about a redesigned Petzl Stop being in development and test. The first pictures have now emerged following an expo in China. Thanks to Qi Woo for posting these on the Rope Test Lab Facebook Group. I have made a few limited observations based on these few images.

From this pre-sale version, we can see the device remains an assisted braking descender but is now marked as certified to EN 15151-2 (2012), which is the “Breaking Device” standard and indicates this can be used as an assisted belay device, which the previous version was not certified to. This would be a major draw for instructed caving where there is a shift away from ‘historical’ use of the current Stop and towards devices with full certification for each job we ask them to do while at work. It’ll be interesting to see this new Stop go head to head with the RIG2 device which is being picked up by more and more cave leaders.
The new Stop is compatible with 8.5mm to 11mm ropes, which just about covers the full range of diameters cavers are likely to need, although not quite down to the 8mm stuff which is becoming more popular with sport cavers. Interestingly, the new Croll S is compatible with 8-11mm rope.
The assisted braking / control handle has changed from a push-in to a pull-down style operation, much like the Petzl RIG or Kong Indy Evo, something that will be welcomed by some, but disliked by others. I am happy about this, as I’m someone who has started to develop hand pain from the current squeeze operated handle after longer trips or many lowered clients.
The device no longer seems to have user replaceable bobbins, as evidenced by the lack of hex head nuts and bolts on the frame. It does seem that both bobbins are made from the same metal, making me think this is a full stainless steel bobbin device, which should give much longer lifespan over the alloy bobbin version. We should also see an end to grey ropes in the kit store now there is no alloy to wear and coat the rope.
We’ll need to wait and see what that little hole is for in the handle. Remote braking release perhaps or just a pre-production moulding feature?

I have not seen a release date for the UK market yet and I look forward to getting my hands on the user instructions when they are issued. What will be very interesting to see is specifically how Petzl supports the use of this device for lifelining (and rescue hauling) as it might be used in instructed caving. Could this be the Stop we’ve always wanted, or will the professional caving market continue to migrate to the excellent RIG2 device, with its multi-function EN standard compliance?

In addition to the Stop pictures, we can see a completely redesigned Freino krab, with its braking spur repositioned to the opposite end of the karabiner when compared to the previous version. Eagle eyed readers will spot that this krab is attached to a red device in the photo below. We are also looking at a new version of the Petzl Simple. This does still have hex head bolts so may retain its user-replicable bobbins. They bobbins even seem to be symmetrical, making them reversible too.
I’m sure we’ll see more in the coming weeks.

I’ll get my hands on one of these new Stops as soon as they become available. Until then, if you need to talk about lifelining or abseil devices appropriate to your underground operation, feel free to get in touch. For technical advice to the outdoor industry or LCMLA courses, see www.undergroundspecialist.co.uk

Holmebank Chert Mine

Holmebank Chert Mine
Fan Entrance lock installation 9th January 2018

Today I was up at Holmebank Chert Mine near Bakewell on behalf of the Derbyshire Caving Association and the Peak Instructed Caving Affiliation. One of the access points to the mine required a new locking mechanism which allowed explorers to access the locking bolt from inside and out.

Using some high strength steel components bought by the DCA, I fabricated up a simple rotating hatch, allowing a person to reach through and access the sliding bolt on the inside of the gate. The hatch is locked with a combination padlock and cavers can obtain the code from the usual source. Currently it is set to the same combination as the other lock on the top entrance.

Many thanks to Ewan Cameron from Evolution Outdoors for the company and assistance installing the hatch today and of course to Joe at the architects firm for his continued support of access to the mine for outdoor centres and instructor training.

Testing the strength of heavy duty caving belts

A Method of Testing the Strength of Heavy Duty Caving Belts

The aim of this was to establish a method to test the strength of heavy duty caving belts that did not rely on having access to a load cell. I hoped to produce a simple system that needed very little equipment and that would deliver a test load to a belt that exceeded the minimum strength requirement for its use.

