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Re: [TowerTalk] Climbing is risky business

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Subject: Re: [TowerTalk] Climbing is risky business
From: "Tower (K8RI)" <>
Date: Fri, 30 Jan 2004 19:27:28 -0500
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Being one who still does his own climbing even at my age (Joyce made me quit
climbing for the young guys though) I think I can say with some knowledge
that when you figure the average employee works 2080 hours per year and hams
only spend a few hours a year (if that) on their towers, we probably have an
even more dismal record.

I've climbed since I was in my early teens, helping my dad as a lineman on
one of the old rural telephone co-ops.

I don't mean to sound critical of hams in general, but:
As most of the hams around here, who wanted help, have found; I want the
tower to be sturdy.  I do not climb anything that feels like a wet noodle
and I'd say the majority of ham towers fall into that category.  After all,
most are small towers, maybe 40 feet and bracketed to the end of the house,
or guyed with "Radio Shack" soft steel guy lines and using a dirt base
(which is fine in many cases).

The actual ratings of the tower seems to seldom be taken into consideration.
Some of the plans I've seen are scary.  Fortunately, I've always been able
to encourage the builder to take a safer route.

OTOH it's not just the towers.
I used to do the tower work for one of the repeaters about 60 miles west of
here.  It was kinda handy as we lived about 400 yards to the west of the
tower which is on a good size hill.  Joyce and I had moved down here the
previous fall.  We had a fantastic UHF/VHF location.

At any rate, I was headed into town when I received a call over the Midland
repeater asking me to please call on the telephone.

It seems as if they were doing some work at the repeater site next to where
I used to live and one of the guys decided if an old guy like me could do
that work, so could he. (did I mention he'd never climbed before). Sooo...He
made it up over the base which a concrete pier with the top about 8 feet
above the ground.  I think it was some where around 40 to 50 feet when he
looked down.  They needed help as he froze.

I had to go home, get my equipment and drive nearly 60 miles. When I got
there, he was still in the same place and position. That tower is not a bad
climb, except it's difficult to get over the base and the guys at the mid
point have an 18 inch band around the tower so you have to unhook and climb
around it.  The tower is square and 2 feet across each side.  It's *almost*
like climbing a ladder except you do have to watch where you put your feet
due to the diagonal bracing.

I went up and spent about 15 to 20 minutes just shooting the breeze with him
too sooth his nerves, but time was pretty important as he'd been up there a
couple of hours and was getting pretty tired.

I finally got him to the point where I could take his hand and reposition
it, and then his foot. Then both hands and feet.  I brought him down the
tower, one hand and one foot at a time.  50 feet doesn't sound like much
until you have to keep climbing up and down to place the persons hands and
feet for each movement.  It took me over half an hour just to get him down
that 50 feet and I think that was the most difficult climb I ever did.

He opened his eyes once when we reached the concrete pier and promptly
closed them again. It took three of us to get him down that last eight feet.

> I wanted to pass this info along since although most of us do it only as
> of our hobby, we do climb.  Be careful up there!
Thanks, I think it is something that should be brought up on a regular basis
as there are many pitfalls for the unwary and unprepared.

One of the major ones is staying up too long. Then the climber discovers
they are too tired to climb down.  This isn't *usually* a problem on a 40
foot tower, but it can be.  People get too tired all too often and then make
a mistake. Some times a fatal mistake.

There is a big difference in climbability when it comes to towers as well.
The old American Steel is one way to get some serious exercise as the cross
rungs are two feet apart.  Climbing 90 feet using two foot steps is a real
good way to end up with some seriously fatigued calf and leg muscles.
Imagine having a "Charlie Horse" at 90 feet even with good climbing
equipment.  Now, think of making a climb like that your first one of the

OTOH, my 45G is easy to climb although I have so much *stuff* hanging on it
I've turned it into a challenge.  The 25 G is an easy climb as well, but
remember it isn't really rated for a couple hundred pounds of antennas and
rotor along with a 200# climber.

I wish I had some photos of some towers I've taken down. Particularly some
of the taller American Steel.  Be wary of climbing one that has 1/4 inch
steel guys that were properly tentioned.  On a 90 foot tower the downward
force from the guy lines substantially exceeds the tower's rating.  I've had
to use jacks to get the last three sections apart as they had "belled" out
between the bolts that fasten the legs together.

> The most recent data from the National Institute of Occupational
> Safety showed a fatality rate for tower construction workers of 460
> deaths per 100,000 employees. In contrast, the U.S. Department of
> Labor reported a fatality rate of 27.7 for construction workers as a
> whole, 25.0 for truck drivers 11.6 for police and 4.0 for all
> occupations.

The summary below pretty much describes the *average* ham instalation, at
least as I've seen them. Maybe other areas of the country are better off.

> The root causes are a combination of factors -- a lack of training,
> slipshod construction techniques, inferior safety equipment and

When it comes to safety equipment the new safety harneses are now being
called into question.  I'm refering tot he ones that allow the climber to
basically sit down comfortably in the harness.  The probaem is not one of
getting hurt in the normal sense, but in the circulatory system.  If the
climber just sits there and works comfortably, the blood tends to pool in
the lower extremeties.   They may begin to feel a bit strange and come down,
but there are a number of instances where they have passed out and a couple
where death has been reported..  I don't remember the name for it, but there
was quite a write up on it recently in one of the medical journals and in
one of the "spelunking" society journals.

> inexperienced workers -- that have made an inherently risky
> profession far more dangerous.


Roger Halstead (K8RI, EN73 & ARRL Life Member)
N833R, World's Oldest Debonair (S# CD-2)

> _______________________________________________
> See:  for "Self Supporting Towers", "Wireless
Weather Stations", and lot's more.  Call Toll Free, 1-800-333-9041 with any
questions and ask for Sherman, W2FLA.
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See:  for "Self Supporting Towers", "Wireless Weather 
Stations", and lot's more.  Call Toll Free, 1-800-333-9041 with any questions 
and ask for Sherman, W2FLA.

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