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Ropes That Rescue: Arizona Vortex Rigging Class

Updated on March 17, 2016

A Class For Those Involved With Technical (or High-Angle Rock) Rescue

From a Ropes That Rescue class in Sedona, AZ

From November 29th through December 3rd, I took my second class with Ropes That Rescue, based in Sedona, Arizona.

This class focused on the uses and rigging of the artificial high directional called the Arizona Vortex Multipod, which greatly reduces or even eliminates "edge trauma" for both rescuers and patients.

In other words, the Vortex allows you to more easily and smoothly negotiate the edge of a cliff, eliminating the sudden drop that sometimes happens as you transition from horizontal to vertical, and making it much easier to bring a litter down and especially back up with a patient.

The following are some photos and a video from the 5-day workshop (now a 7-day class).

We hold rescue and rigging programs in mountainous northern Arizona, teach rope rescue techniques to emergency rescue teams in industry, mines, wilderness search & rescue, emergency medical and fire services. In keeping with the "Art of Clean Rigging" paradigm, RTR is renowned for its teaching of practical rigging principles with understanding and simplicity.

— Ropes That Rescue

Founder & Senior Ropes That Rescue Instructor, Reed Thorne

Ropes That Rescue
Ropes That Rescue

Reed Thorne has been involved in the teaching of techniques related to the 'vertical realm' since the early 1970s. His first activities dealing with rope were with the Sierra Club, Angeles Chapter (Orange County Group), where Reed became a Hundred Peak, Rock Climbing and Mountaineering Section leader. Eventually, he moved into rope rescue instruction under nationally-recognized U.S. National Park SAR ranger, Butch Farabee, at the Grand Canyon.

Reed has been involved in the design and testing of technical rope rescue equipment, including the Arizona Vortex we worked with during this class. And he holds Technician Level certification with the Society of Professional Rope Access Technicians (SPRAT), where he practices rope access procedures often on his back yard training and testing tower. His services have been required on several dams and bridges throughout the Southwest including work on Hoover Dam and also in training Arizona Department of Transportation structural engineers during the construction of Navajo Bridge over Marble Canyon in 1995

Read more about Reed Thorne and the rest of the Ropes That Rescue staff and instructors.

Video: A Mid-Face Litter Scoop

I shot this video on the fourth day of class, when the six of us students hiked up Doe Mountain for the second time to practice on the mesa. Here, you'll see Frank, an urban rescue specialist from San Diego, going over the edge with the Stokes litter in order to "scoop" the (fake) patient. That's "Grizzly," a confined space rescue instructor from Texas A&M University, who already rappelled over.

Al, my teammate from Coconino County Search & Rescue, is edge attendant, and part of his job is to lower the belay rope from the top of the Vortex to the ground as Frank descends. Sueanne, another teammate of mine, is working the main line in the back, using a Petzl ID, and Del, also from Texas A&M, is in the middle, sitting down as he works the tandem prusik belay. You'll also see and hear instructor Reed Thorne, who's got the whistle.

And then there's me behind the camera. I helped set up the system, but I had my hands free during this rotation ... until it was time to rig for raise and haul Frank and Grizzly back up, which is why I shut the camera off.

Ropes That Rescue: A Physics Experiment - We used a dynamometer to test the force being exerted on the system as Del goes from vertical to horizontal.

Ropes That Rescue
Ropes That Rescue

The dynamometer, a device that measures force, read over 900 pounds as Del approached horizontal, which was nearly impossible for his legs and back to maintain.

The Arizona Vortex Multi-Pod Set Up As An A-Frame - The Vortex can be set up in a number of different configurations, but this is a common one.

Ropes That Rescue
Ropes That Rescue

Some of the rigging, including the main line, is attached to the "jin pole" in the back. (You might be able to see the red rigging "head" on the top of the pole, behind the Vortex.)

A Confined Space Litter Raise

Ropes That Rescue
Ropes That Rescue

Rigging Above and ON "The Nose" - There's the Vortex at the top and a single pole rigged on way down below.

Ropes That Rescue
Ropes That Rescue
Ropes That Rescue
Ropes That Rescue

A Moving A-Frame - The A-frame was lowered as Frank was lowered.

Ropes That Rescue
Ropes That Rescue

There's a second Vortex multipod set up to the left of the photo, as a lazy-leg A-frame.

A Pick-Off Using The Lazy-Leg A-Frame

Ropes That Rescue
Ropes That Rescue

"V" As In the Arizona Vortex - The guys from Texas A&M and San Diego Fire Department get creative.

Ropes That Rescue
Ropes That Rescue

Part of the Ropes That Rescue Sedona Classroom - See that nub and crack on the far right? That's where some of the above photos were taken.

Ropes That Rescue
Ropes That Rescue

For information and a schedule of classes, visit the Ropes That Rescue website.

Ropes That Rescue has course venues in: Sedona , Arizona -- Michigan -- Southern Illinois -- Wenatchee, Washington -- Seattle, Washington -- Roseville, California -- Southern Utah -- Australia

© 2010 Deb Kingsbury

Do You Have Comments Or Questions?

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    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 

      5 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      You're very welcome Deb.

    • Ramkitten2000 profile imageAUTHOR

      Deb Kingsbury 

      5 years ago from Flagstaff, Arizona

      Thanks so much, Kristen.

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 

      5 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      Great hub, Deb. So informative and interesting to read about the rope rescue course. Voted up!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I just think you are an amazing woman and all people involved in rescue operations are to be commended for risking their lives to save others.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Great pics of rope rescue techniques, I always wonder how these great guys actually perform rescue operations..

      Really appreciable efforts, I want to ask how can we fully trust on these frames, what if these frames get broke or something.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      some amazing pics!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      while we are still caught up with using as many creative options that a 'natural base' can offer, I do wonder what's the weight of the frames listed on the lens.

      Their usage looks very interesting. Thanks for sharing these :)

    • emmaklarkins profile image


      9 years ago

      Wow! These pictures are amazing... and frankly, a little terrifying!


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