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Haul system

Setting Up Haul Systems Begins With Basic Anchors

                                                                                                                                                  -- Jim Simmons

For readers striving to learn to use important knots that are useful in rescue this will be a good review. Refer to the article on KNOTS and also to the link by GROG for reviewing basic knots used in rescue. Setting dependable anchors is the first step in configuring a haul system, and provide the anchor point to which the haul system is attached.

In rock climbing, the term "bombproof" is used to describe anchors that leave no question they will support both the expected and unexpected load. In whitewater rescue although a 'live' subject is usually not on the end of the line as in climbing, large trees or huge rocks are examples of trustworthy anchors. Because anchors are typically set up in a rugged river environment rescue, riggers must be ready to make adjustments when finding suitable anchors points. The main safety factor to consider is "what happens if an anchor fails?" Haul systems to retrieve pinned craft are not without risks to rescuers and precautions must be taken.

Using more than one anchor, or multiple anchors, to hold a load creates an 'anchor system'. Although the principles of two point systems will be shown in the 2-Day SWR workshop this discussion will not include two point anchors. Two point anchors are used if rescuers believe the load may shift directions, or because one of the two points could possibly fail.

When setting 'single' point anchors choose obvious ones that are fast and effective. The following examples (with rope and webbing) are commonly used in rescue.

For anchors using ROPE, two classic choices (especially when encircling trees or other round objects):    (refer to Figure 1 below)
1) a tensionless hitch, or 'no name' knot
2) a follow-through figure eight knot

1) encircle (or sling) the object with a single strand of webbing and tie a water knot to join the ends, moving the knot out of the way for attaching the carabiner.
2) tie a water knot in the webbing to join the ends and then place the webbing around the base of a tree (lying on the ground) in what is called a 'runner' or a three bight anchor.
3) if the anchor needs to be placed up off the ground an 'inside/outside loop' can be used. When tension is applied the anchor will stay put. Encircle the tree one complete turn and join the ends with a water knot. *(see comment below about stress on root systems of trees)

For any of the examples given with webbing (in 1,2,3 above) a follow-through figure 8 knot can be tied instead of a water knot. When water knots are put under extreme stress they are difficult to untie and it may be necessary to cut the webbing to retrieve it after it is used. A figure 8 can be untied more easily but it does take practice to tie quickly.

Figure 1
In river environments there are a variety of possibilities when choosing anchors--

A) trees, roots, rocks or boulders (already mentioned).
B) other options are cracks within/between rocks where webbing can be positioned. By using a carabiner or small rock, a 'rock chock' will hold such an anchor in place. This same trick can also be done with the water knot in the webbing acting as the 'chock'.
C) sometimes 'rock cairns' can be built by piling up rocks in a pyramid pile. This pile (acting as a large rock) can be encircled and works surprisingly well for holding substantial loads. The key is to find a slap that is dug into the earth well and build around it, etc.
D) when using trees as anchors the tree's root system must be considered. The higher up the tree the more stress placed on the root system, therefore keeping an anchor low on the tree reduces this stress (should be a compelling reason for placing it up off the ground).
E) because of lack of availability sometimes anchors must be placed underwater as described in a, b, c, or d. Just use your imagination but get out and practice these to see how they can work well.

All these options, and others, will be presented in a rescue workshop. Get out and practice these examples that are commonly used when establishing anchors for haul systems.
Anchors away!

Jim Simmons ACA Instructor; 12/3/'08. Jim Jones, contributed to this discussion.

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