I was trying to figure out for some time the way to make highline rigging lighter without sacrificing safety at the same time. The inspiration came from climbing style of course. If you have lighter gear you can do more; ambitious projects in the mountains, be faster and more efficient. Finally, reducing the weight of our backpack will spare us some “pain-in-the-ass hitch-hiking” (if you go the dirtbag way), and make our projects easier on our knees on the way up and down.
Faith and I sorting highline gear before action (Greece, Meteora 2010) photo by Jordan Tybon
That doesn’t mean I want to discard traditional highline rig which requires super strong spansets, usually 2 – 3 ¼ T (WLL) shackles (I’m not sure but Terry might be using even stronger shit :P), heavy slackline-bananas or line-lockers sets etc. This gear will stay on my rack for a long time no doubt, but from my experience if the highline project is not easy approach and I have to carry the highline gear (+ camping stuff, climbing stuff, food …) I don’t want all this heavy stuff.
The idea of “Light & Fast Highline Rig” is not only my idea. As usual, a lot of influence came from observation some great highliners like Terry Acomb, Jerry Miszewski, Bernhard Witz and Landcruising crew. Thank you to all of you guys! BIG Thanks to Andy from slackPro! who helped me a lot with producing some prototypes and always listen to what I had to say. It was really nice to have the guy with big knowledge and all needed tools to help me with that.
Situation NR 1 – One highline, bolts for anchors
Usually in highline rigging I am using spansets. I have two kinds of them. Green beefy spansets I bought in US (great for wrapping around boulders, they are very durable, and there is a big safe margin) and purple and orange lightweight spansets from Slackstar (700kg WLL).
When an anchors has more than 3-4 bolts it’s really hard equalize the spanset (so on each bolt is the same force) because spansets usually are thick and wide. Than next thing is you have to use steel binners or triangle mailons (quick links) which are wide enough to fit the spanset. To take 6 to 9 of them ((3 to 4) x 2) is already a lot of weight.
Trying to equalize 5 bolts using Slackstar spanset ("The Great Bongzilla" Highline, USA, Moab, UT 2009) photo by Jordan Tybon
The solution is to use oval mailons which are 35kN each and lighter. If you don't want to carry spansets, you can use 11mm diameter static rope for an anchor. You make a loop out of the rope using double or triple fisher-knot. I have two pieces 8.5m long. So, after tying the know I have 4m long sling (maximum). It’s really easy to adjust. You can buy 11mm diameter static rope which has 30-35kN of strength. This is totally strong enough, but to stay totally safe you tie loops from each bolt to the anchor point using some free pieces of webbing (11/16” or 5/8” tubular webbing is perfect). I saw this methods in Moab. Terry and Jerry are using this type of anchor. It’s easy to adjust, lighter than a spanset and takes less space in a backpack.
SHACKLES, ATTACHING THE WEBBING AND BACK-UP
For my light rig I use 12mm stainless-steel Omega-shaped shackles only (you can buy them from example from: SlackPro!, Slackstar, Slackshop.cz or Landcruising). On the longer highlines I like to use two webbings. Till 60 meters I take with me “White Magic”. On the shorter lines I prefer dynamic rope as the back-up. To reduce the weight you can buy smaller diameter single dynamic rope (8.6 – 9 mm) which can be used also to climb to the highline if needed.
When you take two webbing across the gap you have to make sure that the lines will stay flat. If it’s windy it could be hard so the best you can do is to hang something heavy on the free tail of the webbings. After that I attach both webbings on the non-rigging side with two lightweight "slackPro! lineLocks". Another person stays there to remove the slack from the top line and adjust the back-up webbing.
On the rigging side I have prepared pulleys system with two lines clipped to it. I use two shackles with lock-mans; one on the top, another one on the bottom + the lines should be taped together close to the lock-mans so they don’t move around. If I know the length of the line I can estimate how much pulley system I need. After I have it ready I let the pulleys system free and my buddy is removing slack from the top-line and back-up (leaving it more slack so there’s only small force on it). After tensioning the highline is ready. I just have to tape the lines together (it’s possible to do before the trip too) and back-up the pulleys system + clip the free tails from lineLocks on the other side.
