What are low, steep and high angle rope rescue?

Knowing the difference between low, steep and high angle rope rescue environments will dictate your training and equipment choices.

The steeper the ground, the more difficult and the more technical the rescue becomes. Ropes may have to be relied upon to gain access to the victim, to support the team members and the victims during the rescue and remove them from the rescue site.

The technical rescue industry agrees on the following definitions:

  • a 0-15 degree slope is flat terrain
  • 15-29 degrees is considered low angle
  • 30-50 degrees is steep angle
  • anything above 50 degrees is high angle

Low Angle Rescue

The condition of low angle terrain will determine the need for and the amount of rope support required. Is it muddy? Are there loose rocks or other debris that would cause poor or slippery footing? How many rescuers are needed to transport the victim and stretcher to safety? 

Examples of low angle locations include: over-the-bank situations where a car has left a roadway and descended an adjacent slope.

over the bank rescue

Steep Angle Rescue

Steep angle rescue is considered to be terrain that has a slope angle from 30 to 50 degrees.

Again, the condition of the terrain will determine the level of technical expertise required to perform this rescue safely.  Steep angle operations are actually the highest risk category, given rock fall and the fact that the systems are often overloaded by having too many rescuers on the system.  Rescuers are also fully dependent on the system for upward travel in steep angle situations.

High Angle Rescue

High angle rescue is considered to be terrain that has a slope angle of 50 degrees and higher. Rescuers are totally dependent upon the ropes used to keep them and the victims from falling and to gain access to and egress from the rescue location.

Examples of steep and high angle locations include: pipe racks, ledges, catwalks, tops of vessels, cranes, and water towers.

Steep and high angles are also found below grade level in ship holds, barges, confined spaces, tunnels, sewer and piping systems. Good, competent technical rescue skills involving ropes, anchoring and belaying systems, lowering and hauling systems and litter/stretcher work are going to be mandatory for the safe performance of the rescue team.

Steep and high angle rescue operations involve unique hazards and require special training and equipment to be able to perform them safely. Steep and high angle rope rescuers are at a considerably higher risk of injury or death during training exercises and callouts therefore continual training and practice are recommended to keep skills sharp.

Learn more about low, steep and high angle rope rescue on your next Raven rope course.