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      Understanding the IRATA L1 Syllabus: Ascent using ascenders and descenders

      Climbing a rope (ascending an anchor line) is one of the first techniques that we teach during L1 training, and is accomplished by alternating between two different ascending devices. You’ll push/pull yourself further up the rope system using a handled ascender and foot loop, while a chest ascender follows your progress. You are expected to navigate this motion while maintaining your back-up device.

      This is one of the most basic rope maneuvers we use in rope access, and all levels are required to demonstrate competence while performing it. What does ‘demonstrate competence’ mean?

      During your IRATA assessment, your assessor will primarily be watching to make sure that you:

      1. Correctly orient direction of travel and attach both ascending devices and your back up device to a set of pre-rigged ropes (L2 and L3 may have to rig the ropes themselves).
      2. Complete a pre-ascent safety check, which involves checking the position of all devices, and making sure that the anchor point is unobstructed.
      3. Ascend the rope system using safe practices, and with the correct management of your backup device. It is also important that (for your own sake) you use proper climbing technique to avoid unnecessary fatigue or elbow injuries.
      4. Detach both ascending devices from the ropes after reaching your destination, and safely move onto another system (ex. changeover) or onto a safe area.
      5. Think through your maneuver and understand your system. When it comes to ascenders, you need to avoid impact, or shock loading your ascending equipment. For levels 1's, this could happen when you're negotiating an edge. If you're on your ascender while climbing over the edge, a fall would mean shock loading the whole system. Remember: an ascending device is only considered one of your two points of attachment (which you must maintain at all times) if it is loaded statically. They are not designed for any dynamic falls or movement. 

      Demonstrating Competence while Ascending Using a Descending Device

      It is also possible to ascend the rope system using a descending device and a foot loop. This maneuver is an example of a very specific re-positioning technique that is only used for short descents.

      To demonstrate competence with this maneuver, your IRATA assessor will be watching to make sure you’re keeping an eye on the tail rope (the part of the rope that exits the descending device), and that your backup device is being properly controlled. Many of the points we covered above are also relevant, and should be observed for any ascent up an anchor line.

      Additional resources to check out

      ICOP Part 3, Annex K – Typical method of descending and ascending using IRATA International rope access.

      TACS 6.6.4 and 6.6.7 for the source material for this blog.

      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