Mast and tower climbing

August 5th, 2005

Phew! I’ve got home and am recovering from a busy week in Taunton on a climbing course. We have lots of tall structures on the bases, mostly carrying comms and metereological gear, and so a whole bunch of us got sent down to Western Power in Taunton to learn to climb towers and work safely at height. The other six people on the course are all going to winter at Halley – they’re an interesting bunch and we became good mates over the week.
We spent most of the week climbing the electricity pylons on the training field – there are four different ones – and doing various tasks. So we rigged and de-rigged a mobile phone antenna and did tower rescues: abseiling down to rescue a casualty and lower them safely to the ground.
Now I’m not a natural climber, so I found it quite challenging. I found that my confidence improved with practice, and having a job to do whilst up high is much better than just climbing up for the sake of it.
This morning, to round off the course, we climbed the communications tower, which is 62m (200ft) high, and which has a vertical ladder up the centre. It’s a long, long way! My arms hurt on the way up, although I did reach the top and managed to relax and enjoy the view. Going down, however, was much more difficult. The tower’s fitted with a fall-arrest system which consists of a clamp that slides along a rail, and this will tend to jam unless you get yourself in exactly the right position, which involves leaning back off the ladder with your arms out straight. I didn’t have the strength, stamina or confidence to do this and had to come down much more slowly, moving the clamp a metre or so at a time. It’s one of the most physically demanding things I’ve done, and although I’m glad I did manage it, it’s not something I’d do again lightly!
There are some slightly grotty phone pictures of the course on my moblog site
Next week I’m in Cambridge, where we’ll do the second part of the course – putting up and taking down a 20m guyed mast.

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