Going Up The Mast—Four Dangerous But Common Mistakes January 11, 2023December 16, 2022 by John Harries How many dangerous mistakes can you spot? For extra points (and better personal safety) how many of them have you made? Before we get going, if you have not done so, Please read the first two parts (Table of Contents at the bottom of this article), otherwise this article will make no sense to you. To continue reading: Login Or Learn About Membership Or Get to know us for FREE Login Next: Going Up the Mast—An Industrial Fall Prevention Approach Previous: Going Up The Mast—Our System Going Up The Mast— Fundamentals Going Up The Mast—Our System Going Up The Mast—Four Dangerous But Common Mistakes Going Up the Mast—An Industrial Fall Prevention Approach Going Up The Mast at Sea Share a Link Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share on Pinterest Share on LinkedIn Share on Email More From John John’s Articles and RésuméJohn’s Tips, Tricks and Thoughts Subscribe Notify of All new comments on this article All Replies to my comments Join Us To Comment ("About" on menu) 30 Comments Oldest Newest Inline Feedbacks View all comments Jim Schulz December 16, 2022 7:42 pm Whether or not it has any safety benefit sometimes tying off can be helpful for comfort or ergonomics can’t it? As in it can be hard to get positioned comfortably at the masthead when the highest you can get your tie in point is a halyard sheave. Here’s a product I’ve found useful climbing, because it makes it easy to control slack in your anchor system. Useful in this case? https://www.petzl.com/US/en/Sport/Lanyards/CONNECT-ADJUST John Harries Author Reply Jim Schulz December 17, 2022 8:49 am Hi Jim, Sure, there might be a situation where tying off was required. Working out at the end of a spreader, as I was in the photo, is another example. That’s why I added the bullet list of guide lines for so doing and I think that gadget looks like a great solution to meet said guidelines. Thanks for the tip, I think I will get one. Alex Borodin Reply Jim Schulz December 17, 2022 11:06 am FWIW, Connect Adjust is standard issue gear at Bavarian Mountain SAR. I like it a lot. Alex Borodin December 17, 2022 4:34 am Hi John, I think it’s not fair to say that your backup is completely useless until fully stretched and extended. Both rope stretch and screamer extension absorb energy and thus reduce the amount of “ouch!” in case you do crater. John Harries Author Reply Alex Borodin December 17, 2022 9:03 am Hi Alex, Good point. Drew Frye December 17, 2022 9:41 am Do not use a long extension lanyard on the ASAP or any other device. This creates fall distance and there is no need. Instead, for shock absorption, use an arrest line with sufficient stretch, hauling up a climbing line if need be. I have probably taken 30 rock climbing falls on a Goblin with no lanyard (the Goblin is certified with no lanyard and dynamic or semi-static rope–I think the ASAP may require a very short lanyard), and none of these was at all jarring. I use a short lanyard once, and within moments it was obvious what a mistake this was. I clip it directly to the harness, reducing the fall distance to about 2 feet plus stretch. Do not use static rope for the arrest line; this is just not good practice and using a screamer will not make it so. Industrial practice is different. Often a long lanyard is used to get the climbing rope out of your way, perhaps behind you, for easier work. They may be using tools that would cut the rope in a blink. The use of long lanyards for convenience (which you do not need) is the reason shock absorbers are needed. And for this reason, long lanyards and shock absorbers are vertually never used in climbing. Long lanyards should only be used for positioning (preventing swing) and should never be slack. Do not tension the arrest line directly to the deck. Instead, tension it with a bungee cord (I recommend a very heavy duty bungee, such a long Davis Shockle or something of similar construction). This will allow you to move out on the spreaders. On rock, the common tensioning method is to coil up the excess rope and let it hang a few feet above the ground; the weight of the coil is enough to ensure the device feeds well and you are free to follow a slightly meandering line up the cliff (or by extension, out the spreader). The route up a cliff is seldom straight. Climbers tie-off all the time, but they follow the “no slack” and “don’t climb above the tie-off” rules religiously. The tie-off is used on the mast to reduce swing from wakes and such, and is not something you climb around using, at all. John Harries Author Reply Drew Frye December 17, 2022 10:05 am