"Can your geotechnical engineer/geologist do this? GZA staffers train on climbing rock cliffs to boost client service"

By: Christopher Snow, P.E., Vice President

Degrees in geology, engineering geology and geotechnical engineering?  Check.

Professional engineering licenses, industry certifications, and scholarly publications? Check.

Experience managing millions of dollars in complex infrastruction and geoengineering projects?  Check.

Trained to climb up and rappel down a 50-foot cliff?  Yes, we've got that too.

In our continuing effort to go above and beyond to deliver clients excellent service, GZA recently sent six staffers from four of our offices to join GZA Associate Principals Andrew Blaisdell and Chris Snow for a three-day training on all aspects of rock climbing. While other members of the team have been trained in the past, the recent session expanded the group with experience in this area.

The goal? Make sure we bring clients not just deep scientific knowledge and engineering experience to rock-slope stabilization and dam-inspection projects, but the ability to have our geologists and engineers actually climb up for the closest possible inspections and evaluations to deliver the most effective solutions.

Participants included Todd Bown (Buffalo, NY); Erik Friede (Portland, ME); Sean Horan (Norwood, MA); Ian Mosbrucker (Waukesha, WI); Chris Tsinidis (Norwood, MA); and Nick Williams (Portland, ME).

The training was held at Pawtuckaway State Park in Nottingham, N.H., on 30- to 50-foot-high rock slopes, many of them nearly straight-up vertical. Todd, Ian, Chris, Sean, Erik, and Nick completed the Professional Climbing Instructors Association (PCIA) Level I Slope Access Technician Training course.

The training focused on safety practices, use of climbing equipment, building anchor systems, basic techniques for a two-rope climbing system, and slope-assessment essentials.  Our GZA group spent three days learning and practicing a variety of knots, basic anchors, rappelling, ascending, belaying, knot passes, and self-rescue skills.

In addition to the on-slope training, Chris Snow and Andy Blaisdell held an evening session and presented a refresher on GZA’s practice in rock-slope evaluation, basic field rock-mapping techniques, rock slope stabilization design, construction observation, and GZA safety practices.

GZA’s Slope Access team includes seven geotechnical engineers and geologists based across the company’s footprint.  The team’s unique training allows better access on steep or vertical slopes encountered in natural and constructed rock slope evaluation and stabilization, and on medium and large-scale dam structures.

Mastering the ability to move around safely on these slopes allows GZA professionals to field-map bedrock structures, inspect dam structures to develop rock-slope-stabilization solutions, and to inspect a full range of stabilization and construction activities.

What’s most important about the Slope Access training is, of course, the benefits it enables GZA to deliver clients: better-designed, better-engineered solutions that meet their needs with maximum effectiveness.

Beyond that, getting out of the office for three days of rock climbing in a beautiful wooded park in New Hampshire?

We’d say that’s one more added benefit!