Well this year was Ronin’s fifth year at GRIMP Day. Really, it is hard to believe.
We have met so many great people in and out of the rescue community that we now call friends worldwide. Preparing and competing in GRIMP keeps our staff current on updated rescue procedures and well trained in the execution of rescues. It also provides them with new ideas about training scenarios for students. I still get excited as I did year one to compete at GRIMP. Bottom line up front – we still find it the top rope rescue event in the world! With the number of scenarios, the time limits, the problem solving required (not just with ropes), we have yet to find a comparable competition.
Our internal training has enabled us to get more and more points every year. This year for rigging we only lost 7 points over the 10 events. Four of those points were lost due to one incident (more on that below). We are still losing points on speed however – or, should I term it, have no tbeen gaining the same number of points the European teams gain for speed. This is one area we as North Americans need to step up our game. It’s the old saying – a good plan executed now is better than a perfect plan executed later. With half of the Ronin team members being first timers this year, I am extremely proud of the training (especially the standardization) and the team members. To gain the same amount of points as the previous year’s team with half new staff speaks highly of the training staff and the caliber of the rescuers.
There are rumors in the company of a Ronin East and Ronin West Team next year – we shall see!
GRIMP Day 2017 was an Urban Edition this year. 30 teams registered and 29 competed at the event. We had five scenarios per day in the city (both Jambes and Namur). The highlight of the locations was certainly the St. Aubin Cathedral. What a location to perform rope rescue! We had one scenario (lower a patient, team rappels out, pull anchors) out of the bell tower and one scenario (rescue from ascent on SRT) in the sanctuary of the Cathedral itself. The ten scenarios overall were challenging and required a mixed bag of rigging skills.
As we have now had five years of using equipment at this event, it is a good time to go over the pros and cons of much of this gear.
Arc Teryx has been with us from year one and is still supporting us today. We use Arc T’s packs and uniforms extensively during this event. For the packs, we have been using the Khard 45’s. These packs have done an amazing service for our team. As you can read in other posts by us we use this pack as a rope bag (100 meters of rope inside) with slings and other rigging stuffed in the outside and top pockets. We rappel, run, climb, etc with this pack on. We lower it down cliffs and man-made structures. We have never had a pack come apart! Based on our abuse that is worth noting. We have torn two packs, however the material ensured the tear did not run (we used gorilla tape to mend it). We have pulled the stitching out of one of the shoulder straps on one pack. We have pulled off a zipper tab on another. In 5 years of using the packs as carry on or checked luggage, then running around Europe with it, then using it for rescue both in Europe and Canada, that’s the extent of the damage. Well done!
We did take one pack this last year and removed the waist belt (the new assault pack which has replaced the Khard has a removable waist belt so cutting off a waist belt is no longer required) and put two grommets in the bottom of it. One grommet is for drainage (at the bottom of the pack), the other is to allow access to the other end of the rope (located at the front bottom of the pack). Not a common use we understand, however we are not a common user group. We found the rope grommet hole was useful for grabbing both ends of the rope in order to rig lines or use the rope for fall/edge protection. We were dry this year so didn’t get to use the drain much…
As for the clothing, it has for the most part also been great to use. We have worn the Drac and now the Assault Pant AR in wolf for the competition. My Dracs (cotton version) are still going strong after 5 years. I prefer the fit of the Assault Pant more than the Drac, however wish they left the ankle pockets on the Assault Pant. We find it useful for knives, energy gels (read Nutella), etc. when we are wearing a harness. The other nice improvement is the knee pads. The current foam pad in the knee of the Assault Pant, while lighter weight them the older pair, is all we needed for our use (you can add on the older style knee pad if needed). Unless you are in some serious sharp and unforgiving terrain, these new knee pads are all you will need. We are on rock and structure all day and have had no problems with the new knee pads.
We have used different assault shirts over the years and the current version is the best yet. At first, we called it the rescue tuxedo, however once we started wearing it, well it became like a pair of PJ’s. We like the mandarin collar to limit the chaffing of our harnesses. The foam elbow pads are also a nice touch and practical. We used the Arc Word Heavy Weight T shirt as our competition T shirt this year. Great quality shirt; they did not stretch out with use and surprisingly for me – I didn’t put any holes in it.
Our one question with Arc Teryx is why did they remove the soft-shell products from the LEAF line? We could really use a soft shell in the rescue environment and many of our team are still using the LEAF Drac Jacket. It is a great jacket for our use. It fits big (it was likely designed to go over armour) but this is a plus for us – we can wear it over or under our harnesses. It is slim in the arms, where we need it.
Wiivv insoles were a great product. I used them last year in my Vans for GRIMP Day. They were comfortable and my feet did not have arch cramps or the like while using them. When I removed them about 6 months after GRIMP Day last year to inspect my gear they were in pieces. Quite literally busted in multiple places. I tried to get a hold of Wiivv but to no avail. They market these as high performance athletic insoles and I destroyed them in 6 months. I don’t know if that is a usual time frame or not. Just saying.
Footwear – Vans and Arc Teryx
Arc Teryx – I wore a pair of Acrux FL Approach shoes this year while helocasting in Germany prior to GRIMP Day this year. No issues with the fit of the shoes, they have been great in that aspect. Comfortable, solid footwear; they are my go to approach shoes. My issue is with trying to dry them out. While you can get the insole out, the liner is not removable. I tried using hair dryers (gotta love hotels), sunlight, leaving them on the dash of the car while driving the autobahn – to dry them out. With not being able to remove the liner it took a few days to dry these shoes. That time delay of course has assisted with producing quite the smell in them at this point. The Enz River in Germany was not the cleanest to jump into and now I have a little bit of Germany in my shoes at home – growing….
