Descent device for secured FL


Active Member
I was giving this some thought. Everyone is going with the figure 8's for desending during the secured footlock. I was wondering if the ATC xp or some variation of it would be acceptable to come down on for a competition setting. I have messed around with a little and see no problems with the device and it's smoother and easier to set up in my opinion. Would there be any issues with this if it is rated high enough?


Active Member
I'm almost sure it's acceptable. Kevin let one fly at ITCC with no problem. Rhode Island


Humm... sorry to spoil the party, but if you read Black Diamond's user manual for the ATC-XP, they state that the device is

For climbing and mountaineering only.
The ATC-XP, ATC-Guide, ATC, ATC-Sport and Super 8 are lightweight devices designed specifically for belaying and rappelling during rock climbing, ice climbing and mountaineering. These devices should not be used for high speed rappelling or any uses for which they were not designed
The ATC-XP, ATC-Guide and ATC-Sport are compatible with rope diameters from 7.7 mm to 11 mm.

[/ QUOTE ]

And further down, under the Limited Warranty heading, BD states that

We no not warrant Products against normal wear and tear, unauthorized modifications or alterations, improper use , improper maintenance, accident, misuse, negligence, damage, or if the Product is used for a purpose for which it was not designed.

[/ QUOTE ]

So, in a worst case scenario, where would that leave you? Obviously, if it was not being used for climbing or mountaineering, in case of a liability suit the manufacturer will probably fall back on the limited warranty statement, saying that the device was not being used properly.

This may seem like nit-picking, but when push comes to shove, it's probably what it'll boil down to.

This just really highlights how difficult it can be to cover all your bases when you're cross using devices, i.e. devices made with another application in mind, but which seem well suited to a different task. Ideally one would try to get a statement off the manufacturer endorsing the extended use, in this case into tree care. But hell will probably freeze over before they do that, as they will be focusing on the big markets... such as climbing and mountaineering.

But with this statement in the background, personally, I would hesitate to allow this device for a TCC, as it seems to me that whoever is making that decision is leaning a loooooooong way out of the window.


Well-Known Member
Wait... Are we not climbing? Isn't it being used in a rappel? How is it being used improperly? As long as you stay within the proper diameter which the ATC is rated up to 11mm.

Have you ever tried using one for a rappel? I just bought and tried one. I instantly returned it because it created to much friction and was a very slow rappel. That was using its "fast" side. I bet if you were to contact the manufacturer they would have no problem with that use. Its completely within the design.

In fact I'll contact them right now.

I'm starting to get frustrated, how is the arbor world supposed to continue to grow if we can not adapt techniques and equipment for other sports or work practices. I'm talking staying completely within the design and ratings of both the product and still meeting our standards in tree work.



"rock climbing, ice climbing and mountaineering" this is not. Nor is it recreational.

The point I'm making here is that we don't know whether it's ok or not to use the device this way from the manufacturer's point of view and the route you're proposing is the correct one. If you can get a written statement from BD endorsing the use of this piece of equipment in a professional arborist work environment, that would immediately create a much clearer situation.

One has to make the difference between individuals coming up with ideas and concepts, cross using equipment and improvising new tools – which is great and for me has always been one of the fascinating aspects of arb climbing techniques – and organisations sanctioning the use of equipment for TCC's in an official function. This is a very different cup of tea and obviously the decisions taken prior to a TCC should be based not on hunches but on substantiated information - in this case manufacturer guidance. This is a good thing, as the acceptance of use of a technique or tool at a TCC will trickle down into the industry and appear to legitimise the use of a given tool or technique... "I saw it used at ITCC" or "This was passed at my local TCC" etc. These calls should be well thought through and stand up to scrutiny. This is in all of our best interests, I think, without it needing to stifle innovation.

So, all good, there's no need to be frustrated, let's just make sure we're really sure what we're talking about by gathering the relevant information.

Let us know what you hear back from BD.




Well-Known Member
Thanks for the response. I reread your post from before and realized i had jumped the gun on my frustration. You are just being honest and looking out for the safety of others.

I'll let you know what they say.

Tom Dunlap

Here from the beginning
Thanks for being so detail oriented Mark. I appreciate that, I always learn from your posts!

Having smart phones will make it easier for tech inspectors and climbers to get factory specs for their gear.


Well-Known Member
thats a tricky one because hardly any of the gear out there is made for arborists specifically. The only company that makes gear specifically for arborists is DMM. Many of the figure eights used in comps would have the same guidelines as the atc xp.

I know my favorite eight is a black diamond eight (it is made with an real nice aluminum) and it has always been allowed at comps. I am sure that black diamond did not have that in mind as intended use. I also have some great BD slings which obviously are great but they are not intended primarily for trees, no one has questioned me on them.

Kong has stated that none of their gear is to be used in comps, probably because no insurance company is going to cover an accident that takes place in a comp just like if you crash your car at the race track your insurance wont cover it. Comps are a liability nightmare to begin with.

Also, the Unicender is a tool specifically designed for working trees, yet that is not allowed at many comps regardless of what the manufacturers have to say about it.

