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Technical Rope Improvised Tripod

Edge protection is a huge issue that affects technical rope rescuers in a steep to vertical environment.  One of the rescue tools that has become popular in the past few years is the rescue tripod.  These are specially engineered to withstand forces applied by a rescue load going over the edge.  However, these tripods are prohibitively expensive and require special training.  Learn how to build your own rescue tripod out of 4x4s and  2x6s.

First, you will need 3 4×4 boards and 3 2×6 boards.  These should be in good shape and be free of damage.  You will also need at least 6 long pieces of webbing (20′ lengths work well).

The 4x4 boards are equally spaced. The tops are wrapped with 1" tubular webbing to hold them together.

Prop the 4×4 boards up on a 2×6 and use the other 2×6 boards to get equal spacing between the 4x4s.  They should be spaced aprox 1.5 inches apart.  Once the boards are laid out, begin to weave the tubular webbing over and under each 4×4.  You should do at least 10 full wraps.  When you are done, secure the ends of the webbing using a water knot.  The webbing must fairly tight to ensure the boards won’t slip.  It will also tighten when the legs of the tripod are spread.

Next, take additional 1″ tubular webbing and wrap it around the woven webbing.  This will keep the weave tight and together when the tripod is spread out.  Wrap around a few times and pull tight.  Secure with a water knot.

Wrap the webbing around the weave and pull tight. You must wrap both sides.

The next step involves a few rescuers helping to upright the structure.  It is useful to have one person on each leg and one to help push the structure upward.  Once the structure is vertical, have each of the three legs walk outward.  This will open the tripod and spread it open for stability.  You must be able to spread the legs out wide.  If the wraps are too tight, it may be impossible to spread it out.  If the base if too small, it will be very unstable and likely fail or fall over.  Assess the tripod continuously for the forces being applied, the direction which they are applied from and the fall line of the rescuers.  This is essential for rescuer and patient safety.

The tripod is stood upright and the legs are pulled apart to create a wide base for stability.

Once the tripod is up, the base boards need to be attached.  This is essential to keep the tripod from opening up when a load is applied.  Use the 3 remaining 2×6 boards around the base of the tripod and secure with webbing.  Make sure to secure the 2×6 base boards to each other and also to the 4×4 tripod boards.  You may also hang your high change of direction pulley at this time.  We recommend running your main line though this pulley but not your independent belay.  If the system were to fail, the belay line needs to be totally independent of the tripod and main line.

The completed tripod ready to be moved into place for the rescue

Once it is all tied together and the pulley is hung, you must position it for the edge you are work at.  This step is critical and must be performed by trained personnel who have experience and good judgement with technical rope rescue.  For Technical Rope Rescue Technician Level Courses, take a look at the course offerings at SierraRescue.com.

This technique is not NFPA compliant and should not be practiced or performed by anyone without technical rope rescue training.  Failure of this system could result in rescuer injury or death.  This page is only a guide and does not replace good judgement, experience, practice or training in technical rope rescue.

A fully constructed improvised tripod