Rigging Winch Used for Exploring El Dorado and 354 Meter Waterfall Descent

Business Segment:

Rope Access and Rescue


El Dorado, Amazon Rainforest, Brazil

Project Description:

Remote Trauma is a UK-based company that is a global specialist in risk and safety management in isolated locations. The company was looking for a lightweight, versatile system for hauling and lowering people and equipment in tough conditions.

Working with a 30+ production crew and four TV presenters, the Remote Trauma team set out to film and investigate the legend of Tatunca and his legacy in El Dorado. This was an amazing challenge to be part of, but first the team had to get to their location deep in the Amazon rainforest.

The expedition started in the Peruvian Amazon into Brazil and towards the incredible El Dorado Falls. The journey took two to three days by boat, plus a one-day trek to reach the falls before some of the team had to rappel down a 354-meter waterfall. An additional one-day trek would then lead them to an unknown cave that they would enter to film what’s believed to be evidence of the legend of Tatunca.

This environment is rarely explored and little is known about the conditions, so it was vital that the solution provided to Remote Trauma could raise people and equipment the full height of the waterfall. Once the team was in the rainforest, getting hold of extra equipment was not possible as it was a long way to turn back.

The weight of the equipment they needed to lift ranged between 20 - 130 kg (44 - 286 lb) and the lifting solution was also required to provide a rescue capability.

Solution/Equipment Used:

After discussing the requirements of the expedition, Harken Industrial™ decided that the best solution for this type of project was the Rigging Winch 500.

This versatile lifting solution provides the user with a CE certified winch mounted to a robust adapter plate and proved to be an extremely valuable piece of equipment for the Remote Trauma team.

The main features and benefits of the Rigging Winch 500 include:

  • Lightweight (7 kg / 15.4 lb) and portable
  • Maximum rated load of 4.9 kN (1102 lbs) increases pulling power by up to 40 times
  • Range of mounting options provide versatility when working in challenging environments
  • CE certified under EN13157 (Machinery Directive)
  • Uses fiber rope up to 12 mm (1/2”) in diameter
  • Two-speed gearing for speed and power
  • Manual or powered drive
  • Easy to use, simple to operate and quick to set up

As none of the team had visited the location before, they were unaware of the potential challenges they would face regarding rigging and positioning of equipment.

They set up two winches on flat sections of rock at the top of the falls and used large boulders and trees as anchors for their main lines. Anchors were backed up and rigging plates were tensioned to prevent further movement. A tension line was also set up across the top of the falls for transferring equipment and people.

With the equipment in place, they were able to use the winch to lower and raise camera crew and TV presenters from the top of the falls*.

The wet and humid conditions did not impact performance of the winch. The team could quickly train novices on using the winches both manually and with a powered drill.

Thankfully, the device was never used for a rescue scenario, however it was well tested by hauling a person from 300 meters (984') to the top of the waterfall*.


The Rigging Winch 500 is a popular choice for those looking for a versatile, lightweight solution capable of lifting, hauling and lowering equipment and personnel into position*.

It’s simple to use, CE certified and perfect for a range of applications, including access and rescue, confined space, construction plus more.

The Remote Trauma team experienced the benefits of this solution first hand. Hear what they had to say…

Client Testimonial:

“The Rigging Winch 500 was absolutely invaluable; it’s a superb piece of kit and we really couldn’t have done the abseil part of our journey without it. It was essential that we used a lightweight winch that we could carry with ease through the humid temperatures in the jungle.”

“The versatility of the winch, with its integral rigging plate and ability to lower and raise easily, made it the perfect option for us. Even with heavy loads, it was simple to control and provided a sufficient amount of friction with three wraps around the winch. We highly recommend this solution and will be utilizing its versatility in a variety of applications in the future.”

Dave Ibbertson, survival and safety consultant, Remote Trauma

This Harken Industrial product is featured in the case study above: Rigging Winch 500 (INRW500)


*The Rigging Winch isn't CE certified for lifting persons but as reported in the Directive 2009/104/EC: "Persons may be lifted only by means of work equipment and accessories provided for that purpose. Without prejudice to Article 5 of Directive 89/391/EC, exceptionally, work equipment which is not specifically designed for the purpose of lifting persons may be used for that purpose, provided appropriate action has been taken to ensure safety in accordance with national legislation and/or practice providing for appropriate supervision."