I think that strict fundamentalism at the comps can be a difficult slope as there is so very little to work with in the arb world to begin with and the point of comps is to see and learn new ideas.
The ATC can and is used by arb climbers and it is proven safe. The recomended rope diameters are important and I don't believe it should be allowed on ropes bigger than 11 mm. Other than that, to me, going down a rope is going down a rope whether you are in a tree or on a rock, the ATC doesn't care.


Active Member
We also need to pay special attention to the type of rope being used in such devices. The ATC instructions state that half, double, or single ropes are to be used. These terms refer to dynamic mountaineering rope (UIAA, EN892). However, the instructions do not contain the UIAA or EN892 marks... interesting.

Take the Trango Cinch for example. A tool designed for rock climbing that, I feel, can be safely and appropriately used in tree work. However, the Cinch was specifically designed to be used with dynamic mountaineering rope (UIAA, EN892). When we use the device with anything other than dynamic mountaineering rope, we are most certainly stepping outside manufacturer's intentions.


New Member
I would pass it at a chapter comp as long as it was rated for the rope capacity being used. ATCs are generally used with 9mm to 11mm rope.

But I think Mark and Kevin make excellent points that can't be ignored. The question becomes, where do you draw the line? Do we start separating ANSI vs. 'top fuel'? I don't think that would be good... but then how do we assure safety at comps?

Comps are the incubator for innovation and development of techniques and gear. We have to allow non-arborist components or there will be very little innovation to speak of. But you can assume it won't be supported by the manufacturer if it's not rated for use in trees. What if the gear is custom fabricated like the rope wrench?

Dodgy subject for sure and in my opinion there is only one way to manage it... judgment.

You can't codify innovation ahead of time, you have to let it unfold bit by bit in a controlled environment. TCCs are such an environment and the judges have to work this stuff out in advance at the meetings and at gear check. We need to talk with each other when something new comes up and possibly refer the decision to the head judge. That's why it really matters for climbers and judges to be at the comp for gear check and meetings. It wouldn't hurt a bit if someone with a new technique starting corresponding with the judging faculty well in advance of the comp.

Personally I think the eight is easier to setup most of the time and it definitely smoother on the descent, but that's just me. I cut my teeth rappelling on figure eights.


Well-Known Member
Obviously I have a lot of interest in this subject. One as a competition climber and also the manufacturer of a climbing tool.

It is frustrating to go to a competition and be told you cant use a very obviously extremely safe technique that would be helpful to others to see and be told it is not the intended use of the device.

I realize that it is a hard place to be in as a judge bu I obviously fall on the side of granting path for innovation as one of the most important roles of the TCCS.

The manufacturer of the conterra scarab had never thought of putting a friction hitch below the device when he designed it. he had only ever thought of putting a hitch above the device. He hadnt thought of it, not knowing anything about tree climbing he responded with the safe bet that he did not intend for the scarab to be used that way. In tree climbing it is common practice to put friction hitches below rappel/ belay devices. just because the manufacturer is not a tree climber doesn't mean we should go out and create a scarab that is made for tree climbing. (would that violate patents?.. only made for use in trees is disclaimer).

Kong says that none of their gear is designed for comps so that puts the Kong Robot out of use. The F8 revolver is obviously two pieces of gear not designed to be used that way. The Unicender is looked on with great skepticism at comps. I want to see someone climb with one before I use one and a comp would be a great place for that.

My current dillema is whether or not to put mbs 5400 lbs on the rope wrench because thats what anzi says and the wrench now is breaking well above that number... If I put that on there, would that give people the impression that it is a safe life support tool on its own?

The rope wrench isn't life support, but if you say it isn't life support than that means your descending on a hitch on a single line which is clearly outlawed. I wouldnt want to ever say that the rope wrench is intended for life support because it is not. I would never want it to be used for rappelling/ belaying without a hitch for instance. How can you certify something that is useless on its own and the important part of the equation is dependent on the climber and his ability to tie a good hitch.

There is a problem with the TCC's at least here in America. CUtrrently, the best guidelines for climbing is the ITCC rule book. ANZI does not have any real rules regarding how to climb a tree safely. It seems all they say is that it has to be withstand 5400 lbs.

This makes the ITCC the defacto body of accepted climbing practices. Therefore, what the ITCC says in its rulebook people follow at work.

This really means that if the ITCC is to promote innovation than it needs to lead innovation. Its not good that the ITCC is being used as a regulatory committee. The two roles are contradictory to each other.

The ITCC needs to utilize the experience of good judges and a proper vetting committee to determine the safety of a technique based off of common sense rather than trying to follow a strict set of guidelines.

This might be bad though because if you were to look at tree climbing practices for safety purposes, you would not allow standard prussic cord footlocking. This being allowed in comps sets the par very low in my opinion for new and innovative work practices.

Its like, you allow a climber to ascend on one loosened prussic, allowing substantial slack in the system with every lock, no easy way down, and a complex ariel rescue if he were to get stuck. I dont know what the solution is but I think it is a problem when techniques that resolve some of the dangers of traditional treework cant because they are borrowing tools from other disciplines. The kit of tools designed specifically for tree care is very small and like the unicender or the lockjack are not necessarily proven safe.