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[TowerTalk] Climbing Alone

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Subject: [TowerTalk] Climbing Alone
From: (
Date: Thu, 11 Dec 1997 13:20:07 EST

        Well, Ed's (K4SB) accident certainly has brought out quite a few
comments.  N8JF wondered how many of us climb alone - my bet is probably
an awful lot of us do.  I certainly have done many hours of climbing alone
on my towers.  I just don't have enough ham friends to impose upon for the 
amount of work I've done in the last few years.  My terrific daughter will
help from time to time, but she's married and lives a few miles away, so 
her availability is limited.  My terrific wife would, except she has a great
many physical problems with her fibromyalgia.  I can count on my next door
neighbor in a pinch, but I don't like to bother him too often because he has
spent more than his share of time helping me with many things over the years.

        If you're in the same situation as I am, then I guess the best thing
to do is come up with a plan for safety.  The 2 meter ht or cellular phone
is a good idea, but I don't have either of those.  I do have a set of
common sense rules that I try to follow, perhaps these might be good to
remember (even though they probably seem obvious):

        1. Never climb a wet tower (after a rain storm).  If you
           are foolish enough to break this rule (as I occasionally have
           been), remember that doing so will be like walking on ice.
           Your feet can easily slip on a wet rung, so climb VERY SLOWLY.
           Move VERY SLOWLY.  If the temperature is below 50 degrees, wear
           gloves.  The gloves will help keep your hands dry so they won't
           get cold.  Cold hands tend not to respond quickly when you need
           then most.  If you find yourself starting to lose the feeling in
           your fingers, it's past time to head back down.  Don't let the
           fact that the temperature is above freezing obscure the fact that
           you may be getting a minor case of frostbite.  Cold wet steel
           will take the heat out of your fingers very quickly, even at
           above freezing temperatures.

        2. Never climb an icy tower.  NEVER, NO EXCEPTIONS.

        3. Never climb when the temperature is below 32 degrees.  (Yeah, 
           I've done that too.)  If you really must, remember that the air
           never stops moving above the tree levels.  Constant air motion
           plus cold temperatures very quickly adds up to hypothermia - a
           truly bad thing to have happen to you while you are on a tower.
           You must wear very good gloves, and even these will probably not
           keep your hands terribly warm while constantly gripping cold 
           steel.  You must be ever so concious of how cold you are getting,
           and how long it will take you to get down the tower.  Be willing
           to leave your work partially done and go down the tower if you
           are geting too cold.  If you wait too long, you may find yourself
           in a very bad situation.

        4. Never use a come-a-long to lift anything on a tower.  No, I am
           not making light of Ed's accident.  I have used them on the 
           ground for pulling/tensioning things, but I could tell that the
           one I owned was not terribly trustworthy.

        5. Never get yourself in a position where you can't stop what 
           you're doing if you are overmatched by the job.  We would all
           prefer not to feel obligated to drop an expensive antenna in 
           such a situation, so don't get in to a position where you have
           to choose between the antenna or an injury.  (If you're like
           many of us, you might be tempted to make the wrong choice!)

        6. When you have a heavy weight hanging on the tower (i.e., an
           antenna or tower section hanging from a gin pole), make sure
           you climb the tower on a different side than the one the object
           is hanging from.  Keeping an eye on it also is good, but if
           something goes wrong, it will probably come down quicker than
           you can react.  

        7. When raising a heavy object via gin pole (presumably you are on
           the ground more or less below the object), spend as much time 
           looking at the gin pole as you do the object.  A problem 
           developing at the gin pole is more likely to happen than the 
           rope coming untied at the object.  Keep an exit route uncluttered
           and in the back of your mind.  If you have to run quickly, you 
           don't want to have to stop and think where you are going to run.

I hope I haven't bored too many of you with the obvious.  I have learned to
review these ideas myself before working alone.  Maybe they can be helpful
to others in preventing injuries or death.

73, Dave Clemons K1VUT

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