Hi Drew, Once again, I think you are being a bit too assertive in imposing climbing protocols on non climbers. Also, the ASAP does not require a long lanyard and with Stein’s hack the fall distance will be very short. And further, with your method, as I understand it, once we reach the top where the DCR connects to the halyard the shock absorption falls to zero, unlike with the screamer. The advantage of the ASAP with screamer and proscribed static rope is that it’s complete certified (EU and USA) system from a single source (Petzel) and I personally think that’s a better option than putting together a system from climbing gear that we sailors are not trained on and don’t fully understand. Each to their own, but I will be sticking with the industrial system used by hundreds of thousands (guess) of people working at height in regulated industrial environments, rather than pretending to be a climber. As to climbers always getting tying off right, I would question that given that the video I linked to was made by a climbing authority to help warn climbers of the mistakes they were making with tie offs. I agree on not tensioning the static line too much, although I have never needed to add the shock cord since the amount of slack required to get out to a spreader end is small, given the geometry, but others may wish to try the shock cord hack, thanks. Drew Frye Reply John Harries December 17, 2022 11:52 am The zero-stretch concern goes away if the halyard is polyester, at the length in question, it becomes semi-static. At the very least, the longest lanyard should be a short screamer. Anything more and you are adding complication. Using a bungee to hold the device up is fine. Many rope climbing (Google “rope walking”) systems use something similar. More knitting to get tangled in, and it will make climbing more awkward (making falling more likely?) if using any system other than a bosun’s chair, but it will shorten the fall. I have been around falls where a lanyard was used with a static anchor point. It is a method that will keep you alive, but the victim is generally injured by the impact and the harness and related equipment is often damaged. It will keep you alive, but if you read industrial rescue standards, static ropes are not recommended for fall arrest. Semi-static lines are generally used for this purpose. I doubt you will find a climber or industrial user that does not use tie-offs for work in situations where sway is a problem. Positioning lanyards are made for this purpose and meet OSHA and UN standards. Petzl sell them. Many variations, some of which are adjustable. You either find them handy or not, but they are accepted by OSHA and EN. I am adamant because I have spent many thousands of hours up in the air, in both industrial and recreational settings. I have used the system you describe, other fall arrest devices, and settled on what I described above. I have nothing against the ASAP. It’s good hardware. I am not imposing climbing standards in place of industrial standards. Nothing I said did not meet OSHA and EN requirements. You are right, in that OSHA standards are designed around the lowest common denominator and must fit every possible use and mis-use situation. — I like the final image, with the ascender at the perfect lever-off angle. The chance of failure on that is really quite high, since it has happened a good many times (ascender coming off rope when Jumaring an angled line). With the leg around the shroud, this will be a semi-inverted fall if the suspension line or belay fails. If the arrest line is static, even with the screamer, this is going to hurt and back injury is possible. Some of the nastiest climbing falls involve leaders that get a leg wrapped around the lead rope (head first), so savy climbers are constantly watching out for leg-trapping hazards. Great articles! This is very difficult topic. John Harries Author Reply Drew Frye December 18, 2022 12:30 pm Hi Drew, Thanks for the fill and kind words. Thoughts arising: I hear you on the benefits of polyester halyards, in fact I say that in Part 2, but the bottom line is that most offshore boats have HM halyards these days, so that’s just another reason I’m more comfortable with us sailors using a complete system that assumes a hard belay since it deals with the above issue, rather than expecting non climbers to understand the distance to belay and fall factor variables with DCR. The rope recommended with the ASAP is semi-static. I also note that the Goblin specifies semi-static, not DCR: https://campsafety.com.au/product/goblin/ Good to learn that. I would, and am, the first to acknowledge your expertise and experience at