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1979 C&C 30 Mk I - 2QM15
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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
After looking around at all the gadgets and gizmos that I could buy to get up my mast. I noticed that virtually ALL professional riggers that climb masts on a daily basis use a block & tackle setup with rock climbing gear. So that's what I decided to go with.

I'm putting together my rig now, but it's hard to actually ask real rock climbers about equipment selections, because the one's I've talked to don't seem to understand what you do and don't need for climbing a 40'-60' aluminum pole while moving around standing and running rigging without getting hung up.

Here's what I've got on order so far:

  1. 75mm Harken Carbo Ratchet Block w/ Becket for the top pulley
  2. 75mm Harken Carbo Single Block for the pulley that will be attached to my harness (I want a 3:1 lift setup)
  3. Black Diamond Big Gun Harness

So I need some advice on what else I need from any of you that use climbing gear to get up your mast solo.

  • Since it's a 3:1 rig, I'm going with 200' of 7/16" line. But I'm not sure if I should get "Dynamic" (high stretch) line or "Static" (low stretch) line. The larger diameter static line is cheaper, but the lower diameter dynamic is what they recommend in applications where you might fall, (which is not in my plans). I'm figuring since the anchor point for the top block is going to be a low stretch halyard, then there's no point in using high stretch line. So low strech static line should be my choice, right?
  • I'm assuming I need a symmetrical oval screw lock carabiner to attach the lower single block pulley to my harness. But what (if any) other carabiners do I need?
  • Do I need a mechanical ascender?
  • What should I used for a descender? Just a carabiner and a munter hitch seem to a be simple solution, but there are dozens of other types of belay plates, figure 8's, and mechanical devices for this purpose too?

Lastly and most importantly... What's the most simple and fool proof way to actually tie off while you're working? I'm looking for something that will hold me firmly and without question. But I also want something that's easy to "un"-tie and nearly impossible to jam or hang up when it's time to come back down.
 

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Francophobe
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Sorry I am not a climbing expert. The only piece of this puzzle I would like to comment on is the line selection. I think you should be looking for the High stretch line. Classically, when you do slip, you want a line that has some give so the deceleration is less. That extra stretch gives you a bit of the bungie effect. A low stretch line will stop you fast - and may cause injury where the harness digs in.
 

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Telstar 28
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After looking around at all the gadgets and gizmos that I could buy to get up my mast. I noticed that virtually ALL professional riggers that climb masts on a daily basis use a block & tackle setup with rock climbing gear. So that's what I decided to go with.

I'm putting together my rig now, but it's hard to actually ask real rock climbers about equipment selections, because the one's I've talked to don't seem to understand what you do and don't need for climbing a 40'-60' aluminum pole while moving around standing and running rigging without getting hung up.

Here's what I've got on order so far:
  1. 75mm Harken Carbo Ratchet Block w/ Becket for the top pulley
  2. 75mm Harken Carbo Single Block for the pulley that will be attached to my harness (I want a 3:1 lift setup)
  3. Black Diamond Big Gun Harness
So I need some advice on what else I need from any of you that use climbing gear to get up your mast solo.
  • Since it's a 3:1 rig, I'm going with 200' of 7/16" line. But I'm not sure if I should get "Dynamic" (high stretch) line or "Static" (low stretch) line. The larger diameter static line is cheaper, but the lower diameter dynamic is what they recommend in applications where you might fall, (which is not in my plans). I'm figuring since the anchor point for the top block is going to be a low stretch halyard, then there's no point in using high stretch line. So low strech static line should be my choice, right?
Since you're using this as a block and tackle to raise you, using a low-stretch line makes more sense.. but your current setup is only going to give you a 2:1 purchase, not 3:1. If you want 3:1 you need a single block with becket at the harness end, and a double block at the top. :)

BTW, you'll want a bucket or bag to drop the block and tackle line into as you're hauling yourself up. If you drop it to the deck and it gets blown and tangled with deck hardware, you may be sitting up the mast a bit longer than you want to... :D

  • I'm assuming I need a symmetrical oval screw lock carabiner to attach the lower single block pulley to my harness. But what (if any) other carabiners do I need?
  • Do I need a mechanical ascender?
  • You should probably have another carabiner and an ascender for a safety line.
  • What should I used for a descender? Just a carabiner and a munter hitch seem to a be simple solution, but there are dozens of other types of belay plates, figure 8's, and mechanical devices for this purpose too?
  • Good question, I'll let the climbing gearheads deal with this one.
Lastly and most importantly... What's the most simple and fool proof way to actually tie off while you're working? I'm looking for something that will hold me firmly and without question. But I also want something that's easy to "un"-tie and nearly impossible to jam or hang up when it's time to come back down.
Bowline works well. Tie a short section of line to your harness, about six feet long and tie that to the mast as a safety while you're working.
 

