Sierra performs high in the redwoods

When Rope Access Meets Nature And Art

What happens when rope access comes together with nature and the arts…? Beautiful things happen!
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The Perfect Rope Job

Sometimes the best jobs in rope access are the ones you give yourself.

I met a silk aerialist at the local pub. She told me that she was interested in finding someone capable of getting her into hard to reach, high off the ground, beautiful locations. Now, I have spent the majority of my rope access career getting coverall clad foul-mouthed radiographers and ultra sonic technicians into the hard to reach places of heavy industrial environments. The prospect of working with an artist in the woods sounded like the perfect rope job.

It was time to take these skills and put them to use in a totally new regard. I’ve slowly been ticking off all the different places rope work could take me: rock climbing guide, rope course builder/inspector/facilitator, stunt performer, house painter, wind tunnel waterproofer, but I had yet to work with any silk dancers.

She was mostly thinking about straight drops off bridges or trees. It seemed clear to me that a high tension line would lend it self well to the visual appeal of exposure and might even produce an effect of making the silks look like they are floating in the air. It turns out that this technique is not often employed by silk performers. We came up with a game plan and decided to make it happen.

The Rigging

The rigging was quite simple. It required some vertical aid climbing up a 6” – 8” diameter redwood to reach a high point on one side. The other side however, required the use of a throw ball to achieve access to a Douglas Fir’s lowest hanging branches which were about 60’ off the ground. My throw ball kit consisted of a thin line and a 10mm socket head. After a few failed throws, I managed to get the branch.

I hauled a rope up and over, tying one end off to the trunk. A quick double ascender jug brought me to the branches. I then climb up through the branches another 20’ to a good rigging location. I tensioned the rope down with a Gri-gri, a handled ascender and a pulley. There was ample deflection built into the tension line as to not over load the system. The silks rigged through a rescue 8 which was hung on an alpine butterfly tied somewhere in the middle of the line.

The Amazing Result

Through a bit of tuning we managed to get the silks just off the ground. One predictable yet unintentional outcome of it being rigged on a tension line was increased bounciness. This is not something most aerialists are accustomed too. My performer found it initially challenging but was able to compensate for it. She told me it was actually kind of nice as it absorbed some of the energy in the drops.

After rigging everything up and a few test runs, we started filming and shooting stills. All the video was shot on a drone and all stills were captured while hanging on ropes with a mirrorless camera. We are treating this round as a test run and are looking forward to making minor tweaks to the system and videography to achieve some desired results in the future.

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Author – Nick Giblin
Skills performed – Sierra Camille
Rigging & Camera – Nick Giblin
All media featured owned by Nick Giblin.

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Comments (5)

  • Jeremy K Reply

    Awesome work!

    June 9, 2016 at 5:48 pm
  • John Murphy Reply

    What was your effect on the tree cambium?
    Did you consult with a tree pathologist (not just a arborist) about the impact the exercise made?
    Aside from being an aerialist, my graduate research was in forest ecology.
    While single incidences are nominal in impact, and of course you are qualified to set the rigging, there are many factors to consider.

    First is tree health. Without dissection it is virtually impossible to assess when the tree is a secure anchor. If we at the failure of The Sentinel, a famous Pacific coast giant that was under study, you can pretty much write off the idea that we can know when a tree is about to go.

    Second, impact. Cambium compression and barrel fracturing are far more dangerous now than they have been. I would suggest looking at the research into air quality and effects on the relationship change of Phytopthera with Pacific Madrones. Simple fracturing of the bark can lead to invasion by what we normally commentualist symbionts but are now parasitic. Trees have become very fragile to infection, so protection of surface integrity is of the utmost importance.

    Thirdly, social impact. In my 18 years working with performers, the one thing I have noticed is the hard reality that tree health is not considered. Aerialists want a picture of them in the trees to fulfill the self image that they are living with nature, when in reality, none consult with tree professionals as to there potential effects on the tree.
    And the few times they have, the tree scientists fail to see the social effects and they don’t realize that the aerialist will throw the pictures or on social media; resulting in a geometric increase in aerialists hanging from trees, because the industry is mostly about replication of others works.

    It’s very cool that you took the time to help someone yet to do it right, most tree rights are what any irata tech would pull their hair out observing… but in the reality of global environmental collapse, of doing something that is potentially handful to our rapidly disappearing forest giants, is that a thing of beauty or is it a reflection on our ignorance of impact?

    June 15, 2016 at 5:01 pm
  • andyc Reply

    Fair comment John, makes me wonder if all those tree hugging hippies know that, when they climb and chain themselves to trees and build their little tree houses :-p

    June 16, 2016 at 2:53 am
    • bgt Reply

      To protect a larger segment of trees that would be cut otherwise? Give me a break.

      June 27, 2017 at 1:57 am
  • IMD1988 Reply

    These are some very cool shots 8)

    June 16, 2016 at 10:19 am

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