Why? Well I felt that I needed to have some kind of empirical justification to use an item of non-PPE equipment in the role of a height security device. I didn’t feel that “because we have always used them in this way” was a sufficient argument for their use. As far as I’m aware there has never been a failure of a caving belt that led to an accident, but that is not really a reason for never questioning their use in this role. These are my personal thoughts and it does not constitute ‘advice’ or the position of the BCA Training schemes.

A quick note on use of belts – The user should never be in a position where they can become suspended on a belt alone. Additionally, they must never be subjected to falls or dynamic loads. They are for restraining movement to keep someone away from a fall hazard or preventing a slip becoming a fall on easy angled ground. They are no substitute for a harness where suspension is possible.

What strength does a belt need to be?

Well, this one is a potential can of worms…. Let’s be clear, the manufacturers do not condone the use of their heavy duty belts for taking any load at all beyond hanging your battery or lunch box from it. There is a historical use in cave and mine exploration that involves using the belt for the purpose of slip prevention and security on steep ground when combined with a rope belay or cowstails. If you were intending to use it for this purpose, especially as a leader of others, you’d need to be 100% sure that the belt was strong enough for that role. The manufacturers do not state this type of use is approved or list any strength rating on the product or the literature accompanying it. You must conduct your own test and risk assessment if you are to use them in this way.

If you want an item that has a certified standard for this type of use, you could choose to use a climbing harness, caving harness or potentially an EN358 work positioning/restraint belt.

For anticipating loads that could be applied to a belt in use, I have used a mass that is comparable to the maximum user weight ratings on some of the common PPE equipment at the time of writing: 120kg (Mass)
The caver has a short dynamic rope lanyard of 50cm length, fixed from their belt to an anchor. As discussed above, the user should never be subjected to a fall or suspension, but I am using the forces that it is possible to generate in ‘foreseeable misuse’ as a starting point for considering how strong a belt needs to be.
If they climb above the anchor, until the lanyard is tight, then ignoring all stretch or slack in a system, a possible FF2 fall of 1 metre can occur.
This FF2 fall will likely result in injury and, as a rule, cavers avoid putting themselves in a position where this kind of drop can be taken. By not climbing above the attachment point of there lanyard, the resulting fall cannot exceed FF1, or 50cm in this case.
When using dynamic rope cowstails, the UIAA standard permits stretch up to 40% of original length. For a 50cm cowstail, this is 20cm, or 0.2m (Impact Distance).

For a Fall Factor 2 (1m drop on to 0.5m cowstails)

velocity = √ (distance x acceleration due to gravity x 2)

v = √ (1 x 9.81 x 2)
v = 4.43 m/s

Kinetic energy = 0.5(mass x velocity²) 

Ke =  0.5 (120 x 4.43²)   
Ke = 1177.5 Joules

Impact force = Kinetic energy / Impact distance

IF = 1177.5 / 0.2
IF = 5887.5 N

Impact Force = 5.89 kN

This is clearly a very serious amount of force and is only a hair under the threshold that the work at height industry uses as a maximum safe force the human body should be subjected to. An impact of around 6kN on the body will cause injury in a lot of cases and should certainly never be taken on a heavy duty caving belt. It is beyond anything we should ever do when wearing belts and is included only to demonstrate the risk of improper use. A FF1 drop is still something to be avoided, but is more realistic of a potential real world scenario.

For a Fall Factor 1 (0.5m drop on to 0.5m cowstails)

velocity = √ (distance x acceleration due to gravity x 2)

v = √ (0.5 x 9.81 x 2)
v =  3.13 m/s

Kinetic energy = 0.5(mass x velocity²) 

Ke =  0.5 (120 x 3.13²)   
Ke =  587.8 Joules

Impact force = Kinetic energy / Impact distance

IF = 587.8 / 0.2
IF = 2939 N

Impact Force = 2.94 kN

So a 0.5m drop on to a 0.5m dynamic lanyard may produce a force of around 3kN for a 120kg caver. This does not take into account any stretch or bounce. This figure seems pretty reasonable, but we should seek more evidence to reinforce this for our follow up testing.