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In the USCG we used a tackle with a hitch around the chair's beckets. It's hard to describe, you might check some classic Navy or Merchant Marine references for diagrams. Essentialy the hauling part comes through and around the straps forming a single hitch. Under strain it tightens to keep you in place. As you pull yourself up you can feed it through, holding all running parts together in your hand will keep it from slipping. I've gone up my mast this way.
 

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I don't discuss my member
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How much do you weigh? At 180lbs a 3:1 only reduces your load to 60lbs on tail end. How many "reps" of 60lbs can you do? A 40+ foot mast will require 120' of line, and due to the pulling angle you'll only be able to pull in 2' in one 'rep'. That's 60 reps of 60lbs. A 4:1 would be much easier, although now you need 160' of line to keep in a bag on your way up. Add line weight, harness weight and safetyline, carabiners, tools, etc. It can be done, but just make sure the gear you buy will work for you (we don't know your strength or weight).

A strop w/ biners spliced at either end can be used as a saftey line once you're at the top. Just hook it to the open section at the top of the mast, ease your tackle so the strop takes the load.

And although a dynamic line would be much easier on you if you were to fall, a dynamic line stretches a lot over 120', which means more pulling/reps. I'd prefer a static line.
 

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Although not a guide or climbing expert, I am an active climber (mostly ice climbing). A few thoughts:

- I have never seen professional mast climbers, but if they are bringing a few hundred feet of rope and pulleys, etc, it is just to make it quciker / easier for them, and perhaps so they don't rely as much on the clients halyards to ascend the mast.

- static (low stretch) vs dynamic ropes. You can't say one is better that the other. they are for different applications. Dynamic ropes are used for most rock / ice climbing, as there is a possiblilty (all of the time when lead climbing) of introducing many feet of slack in the rope, which is intended to catch the climber if he falls. You want a soft catch, which doesn't put too much force on you, your harness or your gear that is placed in the rock or ice (to hold the fall). Static rope would be very bad for that type of climbing!! However, for aid climbers, or cavers, who are not using the rope to catch falls with lots of slack - instead they mechanically ascend the ropes, never allowing more than a couple of inches of slack, the static ropes can be preferable, as they don't bounce each time you try to ascend upwards.

That said - I would recommend for you to not buy any rope at all, if your halyards are in good shape , or just buy one dynamic climbing rope, to be hoisted up on a good halyard, and used as a safety line. I personally just use a spare halyard as a safety line. It is NOT dynamic - however, I am careful not to allow more than a foot or so of slack in the line.

I would 1st recommend you visit, or call a reputable climbing store, such as Mountain equipment coop (MEC) in Canada, or similar in the States. Ask to tak to a climber sales rep. Better if you can go in person.

There was another thread a couple weeks ago, about using ladders to climb, where I posted a few comments as well.

What I do :

- I use a climbing harness (combined withs a ad'hoc chest harness made from a few loops of climbing slings / sewn webbing.
- I attach a mechanical ascender through my harness and chest harness to hold my weight to the main halyard.
- I attach a loop of smaller diameter line (approx 3-4 ft, when doubled / tied together with a tripple fisherman's knot) to the main halyard, with a Kliemheist knot, just below where the harness ascender is attached. You can also use another ascender here, but the knot is cheaper!! Put your foot in the end of the loop!

- I tie another short loop of line to a spare halyard, with a prussik knot, that also attaches to my harness - this is the saftey that will catch me, if something happens to the main halyard or ascender.