ONE WEBBING +BACK-UP ROPE
In this case I always bring the webbing and back-up rope across and then use the pulleys system first to tension the back-up rope. To attach rope to the shackles I use double figure eight knot. I don’t need two lineLocks and two lock-mans (only one lineLock and lock-man). Afterwards the same as before: taping, back-up the pulleys + clip the free tail from lineLock to the anchor.
This is gear for my pulleys system:
- 30m long 10mm diameter static rope,
- 1 x 45kN oval mailon,
- 3 x 35kN oval mailon,
- 2 x double 50kN CT pulleys,
- 2 x single CT pulleys,
- 1 x oval aluminium binner and Tibloc (for multiplier),
- 1 x 12mm Omega-shaped shackle or Triangle 45kN Petzl mailon (depends if leave pulleys in the system),
- 2 x CT 36kN aluminium rigging plate
Even lighter and still strong enough and effective pulleys is this model from SMC:
Model: SMC MINI Double PMP
Together with Andy Riedrich from SlackPro! I had customize light-weight product called "slackPro! lineLock" similar to slack-banana. The first version is not perfect yet but it works good enough and was tested on 56m long “Island King” Highline and 95m long world record highline “Master of Universe” walked by Jerry Miszewski (both lines located in Ostrov, CZ)
SlackPro slack-bananas in action on the "Master of Universe" Highline (Ostrov, CZ 2010) photo by Jordan
Some info about FIRST version:
- it is small,
- it is easy and nice to remove the slack,
- it is pretty light,
- the angle between the bolts is really nice,
- if both lines are tensioned and the lineLock are above each other they don't put to much pressure against each other (there is solution to avoid this problem totally)
PDF file with specs of the lineLock for the back-up line
Closer look ... ("Master of Universe" Highline, Ostrov, CZ 2010) photo by Jordan Tybon
Soon (in about 4-6 weeks), I’ll have version 2 for testing. Some things which will be changed to make the product lighter and easier in use:
- the bolts in front and on the back of slackline banana will be bigger (replace 10mm diameter blots with 12mm)
- the bolt in front will have an option to open it so you don't have to get through all the extra slack (for example like in Jerry's "Web-Lock"),
Web-Lock (Berlin, 200m longline, 2010) photo by Jerry Miszewski
- the side-plates will be made of aircraft aluminium ( 1 to 2 mm thicker) to make the product even lighter,
- the middle bolt will be moved more to the middle of the banana so there is more space between it and the front bolt,
- the back-up slackline-banana will come with the dyneema slings longer than the top-line banana (so they don't press against each other),
- the back bolt will be easy to remove so you can clip to 12mm U-shaped shackles for the 9:1 pulleys system
SITUATION 2 – One highline, need to sling boulders for anchors
Spansets are not light but they’re really good to sling the boulders. It’s hard to break them, they have a big surface, which means a good grip on the rock. In my opinion 1T WLL spansets are good compromise (still strong enough and lighter than green spansets). The easiest way to buy them is from Slackshop.cz or Landcruising has also some nice spansets to sell as well. I always put tree protection (from example Tree-Wear from Gibbon is perfect) under spanset where it sits on the sharp edges. After I have my anchors ready the rest of rigging goes like in SITUATION 1.
SITUATION 3 – More than one highline
If I want to rig more highlines than one I am taking Line-Grip with me. It’s not super light-weight tool but comparing to the other set of pulleys which takes extra space and weight in my backpack Line-Grip is definitely the winner. If I use Line-Grip to tension the lines I clip shackles with lock-mans on the non-rigging side and lineLocks on the rigging side. After pulling the line tight I remove slack from lineLock and release the pulleys system (always protect webbing from the sharp edges of the pulleys etc.)! If it’s needed I can tension both lines (back-up or top-line / top-line and back-up rope) at any time. It’s always better start from tensioning back-up line first.
We used this method on the 95m highline and it worked perfect!
Before I leave to set up the highline I prepare everything I can, for example:
- put the ring on both lines and clip it to slack-banana/slack-bananas, tie all the knots I can tie before,
- prepare pulleys system so I don’t have to do it on the top,
- put the things to the back-pack in order (so I don’t have elements I need at the begging on the bottom)
I am sure I can still find the way to make this rigging even lighter and faster. The way to go are new materials and more experience. I will post about it after I use this method multiple times on different projects.
If something is not clear, easy to understand please post about it. I’ll like to hear what you think about it. Any ideas to improve it?