When considering the use of caving belts, can we can compare it to something done in another industry? Well yes, work restraint systems often make use of padded restraint belts instead of harnesses. One of the critical requirements for this system is that a user may not be permitted to go into suspension on this system. That seems very close to how we should be using heavy duty caving belts. When consulting BS8437 – Code of practice for the selection use and maintenance of personal fall protections systems and equipment for use in the workplace, we can identify that restraint belts need to conform to EN 358. Accessing this standard is expensive and no doubt the items conforming to this standard will have a very high safety factor. What we can get from BS8437 is the recommended strength of anchor points for use in a work restraint system. This is 3 x the mass of the user. A correctly installed and utilised work restraint system is only required to have an anchor of 3 x users mass. For our 120kg caver, this would be 360kg, or 3.6kN in force.

For our 120kg fictitious caver, we can mathematically predict a theoretical force of just under 3kN for a FF1 drop. We can also see that and anchor of 360kg (3.6kN) would be required if using similar techniques in work restraint. The figures are not exactly a match, but are comparable. Taking the worse case figure is probably the safest option going forward, so our belts must be capable of taking a force greater than 3.6kN for a scenario that does not involve wildly inappropriate use.

Safety Factor?

Apply to this any safety factor you wish. The 3kN figure from the maths is indicative of the maximum possible force generated in a FF1 drop on 50cm cowstails, the real world figure will be far lower due to stretch and slippage of the belt on the body and the sagging of the rope the caver is connected to. The BS8437 figure is a 3 x safety factor over the user’s mass anyway. You could argue that belts tested to 3.6kN would be sufficient as an indicator of appropriate strength if you never operated with cavers heavier than 120kg.

Belt Strength

Accepting all this, we are left with the figure of 3.6kN as our chosen minimum requirement for the strength of the heavy duty caving belt for any user we might encounter regularly (3 x 120kg based on BS8437).

So as long as we can apply a test force of 3.6kN or more to the belt, we can be assured that the item can hold the greatest possible force we can apply to it in proper use. The only remaining factor of concern is that would applying this force in test render the belt unsafe to use again, in essence, are these tests destructive? Only 1 way find out…..


Using 1 very large Corsican Pine and a good sized Birch tree, we set up a pull testing rig with a simple 3:1 theoretical configuration. I used a Rock Exotica load cell to get live feedback on the testing here but if you copy the method, you would not need to use one.

For the estimation of test force we regarded each person capable of pulling 50kg (see Gethin Thomas’ work on tyroleans). Through a theoretical 3:1 MA system that would be 150kg per person. With 5 undertaking the pull reaching 750kg and 6 equalling 900kg or approximately 7.5kn and 9kN respectively.

Kit used (minus load cell): Petzl rescue pulley, Petzl Basic jammer, Petzl Partner pulley, Lyon wire sling for tree, assorted karabiners, 20m rope.

Due to the force expected to be placed on the rope, I did not anticipate that I would be able to untie the end knot (fig 8 loop). This was accurate and the knot had to be cut from the rope end. Bare this in mind with your own rope!

We also used a Petzl Rollclip to redirect the angle of pull to make it easier to stand on the tarmac of the road alongside the trees.

Initially we had 5 people pulling the first test on a Lyon roller-buckle belt (brand new).
This produced a force of 5.9kN with no damage or slippage. This is lower than expected but there was a lot of tightening in the knot and stretch in the rope coupled with a general timidness of the pulling team.

The remaining tests used 6 people to pull. This one was conducted on my 10 year old Caving Supplies square buckle belt (already retired). This belt has nicks, fluff and rust and comfortably took a force of 7.74kN showing no damage or slippage. Next came my current AV belt, with it’s central maillon removed and directly attached to the pull line. This belt held 7.7kN without failure or slippage. Finally, the pulling team seemed at their most confident that nothing was going to break and send shards of metal and wood at them so they really gave the last belt some pain. This Warmbac square buckle belt was subjected to 8.64kN with no damage or slippage noted at the time.

