I know this is far from spectacular for anyone with an alpine inclination – but as people (and myself, to be fair) often wonder how to climb a mast solo – this is one fairly useful option!
I enter the mast on an extra rope attached to the main halyard with the use two rope clamps that are commonly used in (industrial) climbing, one left- and one right-handed. They have a of one-way movement, i.e. slide up but block downwards. The extra rope is just there to protect the halyard as the clamps have rather erasive teeth, and I use it for this purpose only. Attached to the left-hand clamp is a strong double sling of about 50cm which secures my feet and that I push myself up with. Above that, the right-hand clamp is where I am secured to a standard climbing harness. Alternatingly I stand up on the left-handed/lower one, then slide the right-handed/top one up and so on. Tedious, but it works. What helps is that the rope is fixed at the bottom end as well, not too tight though as this makes the handling of the clamps diffilcult, but it prevents some of the swinging out of one’s legs and makes sliding up of the lower clamp less of a hassle as it gets some resistance from below.
Downwards it is pretty much the same procedure in reverse, albeit it can be a bit fiddly to unlock the clamp to slide it down. I have found out I need to make much smaller increments going down, about 20 to 30 cms at a time.
Surely this has its limitations; I have no idea whether I had the nerve to do this at sea in a swell – I doubt it and hope I never have to. Alternatives are obviously mast steps and, recently, something called a mastlift by Swi-Tec Mast (www.swi-tec.com). The former I still consider, event though I don’t like the idea of perforating my mast with rivets. The latter is tempting but comes with a hefty pricetag.
So, step-by-step it is for now – Slow Upward!
Oh yes, I should mention that it makes a hell of a lot of sense to a) think at least thrice what tools and material you need once up and b) secure each and everything to yourself. Another lesson learned the hard way…
Here’s the Video: