Daring Jobs Episode 3: Vertical Call
Hang out with daredevil ropeworkers that keep mountain villages safe from falling rocks and precariously-perched boulders.
On a beautiful drive through a steep mountain passs, it’s easy to focus on the sweeping vistas and dramatic scenery – and just as easy to forget that you’re cruising along the edges of steep cliffs and under craggy outcroppings. That’s how the rope workers like it.
These daredevils spend their days rappelling down limestone cliffs to keep mountain roadways and villages safe from falling rocks and precariously-perched boulders. With the dramatic temperature changes, high winds, and seasonal snow and ice, this seemingly peaceful landscape can turn treacherous quickly. It requires an expert eye to spot danger in waiting and both skilled hands and a daring spirit to drop down a rock face and put one’s life on the line to protect others.
Hanging by a simple length of rope, hundreds of metresers above solid ground, rope workers work in teams to release unstable rocks in a controlled way, ensuring they don’t drop at an inopportune time, and to contain other potential problems with metal barriers and wire mesh. The targets can be large, solid masses weighing up to 25 tons (about as much as a large fire truck) or patches of smaller stones that might cause rockslides. Each challenge is unique and requires its own finely-tailored approach – and a single team of rope workers can tackle more than 100 jobs per year.
As you can imagine, this requires a dazzling array of tools. From carabiners, ascenders, and rope to navigation aids, specialized saws, and chisels, each piece of gear needs to prove itself out on the rocks, justifying its weight and proving its reliability. There are enough things that can go wrong without rope workers having to worry about tools failing – leave that to Mother Nature.
Black Bay Pro don’t break a sweat. Tough-as-nails construction and reliable automatic movements mean no busted bezels or dead batteries when it matters most, and legible dials ensure no time is wasted when every second counts.
The same conditions that make loose rocks so dangerous also make the their job unpredictable. Even with the best planning, unforeseen conditions can occur, putting the mission – and the rope workers – in jeopardy. Thunderstorms can roll in unexpectedly, starting a clock for the rope workers to extract themselves before downpours and lightning become perilous. And at elevations well above 2,000 metres, heavy Alpine winds can necessitate an emergency helicopter rescue. Nobody ever said this job was easy.
But despite the challenges, despite the dangers, and despite the knowledge of what they’re up against, the rope workers meet the challenge time and time again. It’s this daring spirit that defines them. They put their lives on the line each time they suit up and strap in, knowing that they’re walking on a razor’s edge to keep others safe. And if they do their job properly, you’ll likely never notice they’ve done it at all.