It is not surprising that the force exerted by the pulling team was less than the theoretical 3:1 system implied. In practice with the loss of friction due to bearings and turns in the rope a 2.5:1 is a more real world figure and so our 5 x 50kg pulling average adults could be expected to make 625kg/6.25kN using this system.

On this test we pulled the belts to a far higher force than would be needed in a periodical strength test to simply demonstrate that this lower level of testing would not damage the belts. Using 4 people to pull on a 3:1 MA (2.5:1 actual) system in a reasonable way with un-gloved hands, would produce a force exceeding 3.6kN. This would not require a load cell to demonstrate if the method was followed correctly. Using 3 strong people on the same 3:1 (2.5 actual) system would probably be reasonable too.

50kg x 4 people = 200kg x 2.5 mechanical advantage = 500kg or 5kN
50kg x 3 people = 150kg x 2.5 mechanical advantage = 375kg or 3.75kN


Using a system like the one shown here, with 4 people pulling at average strengths, you can apply a force greater than 3.6kN to your test belt.

Once the test is complete you should thoroughly examine the belt like any other item of textile PPE to see if any damage or slippage has occurred. Any that do show signs of damage should be retired. Any slippage may be down to the buckle, but if the belt comes off or strap slides through the buckle under load, it should be deemed as having failed. If a belt has taken the test load and shows no damage or deformity then you can be comfortably sure that the belt will be fit for its intended use whilst still in that condition.

Final inspection of belts:
Lyon roller buckle                                5.9kN            No damage
Caving Supplies square buckle           7.74kN          No damage
AV maillon closed harness buckle       7.7kN            No damage
Warmbac square buckle                      8.64kN          No damage, slight curvature to webbing now when hung vertically which indicates over stretching or broken fibres down one side.

Again, this level of force was beyond what you would test to, but demonstrates that the 4 person 3:1 pull will not damage a belt that is not already fit for the bin.

A Note on Load Testing PPE

We don’t load test PPE. PPE is supplied with declarations of conformities and CE/EN markings. So long as you purchase via a reputable retailer or from the maker, this is the evidence that the product meets the minimum criteria set out in its approval standard.
Caving belts are not PPE and have no categorisation under the PPE Regulations. It therefore falls to the user to ensure they are fit for purpose, and that may involve a test of strength as outlined in this blog post. Ultimately, you must conduct your own risk assessment and define a way to show they are fit for use, copying a blog post won’t cut it with HSE!


Lastly – all of this testing and use is predicated on you treating your belts as an item of PPE. They should be purchased new, inspected prior to use and have a recorded inspection every 6 months like any other PPE item. They should be in the same good condition as any textile item of PPE and retired from service if damaged, worn, contaminated or subjected to any load exceeding their safe limit. It is recommended that anyone in charge of inspecting PPE be trained and certified to do so.

As a side note, I maintain that the Caving Supplies belts are the tanks of the heavy duty caving belt world and, if kept very clean, will ultimately outperform every other type or brand available. I think this test shows that well as the CS belt had at least 5 more years of abuse over the other belts. I will dispose of the Warmbac belt just in case but don’t tend to use these anyway, but that’s another blog post!

Worn Connectors – Pull Testing 11-6-2017

Over the last few months I’ve been collecting a few bits of retired equipment from stores checks and ‘isolation’ bins with a view to looking at loss of strength due to wear. Nothing here constitutes a scientific test and this is purely for my own satisfaction, but I’m writing it up anyway. I used my home made breaking rig with the Hilti HAT-28 anchor tester to provide the pull force. Each item was pulled up to the maximum possible load of the Hilti, 20kN, and the results were recorded.

Petzl Omni SL

Rated to 20kN main axis. Worn inside arc in 2 places after use with large steel pulley for 12 months. Failed PPE inspection due to wear depth being felt by fingernail and visually obvious.

