this weekend I finally got to the top of the mast. MastMate is excellent, easy to use (testament to which is the fact that I went up and down 3 times and didn't break a sweat), and didn't need anyones help either.
One thing that was important is to furnish a proper chest/shoulder support. I used two lengths of climbing webbing with carabiners (two so that I would always stay clipped on even when going around the spreaders or around upper shroud fittings on top).
This is what mastmate looks like when raised. It helps to pull down and straighten steps as you go up the first time (the photo is taken after first ascent)
These are two pieces of webbing I used for shoulder/chest support. I ran both behind my back under arms, up around the shoulders, crossed on the back and under arms forward again. This creates good support where needed while still leaving enough slack to work on ends of spreaders (which I had to do again, as a piece of nylon thread I used to raise items up above fell and got caught on one)
This is what climbing the ladder looks like - I used a shoulder bag (diaper bag actually
) to carry tools. Blurry image courtesy of my old camera.
I found that it was most convenient to stand with one foot in the loop above and one below, that way I was able to move my weight from one foot to the other periodically - this definitely helped avoiding fatigue. I only stood up in both upper loops intermittently when I had to take a good look above the masthead.
Obligatory photo with my feet
This is taken from spreader level. I went up to spreaders two more times - it's so easy.
One more thing - wear comfortable pants that do not restrict your step, for easy climbing. On the first attempt last week I tried going up in shorts that are somewhat limiting - and it was inconvenient. I think this is where reports of "steps being too far apart" come from. If you are in a remote cove somwhere - I guess you can go up naked
So, that's my review. YMMV.