- Stand up on the foot loop, as you steady your body (keep vertical) by holding one hand high on the main halyard.
- Slide harness ascender up as high as possible.
- Sit / put weight on harness acender.
- Slide safety line / prussik knot up the spare halyard.

- repeat above steps, and you will ascend, about a foot or two at a time.

When I get to the top, I attach another saftey tether to something strong at tope of mast. Compete the work I am there for.
- personally, I am used to rapelling, so I switch to rappel, on one of the lines / hayards, but rapelling ,or changing from climbing to rapelling is one of the most dangerous apsects of climbing, so..

I would suggest instead, to just decend on the fixed line, similar to the way you came up., ie
- Take off Kleimheist knot and attach above ascender (it was below ascender).
- Slide safety line / prussik knot down 1 ft.
- Use foot loop, and one hand high on mast / halyard to stand up, taking weight off of harness ascender.
- move harness ascender down 1ft.
- sit / put weight on ascender.
- move foot loop / Kleimheist knot down 1 ft

- repeat, and you will desend 1 ft at a time.

Of course, seeking professional climbing instruction would be prudent. You should then practise this hanging from a rafter in garage, or swingset / tree limb, etc, until you are confortable ascending 5 ft or so, then coming back down.

Same at boat, ascend a few feet, then switch and decend back down.
Always use a safety line.
Have another person attach yet another halyard to you, and another saftey line, and have them do three /founr warps around a winch, and loosely around a cleat. They pull in line as you go up, and slowly pay line out as you decend.

Ask climbing store which asenders are best / safest / easiest to use for both ascending and then desending ropes.

Perhaps there is a caver or aid climber amongst the group who can recommend specific ascenders. my gear is older and not purchased specifially for mast climbing, but I use it as it works fine.

Hope that helps. here's a few links to different style asenders.

go to youtubem, and search for asend rope, climbing rope, etc. there are a few videos, that at least show the process.

Black Diamond nForce Ascender - Mountain Equipment Co-op

Petzl Shunt Rope Clamp - Mountain Equipment Co-op

Petzl Mini Traxion Pulley - Mountain Equipment Co-op

Petzl Croll Ascender - Mountain Equipment Co-op
 

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I use two ascenders and a descender. One ascender is connected to a piece of wood to serve as a protection for my feet, the other is connectd to the bosuns chair. Step on the wood use the other ascender to move your chair up. sit on it move the foot part up, step and climb again.

After you finish the job, sit comfortably on your bosuns chair. Connect the ascender to the rope just below your ascender connected to the chair. Step on the ascender, remove the ascender connected to the chair. Hold the line first, then remove the ascender connected to your feet. Slowly release the tension on the rope and you will descend.
 

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First, my disclaimer: Climbing a mast is dangerous. Climb at your own risk.

I made my own climbing rig based on the ATN TopClimber. I used 80 feet of 11mm static line, 5mm polyester accessory cord, four carabiners, and a climbing harness, all available REI. A bosun chair would be more comfortable, but I had access to a free climbing harness. Also, I don't plan on climbing my mast more than once a year.

For the ascenders I used Bachmann knots. Go to Animated Knots by Grog for more details on the structure and use of this and other knots.

Here are pictures of my rig Mast Climbing pictures by gsvarverud - Photobucket.

I see enough details in the other posts, so I won't bore you with mine.
 

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A crude example but it works for me.
Two ascenders, chair, and foot stirrups.
 

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The bosun's chair would certainly be more comfortable than a climbing harness. However, as you have to stand up / put weight on your feet, to raise the ascender (attached to the chair), I would feel more comfortable wearing a climbing harness as well. You could use a wedding sling to extend the harness belay loop so that it attaches to the ascender, at the same point as the chair. The harness would also be the proper attachment point for a safety line (spare halyard) with a short loop of rope and a prussik knot.
 

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Easy Climbing

All these ideas seem like a lot of effort!
I use the Mast Mate. Nylon Web Ladder.

In an hour I can remove the Main Sail from the sailtrack. Host up the Mast Mate. Make 1 or 2 trips up to the top.
Remove the Mast Mate and store it back into the bag.
Put back up the Main Sail.
Simply and easy............
 

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Hey, Backcreeksailor! Rent a forklift! :D

You could always walk into one of the rigging shops in town and ask what they use. In my experience, they're always willing to tell you.

