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No.43  AKIMBO  by Sam Evan Turner

アキンボ !

[SAM EVAN TURNER]

ROCK EXOTICA AKIMBO    2

INTRO    2

FIRST IMPRESSIONS    2

HOW DOES IT WORK    3

HOW DOES IT FEEL IN THE TREE    3

TIPS & TRICKS    4

AT A GLANCE    4

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ROCK EXOTICA AKIMBO

A beautiful new multicender from the self styled “Bad Boys” of the hardware manufacturers. 

 

INTRO

 

One can’t help but feel as if we are currently in something of a golden age for hardware designed specifically for arborists.

Previously, the term “multicender” & indeed idea of a mechanical device which could be used to both ascend & descend on a single rope, was something of an idiosyncrasy.

With the introduction of the Akimbo, designed by Jaime Merritt & produced by Rock Exotica, it seems clear that this is no longer the case.

So much so that it now looks as though most of the major manufacturers will soon have one as part of their lineup.

But before striding into hyperbole, let us describe the device in greater detail:

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FIRST IMPRESSION

The device has a satisfying weight to volume ratio - that is to say that the weighting & compact size immediately suggest quality of manufacturing & a level of durability.

To its credit, you could be forgiven for not wanting to put it down.

A predominantly riveted design & quality anodise gives a smooth finish to what would otherwise be some far more humble pieces of aluminium.

Upon inspection, the novice user can, at first, be pleasantly surprised by the “back breaking” action of the opening mechanism.

This action [as demonstrated in the attached image] is one of the key design marvels of the device.

Merritt deserves great credit for being able to envisage & devise a mechanism that can provide such an impressive level of security, whilst also allowing such a well designed method of midline rope attachment.

To elaborate: by design, it is not possible to open the device whilst loaded, yet when not under load, a learned hand can easily open the opposing side plates to allow for adjustment &/or rope removal.

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HOW DOES IT WORK

 

Like several  other multicenders, the Akimbo works on the principle of being a multipart, hinged device.

The design is such that it will collapse into a shape which allows the rope to move freely through it whilst ascending.

Upon exerting downwards force on the main attachment point [loading], the control arms will engage, creating a bend in the rope.

They will then reach equilibrium, meaning that load is shared between top & bottom arm, holding the climber securely in position [assuming that it has been set correctly].

To descend, the top arm is pressed downwards.

This causes the device to collapse, resulting in a downward movement with speed proportional to the extent to which the user has released the top arm.

A notable feature - extensive adjustability of both the top & bottom friction bollards.

An innovative pinned bollard design allows the user to choose from seven spacings on the top bollard [A - G] & seven spacing on the lower bollard [1 - 7], giving a full 49 possible combinations on each & every rope. 

Rock Exotica have prepared a comprehensive user manual, which clearly describes the necessary process for finding a safe friction setting [specifically Page 9 "Preparing to Climb"]. Be sure to follow this procedure when adjusting your device. 

Now for a subject of contention - the “Approved Rope List”.

Many arborists were at first put off by the idea of a hardware manufacturer providing a definitive list of what ropes could [& by omission couldn’t] be used with their device.

Feelings of resentment for a strict level of control being exerted upon the buyer after making a significant purchase were hard to avoid.

However, discussion & further information allow for  a more informed view.

Whilst at first it may seem that an exacting list of approved ropes represents the manufacturer “playing it safe”, at the cost of user freedom, the reality is quite different.

For every rope on the approved rope list, hours of testing to parameters which far exceed anything a user could ever safely conduct by themselves have been carried out by Rock Exotica.

Crucially, many ropes which behave well in a static/low acceleration scenario, fail to perform safely when tested dynamically. Joel Gardner [of S.C.A.M. redirect fame] put forward a good interpretation of the list:

“I've never seen weight recommendations for a specific hitch cord, on a specific rope. And that doesn't make using hitches more deadly.

I think Rock Exotica went above & beyond by testing on a few common lines & giving an extra safe weight that we can assume the device will hold a complete stop on. “

“I don't think that translates to any other combination being less safe.”

On a more practical note - the approved rope list is not finite! So if you are feeling unhappy that your rope isn’t on it, bear in mind that more ropes are being added as they are developed/tested.

HOW DOES IT FEEL IN THE TREE

 

Climbers will immediately notice the almost non existent level of sit-back.

Combined with very compact dimensions, this can make for an efficient ascending tool, whilst also being well suited to spar work.

The flip side of the compact dimensions advantage is there is not a very significant difference between the device being fully open & fully closed.

This can present a learning curve when trying to maintain smooth & controlled movements during dynamic maneuvers, especially when not set correctly.

Personal experience from the author [and others] have found that the best results [in terms of control] can be achieved by using one hand to control the device, & one hand as a “brake hand” below the device, similar to the technique employed when abseiling.

TIPS & TRICKS

 

・A DMM grommet can be fitted [with some effort] into the main attachment point.

This will ensure that standard karabiners which do not incorporate a configuration aid can be securely fitted & remove any chance of improper loading.

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・The Akimbo has been milled to such fine tolerances that it is very unforgiving when it comes to dirty & particularly sap covered rope.

It may be necessary to wash your rope &/or device more than you may be used to.

A light oil [after cleaning] such as the type used for karabiner maintenance also helps it to function properly.

 

・Some adjustment to your technique may be necessary when ascending.

Specifically the need to maintain an upright posture.

Failure to do so can result in the tending point becoming unclipped.

This is a safety measure introduced by the manufacturer so as to prevent the unintentional releasing of the top lever arm, brought about by a downwards force on the tending point.

Upon limited practice, irritation caused by unintentional unclipping is replaced by a slick, intentional backwards movement once your ascent has been completed.

Welcome to the world of hands free unclipping!

 

・Ideal settings for each rope are highly variable!

This depends on a great many factors, including but not limited to: user weight, rope condition [age, cleanliness, moisture content], personal preference, device wear & many more.

Users are beginning to share their settings online, a link to one example can be found at the end of this article.

Anecdotally speaking, the author has found that the best results are to be achieved by setting the device so that the load is shared as evenly as possible between the top & bottom control arms.

Extremes in either direction seem to result in jerky movements.

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AT A GLANCE
 

MIN - MAX ROPE DIAMETERS | 11.5 - 13  [mm]

WEIGHT [DEVICE ONLY] | 0.261 [kg]

WORKING LOAD LIMIT [WLL] | 100 or 130  [kg]

MIDLINE ATTACHABLE | YES

ADJUSTABLE FRICTION BOLLARDS [TOP & BOTTOM] | YES

REPLACEABLE PARTS | NO

CE CERTIFICATION/EN NUMBER | Not at present but supposedly will gain one.

USEFUL LINKS

Rock Exotica Akimbo Product Page

Akimbo Setting Spreadsheet [RED] 2

Akimbo Setting Online [RED] 3

Approved Rope List

User Manual

 

1 Dependent upon rope selection.

 

2 In the interests of transparency it was considered prudent to note that this was created by the author.

 

3 As above.