Reliable DIY power ascender

Burrapeg

Well-Known Member
Hey Guys, in case you have missed what was happening on the Lazy or Clever thread, several of us have perfected a homebrew power ascender that simply uses a heavy duty cordless drill for the power. The other end is a RollGliss emergency descending device made for drilling rigs, high construction work, etc. The business end of these gadgets grabs the rope the same way a Wraptor or other commercial power ascender does and the device is easily modified to work with a drill. Now, the things are not normally cheap, costing about two grand, BUT here's the cool thing: a guy on eBay right now is selling off several dozen of brand new ones for $160. each (another hundred or so for shipping) AND, even more amazing, they come with 450 feet of expensive kermantle line, a waterproof backpack carrying bag, a bunch of nice nylon straps, a pulley, and all of it in a really neat watertight hard case. It is an unbeatable deal. A number of us bought more than one. If you check over on the Lazy or Clever thread in Climber's Talk, there are photos and details of what we were doing. These r500 devices are rated for a load of two men and legal in industry for life saving, rescue, and life support, so there is nothing dodgy or questionable about using them for our own purposes. Of course, I am not advocating their professional use over buying a proven device like a Wraptor, but those of us who are just rec climbers, or otherwise on a tight budget, may not have the approx. $3600. the Wraptors cost now. Even if you buy a heavy duty cordless drill to use with one, total outlay is still only about $400 to maybe $450. If you already have a drill, then it is half that. If you are on the lighter side, you may not even need such a large drill to power it.
 
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Santiago Casanova

Well-Known Member
These have so many more uses than just as an ascender. I am one of those addicts who bought 2 of these. One is my drillcender and the other is probably going to become a portable winch. If you used one of these r500s to pull on the tail of a 5:1, it would be pretty strong. I could see generating around 1500 to 2000lbs of force on a single point. Here is another idea, use the 450 of 9.5mm static as a zipline, use the r500 as a tensioner and the rope brake as an anchor.

The Pelican Hardigg cases are great for gear storage. You can load it up with gear, lock it, lock it to the truck and leave it out in the rain.

Unfortunately I think the seller I got mine from is out of them for now.

For those who have not checked it out, Burrapeg's mods are killer. His works with 1/2 inch line now. He even made an arm to hold the drill from spinning.
 

Burrapeg

Well-Known Member
. . . Unfortunately I think the seller I got mine from is out of them for now.

For those who have not checked it out, Burrapeg's mods are killer. His works with 1/2 inch line now. He even made an arm to hold the drill from spinning. . .
Thanks for the kind words, Santiago. Bloody shame he is out of them now. Originally he had 29 of the things! He lives near Brownsville, TX and there are a number of huge shipbreaking yards there that scrap both ships and drilling rigs. These emergency descenders are standard equipment on offshore oil platforms. I suspect one of the scrap yards there is where he found them, but just a guess. I see more of them on eBay from other sellers but not at his very low prices.
 

Burrapeg

Well-Known Member
Had another trial with the new homebrew power ascender this afternoon. The bloody rains finally quit a couple days ago and everything was dry enough today to get a TIP about 30 feet up a big cedar in my yard with the Big Shot. I went up SRT to the TIP with the DeWalt drill on high speed fourteen or fifteen times, backing off onto my BDB each time (which was riding right above the ascender), removing the ascender from the rope, and then descending on the BDB. Again and again. And the modified RollGliss is fast, probably comparable to a Wraptor. The drill never got even warm and I still had plenty of battery left when it got too dark out to continue. I love this thing! It works more or less flawlessly and the only issue I have encountered is that it will not hold position when you let off the trigger. But when this happens, I just have to keep tension on the tail so it doesn't slide back on the shiv. Even if I forget, all that happens is I sit back onto the Bone above the ascender. I have GOT to get some video of the thing for you guys. I bought a used GoPro on eBay and it should be here soon. I am not sure how well it will work, however, with me using a chest roller. The roller holds the tether to the BDB quite close to my chest and helmet, and if I tilt my head down to aim the GoPro at the ascender to film it, the camera is likely to hit the tether or the bottom of the BDB, Any of you chaps have some advice or suggestions? I guess I could mount the GoPro on the side of the helmet somehow instead of up front?
 