A lot of the suggestions above seem pretty complicated (knots?? caribbeaners?? huh??), something you don't want to monkey with if you're not used to climbing the stick and are already nervous. The ATN TopClimber is easy to use and uncomplicated, though maybe a little slow.

The best part is, I have a TopClimber and a good length of static line and I'll be going out to Annapolis today. If you PM me by 10:00 this morning, we can figure out how to get it to you. You can try it and evaluate it without spending any dough.

-- PK
 

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moderate?
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All these ideas seem like a lot of effort!
I use the Mast Mate. Nylon Web Ladder.

In an hour I can remove the Main Sail from the sailtrack. Host up the Mast Mate. Make 1 or 2 trips up to the top.
Remove the Mast Mate and store it back into the bag.
Put back up the Main Sail.
Simply and easy............
That works great unless it is a mainsail jam you need to fix.
 

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baDumbumbum
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What Northeaster & Tager said. Don't need a tackle if you use your legs. I advise descending the same way; unless you are vastly experienced, it's too complicated to change from ascenders or top anchors to a rappelling device -- one of the more gripping moments in climbing is when you unload your anchors and settle onto your ATC. And rapping requires the bottom of the rap line be very slack. Then you'll pendulum all over the place. For a line fixed top & bottom, stick with ascenders both directions.
 

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I guess I should start by saying I have never been up my mast, but have spent some time climbing. I have never used a block and tackle setup to ascend fixed lines. I would opt for life-support rated static rope to ascend on. Dynamic climbing rope does not do well long term with rope abrasion caused by mechanical ascenders like the Petzl models I use. I like the dual stirup setup for the lower ascender, as it allows use of both legs to do the climbing. I had an ascender that attached to one foot, but it only let you climb on one leg. For the upper unit I use a Petzl shunt, but I believe the manufacturer says to use a descender above the shunt for that purpose. When it is time to transition from ascending to descending, you'll have to add a piece of gear (ATC, figure-8, or whatever); which can be difficult since you have to remove your body weight from the line to put the device in line. I don't know of a method that will allow descending from the same device.
 

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Hey Backcreek,

I'm a relatively new to sailing, but I've been a professional mountaineer and climbing guide for over 15 years. I'm a certified Rock Guide by the AMGA, and a member of Mountain Rescue Service here in North Conway NH. I've done lots of ascending/descending for both rescue work and big wall climbing.

Now, having tooted my own horn on that..I also should admit I've never climbed a mast. I just recently got a boat with a mast big enough to climb.

As such, I can't comment on what's the best way to climb as mast, but I will say that with systems such as these, it's always best to keep it simple. Keep the ropes, knots and bits of gear to a minimum. I've taught basic rope ascending to lots of people and always, always any added complication just ads to confusion and mistakes.

In reality, you need little equipment: a harness, a few locking carabiners, some webbing for foot loops and some 5 or 6 mill cord for prussic hitches.

The basics are difficult to describe. Here's a pretty good video that shows the basics: YouTube - Ascending Up a Rope

I'd skip the mechanical advantage systems. I'm not real clear how riggers are using it, but can't see how it would be any advantage for one person. Too much complication. It always sounds good in theory, but every turn of the rope though something ads drag, and the rope hangs up, doesn't flow like you think it should. In rescue work, we use systems with lots of redundancy, and often build in mechanical advantage because of the loads, but then we often have people to help tend all the devices the ropes go though. Picture this: you are hanging in a harness on the rope off the deck...no weight on your feet..easily slide up your ascender with foot loops attached..put your weight onto your feet and stand up using your leg muscles. Your torso goes up, with the rope freely traveling through an ascender near your chest you can just sit back and loose no height. With added pulleys, blocks and whatnot, the rope often gets hung up, and you don't have a free hand to work it loose..when you sit back down into your harness you end up back where you started from.


If you want to spend some money get some ascenders instead of the prussics although it's not really necessary. Ascenders are helpful in the climbing world when you need to climb hundreds of feet of rope at once, perhaps for many days in a row. To climb a 50 foot mast, you might save 10 minutes using ascenders instead of prussic hitches..it's up to you. No safety difference since the ascending tools aren't relied on to save your life.