Pulled to 20kN – No breakage, gate / lock working correctly.

I suspect that the wear on this item had not yet reached a sufficient depth to form a significant weak point. The connector was certainly retired at an appropriate time, i.e. with visible wear but before strength loss occurred.

Petzl M33 OK Oval SL

Rated to 24kN main axis. Wear visible at both ends of the connector. Large radius wear from twin cheeks of a steel pulley and small / deep radius wear from a long term connection to a steel 7mm Maillon Rapide.

Pulled to 20kN – No breakage, deformed beyond elastic recovery. Gate no longer closes and shape is visibly distorted. This item deformed at 15% below its rated strength. This shows that wear had already reduced the strength of this connector and it should really have been retired before reaching this level of wear.

Petzl Vertigo Twist Lock

Rated to 25kN on main axis. Worn on inner surface due to repeated contact with steel cable zip wires whist in use as a cowstail. Retired during routine PPE inspection.

Pulled to 20kN – No breakage, deformed heavily under test but recovered almost completely after. Connector permanently deformed and the gate locking mechanism does not function correctly. This item deformed 20% below its rated strength. This shows that wear had already reduced the strength of this connector and it should really have been retired before reaching this level of wear.

Do not take this test as advice to use kit beyond it’s manufacturer stated working life. Get a qualified person to advise you if unsure or go and do a PPE/FPE inspector course. If you have any retired gear you want to send to me to test in this manner then please get in touch.

Removing Sleeve Anchors (SPITS etc…)

I guess this post is a bit of a continuation from the blog post I did about pull testing SPIT type anchors in 2015. Sorry it has taken me so long to get round to doing this!
The original post can be seen here: http://www.peakinstruction.com/blog/pulling-spit-anchors-back-garden-test/.

One of the points of that testing was to ascertain if the sleeve anchors could be removed from the rock in a cave or mine to either de-clutter the wall or allow a resin anchor to be placed in the same location. This is important from a conservation point of view, these sleeve anchors are a bolt rash on the walls of our caves and once stripped of threads, are there forever…. or so I thought.

Jump ahead to now. Simon Wilson has developed the IC Resin Anchor in the Dales and his website has expanded to become a good resource of information relating to the installation and removal of anchors. Most relevant here is the method that he uses to remove old sleeve anchors, one which I am shamelessly copying here in an effort to spread the knowledge and encourage the tidying up of pitch heads. Simon’s site is here: http://www.resinanchor.co.uk/5.html.

I started with the original block of Stoney Dale limestone used for the original testing in 2015.






Method used:

  1. If required, dress the rock near your anchor sleeve with a chisel to create a flat area for drilling.
  2. Drill a 6 or 7mm hole immediately next to the anchor sleeve.
  3. Drill a second hole parallel to and as close to the first as possible.
  4. Bore out into a slot using an old drill bit and some wiggling.
  5. Tap the anchor sleeve into the slot using a cold chisel or old screwdriver.
  6. Remove the anchor from the hole. This may well need some jiggling about or a bit of extra chiselling. If possible, screw a bolt into the sleeve to aid extraction.
  7. Fill hole with resin or drill out for the installation of a new resin anchor.

Shown with a SPIT 12mm self drilling anchor:


















SPIT 12mm self drilling anchor that had sheared off in a previous test:

















Another SPIT 12mm self drilling anchor that had sheared off in a previous test:












This removal method works well once you’ve had a little practice and was far less destructive or time consuming than pulling the anchors out with the HAT-28. I also used the same method successfully to remove 10mm lipped sleeve anchors as well (HKD / drop-ins etc…) although have no photos.
As I was drilling so close to the sleeves, occasionally hitting them, this was very hard on drill bits. I melted the head off my cheap 7mm half way through and swapped to the 6mm bit. I’ve just ordered some quad tipped bits from Hilti in the hope that they are tougher. I’ve only ever destroyed one of them in the tough welsh rhyolite of Parc mine.

