Friday, March 22, 2013

Rope Access...?

When people ask what you do for a job and you reply "I work in Industrial Rope Access" they give you a funny look, unless of course they are climbers, then they usually have some idea of what you are talking about.

Rope Access is as Wikipedia so eloquently puts it...

"Rope access is a form of work positioning, initially developed from techniques used in climbing and caving, which applies practical ropework to allow workers to access difficult-to-reach locations without the use of scaffolding, cradles or an aerial work platform. Rope access technicians descend, ascend, and traverse ropes for access and work while suspended by their harness. Some times a work seat may be used. The support of the rope is intended to eliminate the likelihood of a fall altogether. Rope access technicians use a back-up fall arrest system for the unlikely failure of their primary means of support. This redundancy system is usually achieved by using two ropes - a working line and a safety line"

After I was displaced from the Earthquakes in Christchurch I moved back home to Canberra. Before the earthquakes in February 2011 I was just starting my "apprenticeship" to the mountains, I was building a partner base, slowly gaining experience on easier routes and excited about the prospect of climbing bigger mountains in the Southern Alps. I was quite upset when I moved back to Canberra as this relocation had halted my progression in alpine climbing. I was motivated to immerse myself in mountain culture and I knew I had to make this happen as quickly as possible. A few days before flying back to Canberra I was having lunch with some good friends in Lyttelton and my friend Jez mentioned I should look into Rope Access. "It pays well, lots of climbers work in the industry, you get to learn new systems in rigging, rescue and hauling, plus you get to dangle off the side of a building all day." Luckily enough a good friend of mine had a brother who happened to own one of the two rope access companies in Canberra so it was not long before I had started the next chapter of my life. Every day that I spent on ropes cleaning bird shit off windows I focused on the positives. I was jumping over the edge of a building every morning, I was keeping my head in check with exposure and I was staying fresh with my systems and knots. I worked with a bunch of good guys and many laughs were had. Hanging around on ropes in the sun, cranking tunes on our portable speakers 20 stories off the ground, cleaning wasp nests off overhangs and hoping for the best...

While the majority of the contracts we worked on were window washing, there were a few trade tasks and other odd jobs we would get from time to time including; changing giant light bulbs in the light towers at the Canberra Stadium, installing bird spikes, silicon sealing building facade, as seen in the photo below and the all time favorite gutter cleaning jobs. Although Rope Access is a young industry its applications and recognition is growing fast.

After 8 months of dangling off the side of buildings, developing tennis elbow and generally being pretty sick of window washing I was ready get back to the mountains and continue climbing.
Although the Southern Alps of New Zealand offer life times of climbing it is quite a challenging place to climb lots of waterfall ice. Due to lower elevations and shorter, milder winters New Zealand does not have very much accessible Waterfall Ice climbing. I had identified that I would need to climb in other places in the world to gain the hard Ice and Mixed climbing skills I would need to tackle bigger alpine routes. The absolute Mecca for this is the Canadian Rockies. With arguably the longest season and the highest number of easily accessible steep ice climbs, it was the perfect playground for me to cut my teeth in. Banff, Canada was the next logical place to settle down in for a while...!

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