The Big Gun Harness is nice, good that it has adjustable leg loops, but remember that a $40 Alpine Bod Harness will do the same thing. There's no difference in safety and you'd not likely notice any difference in comfort. In climbing difficult big walls like El Cap, it's not uncommon for the belayer to sit for 2 or 3 hours hanging in the harness, spend 20 minutes ascending the rope then hangs again for a couple hours over and over again. These guys notice subtle differences, and like nice harneses. When I'm guiding, I spend much of the day hanging in my harness and it's not as nice as the Big Gun!


Rope, static or dynamic? It won't make much difference. Static ropes tend to be stiffer so ascenders slide up them better where dynamic rope might fold above the ascender, but the actual difference won't matter in a 50 foot ascent. If you were climbing a 200 foot length of dynamic rope you end up going nowhere for the first 10 feet as you stretch the rope under your weight. Mechanical ascenders or prussic hitches won't damage either. The teeth on some mechanical ascenders look mean, but the don't damage rope under normal use.

Descender? You can use a Munter and a carabiner, but it puts a wicked twist into the rope below you. Not the end of the world but a pain nonetheless. I'd suggest a simple figure eight device.

How to tie off? Well, in climbing what we do is climb up a section of rope and then take a bight of rope just below where we are at (under the ascenders) and tie a figure-eight on a bight and clip it directly to your harness with a locking carabiner. Climb another short distance, then tie a new figure of eight on a bight and clip this to your harness with a different locking carabiner, then undo the first figure eight. The idea is you are never without being tied to your rope with the figure-eight on a bight, not even for a few seconds. You don't trust your life to the ascenders. How often you "back tie" depends how far you are willing to fall. Above a deck, you can't risk falling very far. With a static rope, you also can't risk falling very far.

You'll also need to know how to safely make the transition from ascending to descending. It helps to know how to back up your rappell:

See: Rock Climbing Tech Tips: Backing Up An Abseil



On the above page the setup you want is called "Friction Knot Below The Descending Device". It puts a prussic hitch where your hand is below the device. You can set the hitch to lock below the device so you can stop if you need to on the way down and go hands free. The hitch will also make it difficult for you to go to fast.

Ascending and descending a rope is not difficult, strenuous or dangerous if done right, but you'd be surprised how many little things can trip you up. Go slow, think about what you are doing and practice.

Good luck.









After looking around at all the gadgets and gizmos that I could buy to get up my mast. I noticed that virtually ALL professional riggers that climb masts on a daily basis use a block & tackle setup with rock climbing gear. So that's what I decided to go with.

I'm putting together my rig now, but it's hard to actually ask real rock climbers about equipment selections, because the one's I've talked to don't seem to understand what you do and don't need for climbing a 40'-60' aluminum pole while moving around standing and running rigging without getting hung up.

Here's what I've got on order so far:

  1. 75mm Harken Carbo Ratchet Block w/ Becket for the top pulley
  2. 75mm Harken Carbo Single Block for the pulley that will be attached to my harness (I want a 3:1 lift setup)
  3. Black Diamond Big Gun Harness

So I need some advice on what else I need from any of you that use climbing gear to get up your mast solo.

  • Since it's a 3:1 rig, I'm going with 200' of 7/16" line. But I'm not sure if I should get "Dynamic" (high stretch) line or "Static" (low stretch) line. The larger diameter static line is cheaper, but the lower diameter dynamic is what they recommend in applications where you might fall, (which is not in my plans). I'm figuring since the anchor point for the top block is going to be a low stretch halyard, then there's no point in using high stretch line. So low strech static line should be my choice, right?
  • I'm assuming I need a symmetrical oval screw lock carabiner to attach the lower single block pulley to my harness. But what (if any) other carabiners do I need?
  • Do I need a mechanical ascender?
  • What should I used for a descender? Just a carabiner and a munter hitch seem to a be simple solution, but there are dozens of other types of belay plates, figure 8's, and mechanical devices for this purpose too?

Lastly and most importantly... What's the most simple and fool proof way to actually tie off while you're working? I'm looking for something that will hold me firmly and without question. But I also want something that's easy to "un"-tie and nearly impossible to jam or hang up when it's time to come back down.
 
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