Pioneering 3

  • Demonstrate straining of ropes, Hold fasts, Anchorages, and Handy Billy pulley system.

  • Get actively involved in pioneering projects with the Patrol


Rope is fundamental to pioneering. There are many situations in which a length of string or rope can be a lifesaver, especially when it is used to create an essential piece of equipment. These are the basics:

Whether you are mending a strap on a rucksack, or swinging down the side of a cli!, it’s important to use the right kind of rope.


String, twine, cord and rope are pretty much the same thing. They are all made by twisting fibres together. The main difference is in their thickness and strength, and the material from which they are made, which may be natural fibres or synthetic fibres.

Natural ropes use plant fibres such as hemp, sisal, coir, manila, jute and cotton. They are flexible, soft, and fold more easily than synthetic ropes. Synthetic ropes, made from nylon, polyesters and polythene, tend to be lighter, stronger and last longer.


Most ropes are made in one of two ways: Laid ropes use three strands of fibres twisted around each other. The fibres may be natural or synthetic. This is the traditional way of making rope and gives it more strength because if one fibre snaps, the other two may still hold. Braided rope is usually made of synthetic material. It has an even number of strands, often eight or twelve, which are braided or plaited together into a circular tube.

The centre of the tube may be empty, or filled with an inner core of more twisted or braided strands.


Ropes come in many types and sizes and to simplify matters you should use the following as a guide.

  • 75mm rope (25mm diameter) or larger, certainly no smaller than 75mm, should be used whenever it is intended to hold weight such as in the case of a monkey bridge, foot and hand rails, aerial runways, and commando rope bridges. The size of a broom handle is approx. 25mm diameter

  • 50mm rope (16mm diameter) should be used for ‘reeving’ up pulleys and anchors and for rope ladders. The size of a man’s thumb is approx. 16mm-18mm diameter

  • 25mm rope (8mm diameter) should be used for guy ropes in general, on large structures this size would need to be increased. The size of an index finger is what is known as sash cord or a heavy cloths line.

Rope lengths will vary according to how they’re bought. 25 metre lengths will normally cover most projects as the distance between sheer legs or rope bridges shouldn’t exceed 15 metres to avoid ‘flip over’. Flip over occurs when the slack in the rope acts like a skipping rope, when pressure is applied to the middle of the rope it becomes unstable and sways resulting in throwing o! the ‘rope crosser’ or entangling them in the ropes, which is extremely dangerous.

As most of the ropes used in pioneering structures require an element of friction, hawser laid ropes of natural fibre such as sisal or hemp are preferred, but they are more expensive and need care and attention as the fibres can rot if not dried carefully

Synthetic ropes are cheap but require extra care particularly when fixing the ropes to trees and poles. The ropes are generally smoother than hemp or sisal ropes and the knots have a tendency to slip under pressure. To ensure safety and prevent slippage you should secure all knots with extra hitches


No rope lasts for ever, but careful handling should help to ensure it doesn’t fray or break at the worst possible moment. Always:

  • Store it somewhere dry and shady. Wet rope should be allowed to dry naturally and the ends should be bound or fused to prevent fraying.

  • Keep it as clean as possible and avoid stepping on it. Dirt and grit may get into the rope and damage the fibres.

  • Coil rope when not in use. This prevents it from becoming tangled or kinking. It also makes it easier to handle and carry.

  • Check rope regularly for kinks, fraying or other signs of wear and tear. Do not use damaged rope for load bearing.


If a rope does become frayed or damaged it may be worth cutting away the damaged section and continuing to use the remaining lengths.

However, unless you are sure that the rest of the rope is completely undamaged, it is best not to use it for weight-bearing purposes

The cut ends will need to be sealed to prevent them from unravelling. Ropes made of plastic fibres can be heated to melt the ends and fuse them together. Natural fibres will need to be to be bound or whipped.


  • WORKING END – the end you are using to tie a knot.

  • STANDING END – the opposite end to the working end.

  • STANDING PART – any part of the rope between two ends.

  • LOOP – a loop made by folding the rope back on itself and crossing the standing part.

  • BIGHT – a loop made by folding the rope back on itself without crossing the standing part

  • A BEND – a type of knot used for tying one rope to another.

  • A HITCH – a way of fastening a rope to another object such as a post, log or rail.


A pulley system is one of the 6 ‘simple machines’. It multiplies force to reduce the human effort required, meaning you can increase your load lifting and pulling capacity. ‘Blocks and tackle’ is basically the term used for a system of pulley’s and ropes working together.

Some pioneering projects will not need pulleys, but the ones that do can mostly be done using 2 pulleys, a double block and a single block.

The main idea to remember is that the less the effort you need to put in, the more rope you need to pull through the system. These two quantities change in proportion

Blocks and tackle enable you to tension a rope (such as for a bridge), raise heavy weights and have many other uses in pioneering.

The size of your blocks will need to be: 150mm for 50mm rope, 230mm for 75mm rope

By employing single and double pulleys different pull ratios can be achieved


How to tie a Cat's Paw Knot. This is the best knot for attaching a sling to a hook for lifting loads. This hitch is commonly used to hoist heavy loads from ships. The double line provides strength and due to the twisted loops, should one side of the double line break there is a good chance that the other side will hold temporarily so that the load can be lowered to the ground.

Cat's Paw Knot Tying Instructions

  • Form a bight with a closed strop or you can form a loop in doubled line.

  • Open the bight and tuck it under the standing line. This creates a pair of loops on either side of the double line.

  • Twist the left side loop clockwise and the right side loop counter clockwise for three or four turns. Be sure to make the exact same number with each loop.

  • Insert the hook or other device through both of the twisted loops. Pull on the standing lines to snug the turns up against the base of the hook or other device.


Anchorages are used to hold larger pioneering projects down to make them stable and safe. There are 3 main anchorages used in pioneering: The 3-2-1 Holdfast, the Log and Picket, and the Deadman’s, which will hold tents and the like down even in soft ground such as sand.


If at all possible you should anchor your ropes to a fixed object such as a tree or rock. However, they are rarely available in the right places so we have to create our own anchors. With the 3-2-1 Holdfast and the Log and Picket, the pickets should be at least 160cms long and put in position with a sledge hammer or large mallet. If the ground is soft they may need to be longer. The pickets should be set in the ground at 60 degrees and the bindings between pickets should always run from the top of one picket to the bottom of the other.


If you are fixing a rope or spar you should be careful not to damage the bark. This can be done by using some sacking or old canvas to protect the bark from friction.

It may also be necessary to use sacking or padding on a structure if the rope will be subject to excessive friction, particularly in the case of a monkey bridge. This is particularly important when using synthetic ropes as they are prone to melt if in a friction situation or if two ropes are rubbing o! each other.

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