height, but I would also say that there is a danger in trying to unilaterally apply that experience to others who are not climbers. I’m well aware of this “expert danger” since I have in the past been too dogmatic based on my equivalent level of experience in offshore sailing. In my view, there are few more dangerous things that an expert who is certain that his/her views and methods apply to others. I’m trying to do better in this regard. The CAMP Goblin certainly looks interesting as an alternative to the ASAP. I need to learn more. Any more thoughts on the two compared? Drew Frye Reply John Harries December 19, 2022 9:19 am Obviously, the user should read the technical manuals on all equipment. There are too many ways to use every piece of equipment incorrectly to quickly list. Some are obvious, but some much less so. The trickiest are often those that relate to how equipment can get twisted around in use. One of the more important specs is rope type and diameter. It must be the correct diameter (10-11 for the Goblin, 9-13 for the ASAP). It must be firm enough and it must be semi-static or energy absorption must be provided. It must have a cover with the correct friction characteristics (nylon or polyester–not Dyneema/Dyneema or Dyneema single braid, and I do not know about Dyneema/Technora blend covers). The risks of pulling the cover off covered Dyneema must be considered in the smaller sizes, since the cover alone of a 9mm Dyneema/polyester rope will not hold a severe fall and the slippage risk has not been researched to my knowledge. I’ve seen jammers strip covers. The wide range in acceptable rope diameters and types is one of the strengths of the ASAP. The ASAP also tracks more easily up and down the rope if pulled at an angle. The disadvantages of the ASAP are bulk and greater vulnerability to fouling with grit and salt. Both should be periodically rinsed with freshwater if contamination is suspected. The Goblin can be locked in place, like an ascender; this is only an option on the ASAP Lock. Overall, I would recommend the ASAP for mast climbing. The Goblin is safe, more compact, and perhaps more forgiving of certain environmental factors, but the line size is a difficult limitation for many. I my case, climbing ropes are a good fit for use at the crag, and on the boat I pull up a climbing rope if the halyards are not suitable. —- Safety is mostly a matter of checking each critical part of the system. Are both halyards very good? If not, pull in a climbing line. Masthead blocks require some faith, but that is also why you use two lines. Is the harness safe (good condition, cannot come off inverted–yes, I saw this happen climbing–it was fatal). If not, fix it. Is the tie in safe (you covered this)? Is the belay safe (many precautions about using a winch as a belay, mostly relating to the turns jumping off–also jammer tie-off comment was smart–I typically use jammer-winch-hitch on both)? Each of these must be 100% correct or you do not climb. Then you can relax climbing and focus on safe movement and the work at hand. Drew Frye Reply Drew Frye December 19, 2022 9:30 am One last comment on safety and accidents I have witnessed or am intimately familiar with. None were related to equipment failures. One bad tie-in knot (bowline tied wrong… we believe). One harness came off (buckle not doubled back because it was too small–was still on the rope, 200 feet in the air). Two belay errors (inattentive or poorly trained– dropped ~ 50 feet but lived). Climbing is not dangerous, but you need to be meticulous in set-up and belaying. John Harries Author Reply Drew Frye December 19, 2022 5:35 pm Hi Drew, A great analysis of the ASAP and Goblin (way past my pay grade on this) as well as some very good information about rope. Thanks very much. I think, given this, and other comments you have made, I will source the recommended semi-static line from Petzel for use with my ASAP, that way I know I have this right, particularly given your very good warning about perhaps stripping the the cover in a fall. And lots of other good tips, some of which I have covered, but some not, so thanks again. Maciek Sarnowicz Reply John Harries January 13, 2023 1:52 am Thanks for the great article and this good discussion here in the comments. I’m just trying to clarify what I think you are saying. Caveat: I’m not a climber so I don’t know how to translate “semi-static rope” to sailor-speak. I guess that’s the crux of Drew’s comment. Anyway, I think you are saying that for devices like ASAP or Goblin, the best is to purchase a recommended climbing rope for the device selected, instead of trying to somehow find a match in marine