The remaining triangular hole can then be cleaned out and filled in using an expired resin cartridge with some limestone dust thrown on. It won’t disappear 100% but will be a huge improvement over the old rusty sleeve.
If you plan on re-using the hole for a new anchor, try to position your slot to the intended orientation of the head of a ‘P’ style resin anchor. Once the anchor is placed, make sure the whole hole is filled with resin leaving no voids. You can’t use the SPIT resin vials for this job as they have a set quantity of contents, you will need to have a resin cartridge gun to fill the irregular hole properly.

I hope to begin removing some of the decades of old sleeve anchors in sites now resin bolted and potentially earn some karma points back for anchors of this type that I myself have placed in the past prior to my ‘enlightenment’.

Thanks for reading.

More force testing on 5:1 systems

This post follows up on some initial testing done on 5:1 mechanical advantage systems used to tension tyrolean crossings done a few months ago. I suggest anyone who has not read that report catch up with it here before reading on as I don’t explain everything again here.

For this batch of testing I used the same site but rigged things using metal strops instead of rope loops. This would act more like the solid bolt anchors used underground and would nearly eliminate false readings from knots tightening.

I used 2 types of readily available Type A rope

  • 11mm Mammut Performance semi-static
  • 10mm Beal Antipodes / Industrie

The tests were repeated with 3 different progress capture devices

  • Brand new Petzl Stop (rigged both fully and half threaded)
  • 10 year old worn Petzl Stop fully rigged
  • Brand new Petzl RIG

I created a 5:1 system on 10m section of rope using a Petzl Ascension jammer, Petzl Tandem pulley and a Petzl Partner pulley. These are all items that would likely be used by leaders underground or of similar type. No big rescue pulleys or prussics.
I pulled all of the tests on my own with un-gloved hands. I weight approx. 90kg and pulled as hard as I could using just hand grip.
The final tension in the line was estimated by hanging off it and the force on the jammer ascertained using a Rock Exotica Enforcer load cell measuring in kN.

11mm rope

New Petzl Stop – fully rigged
New Petzl Stop – half rigged
Old Petzl Stop – fully rigged
Petzl RIG – belay mode

10mm Rope

New Petzl Stop – fully rigged
New Petzl Stop – half rigged
Old Petzl Stop – fully rigged
Petzl RIG – belay mode

There clearly was a drop off in force required to tension a 10mm system over the 11mm system, although only small. The fully rigged Petzl Stops required the highest force to tension although the old Stop in the 10mm test oddly required more than the new one (*see foot note).

I took the highest force generating configuration and added some more people to the pulling end.

11mm rope with a fully threaded brand new Petzl Stop

2 smaller adults pulling

2 small adults & myself pulling

I think it is entirely possible to exceed the 4kN figure if 3 large and/or strong adults were to be pulling on a 5:1 tensioning system. Both ropes used were clean and supple, with a dusty rope friction would again increase and coupled with some less efficient pulleys might tip the force higher still. I think that it is still appropriate to give out the advice that no more than 2 people are used to tension 5:1 systems, perhaps 3 if using youths or very small adults but certainly no more. The force required to damage a rope at the teeth of the jammer is rather large, especially on 11mm rope, but repeated tensioning on the same spot in the rope may, over time, lead to degredation of the rope.

The best advice I can give is to echo what is already taught at LCMLA and CIC:

  • Keep your pulling ratios at 5:1 or lower and don’t exceed 10 men equivalent pulling power. i.e. 3:1 with 3 pulling or 5:1 with 2 pulling.
  • Keep ropes clean and supple.
  • Use only Type A ropes compatible with your choice of progress capture device.
  • Thick ropes are stronger and stretch less but require more force to initially tension.
  • Thinner ropes are strong enough but stretch a little more and require less force to initially tension.
  • Where very high tension systems are required consider doubling up on ropes and using a non-toothed rope clamp like a prussic or Petzl Shunt / Rescuecender.
A final thought. It is only a short period that the tension is applied to the rope via the teeth of a jammer in these set ups. It is the resultant tension and forces in use that are just as, if not more important to keep an eye on. Tensions in tyroleans can easily exceed 2.00kN, the maximum load Petzl advise for a Stop descender. Consider all components carefully and practice safely before using for real.
* Having given this some thought I believe that I can explain the added friction for this configuration. Over its life, the older Stop has been used for many miles of 10mm rope, wearing the alloy bobbin into a matching profile. Now there is a larger contact area between the alloy and the rope when compared to the brand new Stop. The larger contact area requires more friction to overcome and hence the greater force required to pull the rope through.
2 Stops