Burrapeg

Well-Known Member
Finally had a dry afternoon with my used eBay GoPro and got some quick footage of the r500 on a short 35 foot climb up and down to show its basic use and attaching and removing it from the rope. If I weight the tail of the rope near the ground with something heavy enough, I can ascend at a constant rate with the drill on high speed, without having to tail the rope with my left hand to keep it from slipping in the sprocket. I put this over in the original Lazy or Clever thread also, so my apologies for the repetition.
 

Burrapeg

Well-Known Member
Shot some more GoPro footage yesterday afternoon, of an ascent into one of my own big cedars, about 50 or 60 feet, and dodging limbs for much of the way. With the r500 doing the work and no foot or knee ascenders being worn, my feet were free to fend off from the limbs and trunk. Snaking my way thru all these limbs would have been harder for me when climbing normally. I went up and down a total of five times and still had most of the battery left in the DeWalt. The drill never got warm.

 

Burrapeg

Well-Known Member
How much tail weight do you need?
Not sure exactly, and it may vary from climber to climber quite a bit, depending on weight and also on rope type. Some ropes may slip a lot less? For myself, I first tried three throwbags on the tail of my Tachyon Ash and that was not enough. Then I just hung the small cordless chainsaw on it (about 8 pounds?) and that worked fine. I wanted to haul up the saw later anyway, to clear a couple of dead limbs blocking the climb path and hanging over my driveway where I park. I weigh 190 and maybe over 200 with saddle and gear, so a lighter guy could maybe get by with less weight.
 

waross

Member
Way too much gear to hook in there. Zigzag by itself is fine, then you add some sort of rope wrench, a couple extra biners and the endless loop. Way too much stuff to get in the way when moving around a canopy. And too many possible points of failure. I see a disaster in the future.

Sent from my SAMSUNG-SM-G891A using Tapatalk
 

39Buick

Well-Known Member
Way too much gear to hook in there. Zigzag by itself is fine, then you add some sort of rope wrench, a couple extra biners and the endless loop. Way too much stuff to get in the way when moving around a canopy. And too many possible points of failure. I see a disaster in the future.

Sent from my SAMSUNG-SM-G891A using Tapatalk
You maybe right! check out the first video he made. He was only using the BDB above the device. The device is meant as an ascender only. Once at height its removed and lowered or hung in the tree. Also check out the wrapter videos online. same principal but this device is affordable. I don't see where the disaster you refer to is going to come from. care to elaborate?
 

39Buick

Well-Known Member
Also wanted to add, in my failed attempt to use the device I tried to use a different drill that wouldn't hold position when the trigger was released. I had tied a simple blake's hitch above the device connected to one of two bridges on my harness. Had the device connected to the second. My actual climbing system was hanging on the porter on my saddle. The intent was to get to height and anchor my climbing system and switch over at that point. I felt this was totally safe. Please correct me if you don't think so as I sure don't want to get hurt or killed.
Mike
 

Burrapeg

Well-Known Member
Way too much gear to hook in there. Zigzag by itself is fine, then you add some sort of rope wrench, a couple extra biners and the endless loop. . .
Well, just like a hitch alone, the ZigZag by itself is not really rated or usable for SRT, especially for someone heavier like me at 190. It is common to add a rope wrench above them for SRT. I simply made my own, which works great so far. The added second biner and short strap just tethers the ZZ/RW combo past the power ascender to the bridge so that the ZZ advances automatically riding on top of the ascender. When I get at height, I can back off on the ascender and sit back on the ZZ/RW which is already connected directly to the bridge. I also use a BDB much of the time instead of the ZZ. The power ascender can be removed at any point and either hung nearby on a limb or lowered to the ground if not needed anymore when moving around in the canopy. I am never at any point in the climb disconnected from my main climbing system and, once the power ascender is removed, the only thing added to my normal system is a second biner and the short strap which is tripled. All of this is rated so seems safe to me and has worked fine so far.
 