ropes. Then hoist it up with a spare (backup) halyard and secure it to the deck. Is that correct? Of course, then there is a question of how you tie the climbing rope to the halyard. I’ve seen double-figure-eight recommended for such a thing, but I am sure you know more about this than I do. John Harries Author Reply Maciek Sarnowicz January 13, 2023 10:10 am Hi Maciek, Yes, you have it. I covered this under our system including a link to the instructions for the ASAP which include specifications for the correct rope: https://www.morganscloud.com/2022/11/26/going-up-the-mast-part-3-our-system/ Dick Stevenson December 19, 2022 11:21 am Hi John (and all) I like the idea of a “drag” line pulling the ASAP up after you and looking at the picture, I worried about one aspect of this: If the pull is directly in line, then all should be well. But the pull line might drag the ASAP up at an angle to the line it is attached to. Some of these devises load their line at an angle and then twist around to their “securing” position. In a fall, if the ASAP loaded up when at an angle to the its line, it seems that the securing safety line might “squeeze” out of the ASAP’s jaws. (sort of like a pinched snatch block might release an out-of-line loaded sheet). I tend to push my ASAP up ahead of me by hand which does not seem to be a problem as I am largely just a passenger when going up. This gives me the least fall distance as that pretty much stretches out the connecting line. My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy John Harries Author Reply Dick Stevenson December 19, 2022 5:45 pm Hi Dick, I agree I need to test this, but Drew did say that he thought it would be OK on the ASAP and he knows more than most any of us. I too think this is ok since as I understand it I don’t think the ASAP relies on orientation to grip, but I will test that. I too held the ASAP up high, but the problem with that is that it prevents us from semi-climbing the the lower part of the assent where cratering is a real risk, so I would prefer to get this shock cord idea right. The other good thing about the shock cord idea is that it would work if we need to go up at sea where we will need all four limbs to hold on. That said, I think you are right that some other arrestors might be compromised by this. Here’s a very sobering video that I stumbled across from a climber that shows some fail modes of fall arrest devices: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nuQQmGXhV8Y Drew Frye Reply John Harries December 19, 2022 7:24 pm Gotta share this video. Because the ASAP depends on the SPEED of the fall and the RPM of the wheel, it seems that keeping the ASAP high with a bungee may not help. It seems that if you use a short lanyard, the fall speed r3equired to trigger the lock results in similar lockup delay. I was surprised. Not sayin’ just sharing. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T1zOsckFLQg I have not played with the ASAP a lot, so I would rather not comment on the details. The Goblin, and most industal fall arrest devices, are based on weighting/unweighting rather than fall speed (they lock as soon as the tether is not holding them up, no movement required), which makes them immune to this problem, but more likely to lock up if pulled at an angle. It also makes them much more sensative to rope size. Compromises. This is not a jab. The ASAP is considered the best. John Harries Author Reply Drew Frye December 20, 2022 7:40 am Hi Drew, Wow, great find on the video. Looks to me like the shock cord idea is not going to make any difference so I’m back to climbing the first few feet while still in the crater zone. I will add an update to the article above. Dick Stevenson Reply John Harries December 19, 2022 9:43 pm Hi John, Sobering video. It is so easy to make such a simple error with such dire potential consequences. I do not help my windlass raise me so holding the ASAP out ahead is not a problem, but your point about offshore is well taken. And. It is always nice to have hands free. My best, Dick John Harries Author Reply Dick Stevenson December 20, 2022 7:43 am Hi Dick, Yes, but the key take away here for me is that we need to climb the first few feet while still in the crater zone regardless of how high we hold the ASAP. Drew Frye Reply John Harries December 21, 2022 3:35 pm You can get a an ASAP Lock, which will function as an ascender, allowing you to push it ahead and lock it. Handy for possitioning also. The Goblin also has this function. The ASAP Lock is effectivly identical, with added feature. Drew Frye Reply Drew Frye December 21, 2022 3:37 pm Locked and pushed ahead, the fall is limited to rope and harness