Loads on a 5:1 Tensioning System

Tyroleans have been a bit of hot topic with me recently. I’ve developed some sites to use in my woodland near Whaley Bridge and been involved in some testing with BCA Trainer Assessors for the LCMLA scheme. We’ve measured the actual forces held by the anchors in a number of tyroleans but a really interesting questions was yet to be answered definitively:

In using a high mechanical advantage tensioning system, how much force is being applied to the rope via the teeth of the jammer and could we be at risk of damaging the rope?

To explain, when using a 3:1 or 5:1 system as is common with tyrolean set-ups, a toothed jammer is most commonly used to create the attachment point on the rope to build the mechanical advantage system. The force applied by whomever is hauling in is multiplied in a mechanical advantage system, which is kind of the point, and all this force is transmitted to the rope via the toothed jammer. The picture below shows a 5:1 set up with a Rock Exotica Enforcer load cell.

5to1 load test (1)

If you omit the load cell from this set up you have a standard 5:1. As you can see it is the toothed cam on the Petzl Ascension device that is the contact point with the rope. This device, like many of the Petzl rope clamps, is approved for use with 8 to 13mm ropes but comes with the warning that the toothed cam can damage or cut the rope at forces around 4kN for smaller diameters and 6.5kN for the largest. As it is hard to compare one rope to another, even of the same diameter, most rope professionals simply take the 4kN figure as that which must never be achieved in use.

5to1 load test (3)

Using 2 people to tension the 5:1 system, the Enforcer gave a max force of 2.88kN through the jammer. Had we been on more solid ground (and my partner not been a positively tiny 5’2″ & 50kg) I think we could have gone higher.

Inspecting the rope (Gleistein 9mm Type A) after moving the jammer showed a flat spot and gaps in the sheath where the teeth had opened up the weave. There was some furring but it was impossible to say if this is new or was already present on this rope.

5to1 load test (5) 5to1 load test (6) 5to1 load test (7)

A repeat test on a different section of rope produced a force of 2.66kN and a similar flat spot and sheath opening.

We then set up a standard 3:1 ‘z-rig’ and repeated the test.

3to1 load test (1)3to1 load test (3)3to1 load test (2)

This test gave us a force of only 1.84kN using the same 2 person team with a less pronounced, but still visible, opening of the rope sheath bundles and overall flattening.

I think these observations uphold the understanding that the tensioning in tyrolean systems must be done with great care and by using the least amount of tensioning required for the crossing. I will conduct a further observational test at a real underground site with 10mm or above diametre rope for a comparison but the force figures will not be too dissimilar. It would be interesting to find the 2 heaviest/strongest volunteers I can and use them on a 5:1 system to see if it is possible to creep further toward the 4kN limit.

In conclusion, you can get close to, or potentially exceed, the 4kN safe load on a toothed-cam jammer when using tensioning systems in tyroleans. Tyroleans really are an element of verticality that you need to understand well and get training for to know how to be safe. Go and do a CIC/MIA/UKMR or other course or get in touch with me for a chat.

I’ll be investigating this further at some point but it might be worth looking at employing the use of a non-toothed rope grab like the Petzl Shunt or even an appropriate prussic knot as a way of limiting damage to ropes in high mechanical advantage systems.

NB – The current Petzl literature for the current Croll and Basic do not show a load at which the ascenders may damage the rope. These devices are sold as personal ascenders and are only labelled to take up to 140kg of user weight.