Burrapeg

Well-Known Member
. . . The intent was to get to height and anchor my climbing system and switch over at that point. .
Mike, you were using two ropes? The original rope still in the device and then making a TIP once you get up at height with your main rope carried up with you? This sounds OK as long as you back up the device with some sort of grab or reliable hitch above it to hold position til you get your main rope to a TIP. You never want to depend on the device itself to hold position or for life support.
 

waross

Member
Well, just like a hitch alone, the ZigZag by itself is not really rated or usable for SRT, especially for someone heavier like me at 190. It is common to add a rope wrench above them for SRT. I simply made my own, which works great so far. The added second biner and short strap just tethers the ZZ/RW combo past the power ascender to the bridge so that the ZZ advances automatically riding on top of the ascender. When I get at height, I can back off on the ascender and sit back on the ZZ/RW which is already connected directly to the bridge. I also use a BDB much of the time instead of the ZZ. The power ascender can be removed at any point and either hung nearby on a limb or lowered to the ground if not needed anymore when moving around in the canopy. I am never at any point in the climb disconnected from my main climbing system and, once the power ascender is removed, the only thing added to my normal system is a second biner and the short strap which is tripled. All of this is rated so seems safe to me and has worked fine so far.
And thus the crux of my point. Your using devices for things they are not designed or meant for. And when you start adding parts on you changes the dynamics of the engineering behind the equipment. If something wasn't designed for SRT then it should not be used in SRT. And if an accident happens the insurance company is more than likely not going to cover it.

Sent from my SAMSUNG-SM-G891A using Tapatalk
 

Burrapeg

Well-Known Member
And thus the crux of my point. Your using devices for things they are not designed or meant for. And when you start adding parts on you changes the dynamics of the engineering behind the equipment. If something wasn't designed for SRT then it should not be used in SRT. And if an accident happens the insurance company is more than likely not going to cover it.

Sent from my SAMSUNG-SM-G891A using Tapatalk
I understand your point. Of course, I am not an arborist and I completely agree a professional should stick to officially rated components all the time for liability purposes and for his or her own safety. But for rec climbing, I feel there is an element of risk in doing this no matter what devices or systems are used. Just like riding motorcycles, flying ultralight aircraft, scuba diving, etc., it is not a completely safe hobby and only becomes safer with strict training, practice, and focus on what one is doing. Even with a completely rated and approved system, you can still accidentally TIP into a limb that is less than ideal. Someone on here made the point that the limb and TIP are the one non-rated weak link in the chain. If it fails, the fact that everything else was rated is a moot consideration.
 

39Buick

Well-Known Member
Mike, you were using two ropes? The original rope still in the device and then making a TIP once you get up at height with your main rope carried up with you? This sounds OK as long as you back up the device with some sort of grab or reliable hitch above it to hold position til you get your main rope to a TIP. You never want to depend on the device itself to hold position or for life support.
Yes sir two ropes. Original rope cinch tied at tip for srt with the rollgliss. This was directly tied to one bridge.
Second rope was clipped to my saddle. I had a tied split tail on a second bridge on my saddle with a Blake’s hitch tied above the rollgliss.
Unless my tip failed I should have been perfectly safe.
All my gear was rated and properly set. I had tied into at least an 8 inch tip in an oak tree natural crotch.
I am in the process of completing the additional mods to my rollgliss so that I can use my normal climbing line as well.
With the two bridges on my saddle the lower is kept short as possible and that is the one I attach to the rollgliss. The second bridge is adjustable with the roll & lock so i can lengthen it so that my hitch is just above the rollgliss. Advancing the Blake’s hitch with the left hand while operating the rollgliss with the right!
Again if anyone sees an issue with this setup I would hope they would let me know!
The other thing I really like about using the device is the fact that I can leave my chest harness and plate in the box! Much more comfortable!
 
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Burrapeg

Well-Known Member
To be doubly safe on the way up, till the rollGliss is mid-line attachable, you could skip using the blake above the rollGliss and just send up both lines at the same time to the initial TIP, the line on the rollGliss and your main line. Then go up on both at once, the rollGliss doing the work on its line and then just taking up slack as you go up on your main line. When you get up there and set aside the rollGliss, you don't have to change over because you would be already hooked up.
 

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