stretch, typically just a foot or two. I often do this with the Goblin when climbing hard moves above a bad landing. John Harries Author Reply Drew Frye December 22, 2022 8:08 am Hi Drew, Good point, I’m kind of wishing I had got the ASAP with lock now, for just that reason, now you have pointed it out. I will add another update recommending that. Fernando Ostos January 1, 2023 2:52 pm Has anyone used a GRIGRI? Chuck Batson Reply Fernando Ostos January 1, 2023 3:20 pm I do use a GriGri as part of a holistically-designed mast climbing system, on the way up to hold my weight while pushing the ascender up, and of course on the way down. It’s crucial to thread the rope in the correct direction and have the carabiner go through both holes to keep the cover plate in place. I consulted with a professional climbing instructor to design my system. John Harries Author Reply Fernando Ostos January 2, 2023 7:37 am Hi Fernando, I’m no climber, but as I understand it the GriGri is a belaying and decent device, not a fall arrest device so I think a device like the ASAP, or possibly the Goblin is a better and safer bet, See Drew’s comments on the ASAP and Goblin. CLIVE PARRY January 14, 2023 6:43 am Lots of ideas and techniques. In my experience problems are more likely from poor execution of a particular technique rather than the wrong technique. I keep a bag for the climbing kit AND a laminated card describing how we are going to do things. I typically sail with 2 or three others of varying degrees of experience so a simple system, well explained is critical…. oh, and a 60kg 22 year old to go up the mast! For single/short handers it’s a different story. John Harries Author Reply CLIVE PARRY January 14, 2023 8:01 am Hi Clive, I agree that poor execution is the biggest problem, that said, if we make a fundamental mistake in our base system, like those listed above and in part 2 the best execution won’t help. Arne Mogstad January 17, 2023 8:17 pm Hi. Great article and many good points! So, some of this have been mentioned already, so I will just briefly add to that: I have used the ASAP a lot (mostly in alpine rescue settings), and it is never lifted. As Drew says, it works by speed. So unless you have a very long tether, there’s no benefit to lifting it. The GRIGRI is, as is mentioned, a belay device and descender. It locks incredibly quickly and hard when taking a fall, and using it in a dynamic system require some serious thought. It is normally used attached to a climber that is standing on the ground. If the belayer is catching a fall, the person will be lifted and thereby add dynamicness (is that a word) to the system. I use the GRIGRI a lot, however used as a fall arrest device in a somewhat static system, I would be very reluctant! Using it as a part of a system for ascending ropes like described in a previous comment, is absolutely fine. As to your idea of letting Phyllis lower you after you’ve taken a fall and you’re unconsciously hanging on the backup that is tied around the mast: If the backup halyard is routed inside the mast, that will be VERY difficult to do with any sort of knot, unless you have enough halyard available to just offload it with the double-rolling-hitch, and then untie it from the mast to move it to a winch. Then untie the double-rolling-hitch and lower from the winch with the excess halyard. My halyards are not that long on my boat, so that’s not an option for me. For my boat, I don’t have a good solution to this problem. However I mostly singlehand so there’s no one to lower me down anyway. And lastly, as I mentioned in an earlier comment, the way things load up, the distances you fall, and directions you go when loading up a slack system, never cease to amaze me! Add a bigger fudge-factor than one would think. I hope this is in any way helpful. I do find these articles very good! And also, even if one can’t eliminate every potential pitfall, the more pot holes one can cover in the system, the better! John Harries Author Reply Arne Mogstad January 18, 2023 8:31 am Hi Arne, Great information on the GRIGRI, thank you. I had no clue but was none the less uncomfortable about its use in fall arrest. As to Phyllis lowering me, she will have plenty of halyard since we haul another line (semi static) up the mast on the backup halyard. See previous chapter. That said, there is no question that getting me down, particularly if I’m injured by the arrest will be chalanging even for Phyllis who has a lot of experience with the double rolling hitch. Still, I think it’s the better compromise that trusting a mast base turning block to take the load of a fall. If anyone has an even better idea I’m all ears.