Vans – I ordered a custom pair of orange and black “rescue” Vans Old Skool High Top Skate Shoes last year for the competition. I wore them for the training and competition last year and the training and competition this year (I have also worn them in other locations I can get away with). As crazy as it sounds, I love them. This year was an urban edition where we were mostly on man-made structures. With the Vans I can feel the surface under my feet and identify trip hazards or other edges. The shoes are “soft” on the old limestone walls of the castles and towers as well as metal grating providing me with a better feel on the surface of the structure while rappelling or rigging. They are not good in mud however. Once you get some mud in the tread, while in the mud – you don’t need a skateboard to slide down hill.
Plastic gear hooks
I mentioned above that we had lost 4 points on one scenario. That scenario was a tower lower, down the caged ladder, with an attendant. One of our attendant’s plastic Petzl gear hook (and granted they are not made for this) caught on the ladder cage and broke. This led to 4 slings falling to the ground and cost us 4 points. A big take away for us here is don’t cheap out. The plastic hooks have their place, but buy metal gear hooks when working in industry.
PMI has graciously provided us with two of the PMI Extreme Pro Unicore ropes for the competition each year. This rope has become our go to rope at Ronin. It is durable, strong, has a nice hand and unties easily when loaded. We have used the rope at GRIMP for everything from highlines to 100 meter lowers. We have used it in ID’s. MPD’s, Sparrows, D4’s, Totem’s and the odd Reverso / ATC Guide. It has performed above expectations. We now use it in the majority of our rescue rigging kits at Ronin. With Ronin, it is primarily used for confined space rescue work and rope rescue courses. It has been flawless in this regard.
CMC MPD and Petzl ID
I constantly go back and forth between the MPD and ID as a go to device on GRIMP Day. Each team member carries both on GRIMP Day and they both get used. We use the ID primarily for rappelling and the MPD primarily for lowering and highlines. While the ID can be used in these circumstances (highlines and lowering), as a team we keep reaching for the MPD. The MPD works better with larger loads then the ID however does take two people in order to operate the MPD in a TTRS (where you can shark fin the ID’s and use one operator). Even with this we just seem to have a more positive control of the load on a long lower with the MPD. For highlines, the MPD is unstoppable. With the high efficiency pulley it allows one to tighten and loosen the track lines very easily. As a team, we often do this with one rescuer for both track lines (one at a time). The MPD does suck for rappelling with however – that is one area the ID has it beat.
Petzl Avao Bod Croll Fas Harness
With teams from around the world attending GRIMP Day you expect to see a multitude of harnesses – and you do. The harness you see the most of however is the Avao. That should say a lot right there. Teams going to GRIMP are often sponsored and have the ability to use whatever they want. The majority use the Avao. While I personally liked the fit of the Navajo better and find that the buckles do slip on the Avao – it is still the best harness on the market that I have worn at this time. It fits the best, has gear loops in the right places and with the built in croll it requires just that little bit less effort to ascend rope.
We hauled a Cascade Rescue Advance Series Model 200 Rescue Litter over to Europe on year two of GRIMP. It currently lives in a friend’s garage in Belgium during the off season. We have used it for 4 GRIMP Days, 16 days of hard practice prior to GRIMP Day and one week long confined space course we taught in Europe. While this might not seem like much, just during GRIMP Day competitions this stretcher has been used in 40 rope rescue scenarios. This stretcher is a winner. We have abused it (for instance flipping it over and using it as a high point to keep our ropes out of the mud on a highline scenario where we did not have a high point), hauled gear in it, strapped it to cars and driven across Belgium and Germany, dragged it up walls, etc. It is light weight, durable and still 100% functional and will be used next year.
Rock Exotica Carabiners and Omni Block Swivel Pulleys
Pulleys – This is another one of the proof is obtained by looking around items. Teams worldwide show up and what are still the best pulleys out there – the Rock Exotica Omni Block Swivel Pulleys. At GRIMP they have a concern with using a double pulley with both lines through it as a high point without backing it up (as it is viewed as non-redundant due to the pin) however even with that caveat, at least half the teams are still using them. Many of our Rock pulleys have been with us since day one of GRIMP and they are still working like they were brand new. Touch wood – we have yet to break a Rock Omni block swivel pulley at Ronin.
Carabiners – Our team primarily uses the Rock D auto lock or the Rock Pirate (both auto lock and Orca) for competition. We have also moved towards the Rock D auto lock for all of our carabiners at Ronin (as they need to be replaced). We use the Orca locks for rigging (when you need to pull towards you) and the Rock D’s for other applications (when you are also pulling towards you – see a trend here). Our team likes the feel and weight of the carabiners and as a company we are not breaking them any faster than any other carabiners in our kits. We do find that when we do “break” them it is often an issue with the auto lock gate.
Camp Helmets and Gloves
We wore the Camp Titan helmets this year. While this is a rock climbing style helmet, we were amazed at the comfort. Most rock climbing helmets I have worn hurt my head after a few hours. We wore these for up to 12 hours per day with no complaints. For context, we burn through helmets. We have used a multitude and are very picky about how it sits on our head (center of gravity) and how it obstructs our work in technical rescue (edges sticking out) and how the chin strap rubs the chin. This helmet is light weight, comfortable and strong. Really a good product. We had Camp gloves last year and while they are good, I still prefer my PMI Rope Tech Gloves gloves due to the dexterity. Yes, my hand heats up while rappelling quicker with the PMI gloves, however I am one that choses dexterity first.
So that is the list. While we have used other gear, these are the key items we use. Stay tuned to see how our gear and teams fair at next year’s GRIMP Day.