When Rope Access Meets Nature And ArtNick Giblin
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 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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