Ascending a static line can be a nightmare if you don’t have proper technique and you can waste yourself jugging improperly. I have spent a fare amount of time hanging around on static lines in the mountains shooting video of climbing and over time I have dialed in some essential skills that make life a whole lot easier. I would rather focus on shooting great photos and video rather then battling with gear while dangling fifty feet off a cliff.
I am not trying to reinvent the wheel with this blog but I do have a few simple tricks that have proven to be fast, light, and efficient for shooting video from a rope. This is definitely not the first article ever written about jugging but this is the technique I have come to use that has been effective. I am planning on writing a few instructional blogs about different skills that make shooting video and photos easier. Each instructional blog will build off the previous one and hopefully you will come away with a pretty good toolkit for your next mountain shoot.
What you will need:
- Ascender (1) – I use a single ascender from Petzl and you can choose whether it’s a right hand or a left hand device. I prefer right hand.
- Locking Carabiner – Check out the CAMP Photon auto-locking carabiner.
- Standard Carabiner - I use a CAMP Photon Wiregate to keep the kit light and fast.
- Aid Ladder (1) – Any ladder will do but keep it simple and light, no need for overkill.
- Gri-Gri and Locking Carabiner Set – The most essential tool in the kit. Don’t leave home without it.
- Harness – obviously.
- Static Line – I use a 9mm HTP Static from Sterling rope. I have a 50m line that acts as my work line for all my shooting jobs. It is SUPER light and very durable and has almost no elongation at all. It’s a beast and is certainly one of the best static lines on the market.
Assemble the ascender kit:
I like to keep the whole kit together and just clip it to my harness for easy access when I’m shooting so I know it’s always there and ready to go when I need it. Take the locking carabiner and clip it to the base of the ascender. Clip in the aid ladder and the single standard carabineer to the locker and double clip the longest part of the air ladder into the standard carabiner to keep it all compact and untangled.
Once you have rapped in on your Gri-Gri and are ready to ascend, grab the ascender kit and attach the ascender to the rope above your head. Unclip the sections of the ladder so it is fully extended. Take your brake hand end of the rope and clip the loop through the standard carabineer. Step into the aid ladder. Ascend the rope with a coordinated step up in the ladder, pull with the right hand on the brake hand section of the rope, and pull down on the ascender. You will find a rhythm that is fast and simple and will get you to your next position quickly. You can even leave the ascender kit in place so that when you are done shooting that section of cliff, you can quickly jug up the line to the next position. It is nice to get in the habit of using a back up knot in the rope below the break hand end of the rope below your Gri-Gri so that you have a fail safe in case something goes horribly wrong.
Once you get the hang of it, this ascending technique is really fast and the small light ascender kit is easy to toss in a bag and doesn’t take up any room. Getting the right gear will make your life a lot easier and knowing how to use it saves you time and who knows… maybe one day it will save your life.
Check back soon for a detailed blog about how to shoot photos and video from a standard top down static rope.