Pacific Ropes Blog

Understanding the IRATA L1 Syllabus: Horizontal Aid Climbing

There are several different techniques you can use to climb up or descend down on a given structure. In the TACS, IRATA breaks rope access climbing techniques down into two different and fairly broad categories: aid climbing (where you’re suspended with work positioning lanyards) and climbing with fall arrest equipment (where energy-absorbing lanyards or pre-installed fall arrest systems are used). In some instances, you might use a combination of both these techniques.

Horizontal aid climbing falls in the first of these two categories. This is a pretty basic technique that allows rope techs to move across the underside of a structure in a horizontal trajectory. You might use this technique while working on the underside of a bridge or a roof.

During your IRATA Assessment, all levels will be asked to demonstrate horizontal aid climbing over a minimum distance of 5 m, while moving along a series of fixed (primary) and moveable anchors. You’ll also need to pass at least two different obstructions.

Your IRATA assessor will be watching to make sure that you:

  • Understand the principles of fall factors and clearance distances, as they relate to this climbing technique.
  • Avoid potential high impact loads.
  • Choose the right anchors for the job (specifically relevant if you’re using a moveable anchor, like a strop or a sling), and have positioned it correctly. You may also be asked to explain the positioning of your primary anchors, and how their angle impacts how you work.
  • Maintain a minimum of two independent safety attachments (and at least 3 lanyards).
  • Can safely/correctly move horizontally across the structure.
  • Can change from aid climbing back onto the rope system or platform, and vice versa (this is one of the critical skills you’ll be tested on during your assessment).

L3 certifying IRATA techs should also be able to explain why this climbing method is the best choice for a given scenario, and when another technique should be used instead.

We’ll go into further detail on all of the above, the application of this climbing technique, and the type of attachment points you’d use, during your training week. This will be done through desk-based and practical/ on-the-ropes instruction.

Additional resources to check out:

TACS 6.7.1 and 6.7.2 for the source material for this blog.

ICOP Part 3, Annex L for information on other harness-based work at height access methods, such as lead climbing.

ICOP Part 3, Annex Q for information on fall factors, fall distances and associated risks.

This is part of an ongoing series, where we’re breaking down IRATA’s syllabus and clarifying exactly what ‘demonstrating competence’ and ‘demonstrating awareness’ means, and what will be expected of you on assessment day. To learn more about the rest of the IRATA L1 Syllabus, click below:

Succeed your IRATA L1

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