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Bridges

 

A few months ago I had the privilege of not only being on top of the cables of the Verrazano bridge, but also being able to repel down along side of them for an inspection.

The air is much different up five hundred feet above speeding cars and trucks, it’s somewhat quite, isolated.
We drop down with the Ropes in bags due to the hazards of a car or truck catching our climbing rope and tearing out the anchors. Wind gusts wait for the opportune moment to make you into a human kite. The sun burn, exhaustion from pulling up 80 pounds of ropes… all worth it.
All in a days work.
-D monkey

Outdoor tid-bits

The season is here and most climbers are seeing what their indoor training is translating to outdoors. Lots of new climbers are getting out to the Gunks and other playgrounds to enjoy the short but sweet  climbing season.

It’s important to remember the basics and of course to be safe, as well as to be respectful to the areas.

A few things to keep in mind:

- Be safe, bring adequate protection, be it ropes or crash pads.

- Clean up after yourself, leave the area the same as when you got to it, or cleaner then when you did. It’s a privilege to climb in many areas and if it’s deemed bad or damaging to the environment then we can actually lose access to the Crag.

- Go with experienced climbers. Tell people where you are or are going.

BOULDERERS:
- Be mindful of crash pad placement and gaps between the pads, move the pads to adjust for the climber as he or she progresses through the problem.

-Always spot climbers. It’s important to try to break the fall of the climber and to protect their head and back as best as possible.

-Be mindful of trees and rocks while spotting;  bad landing areas can be hazardous to not only the climber, but the spotter as well. If necessary you can use a sling around a tree attached to a carabiner to hold onto to protect yourself from falling down a hill when a climber tumbles down.

-Also be extra careful to not get hit by the climber ( I once had my eye scratched badly while spotting one “Mafia” when she spun off and got me good)

-If you need to use tick marks (chalk marks to help see holds) make them small instead of making the rock look like a treasure map, and brush them away when you leave the climb. Areas aren’t only used by climbers and locals look down upon chalk graffiti.

-Dogs are great companions, but they make for poor crash pads, be careful of where your doggie goes if you have ‘em tag along.

ROPERS:

- Check your equipment before and during climbing. This means ropes, harnesses, carabiners, slings, belaying devices, protection (trad) etc.

- Always be redundant with anchors (two points min) and double check before proceeding.

- Top ropers: always use at least a two point anchor  and be sure to not have any rope drag on the anchor as this can cut your rope.

-Use rope  protection on sharp edges!!! Garden hose works well, as do old denim jeans, protect your rope and cordlette, as it protects you!  I’ve seen cored cordlette anchors after a day of climbing, its quite scary.

- If leading, climb within your ability and start off on easy routes with good spots to place gear, avoid runouts (distances between protection, leading to possibility of decking) and always spot in the beginning of the climb.

-Consider using a helmet as hikers/ climbers on top have a tendency of knocking rocks off the cliff and sometimes holds break off.

-When rappelling  use a Prussik knot as a back up just in case ( my friend’s life was saved by one when he let go of his break-line because he got hit in the shoulder by a rock from the top).

 

The list goes on and on and you can always learn more.

The bottom line is to have fun, be safe and clean up after yourself.

-  Jeff the Monkey-boy

 

It’s a long ways down

It’s a long long ways down.

Saturday morning in the city, it’s a little bit chilly, beautiful cotton candy clouds floating overhead across the bluest sky further lit by the contrast of the skyline in progress.

So very visible by it’s ever growing heights, the freedom tower is beginning to exemplify what we have overcome and the bright future in sight.
The job at work today is to do an inspection of the sliding crane that sits on the 91st floor today out over the west side highway. After being cleared by the security personal, we take two different elevators up, ever higher into the building to the end of its line, then take some stairs up further to the 92nd floor… where we climb out onto the crane and take in the amazing view that so few have privilege of seeing at the moment, the silent New York ever still in its concrete footing, free from horns and chatter.


It’s much more windy up here then down below, and it feels awesome.
We are sure to check and double check our pockets and harnesses, this is not the place to have a foolish accident, and drop anything, a carabeiner, shoe, phone… None of which would be well thought of by the people on the ground.
We climb on to the crane boom and inspect for potential issues, fatigue cracks, loosened  bolts etc.
I climb underneath the boom, dangling  from two short cords, over 1000 feet of air and perhaps my favorite place to be now.


The inspection goes well and the workers on the tower look at us like monkeys in a zoo, staring at the ludicrous  inspectors climbing all over the crane, they take picture,  point and give wide eyed stares perhaps wondering what’s going through our minds, the answer – bliss.

 

-Jeff the monkey

To California

Fifty five days ago I boarded a plane, tired, scared, and anxious for what I was doing, Traveling three thousand miles from one coast to another. I took only a one way ticket and thought that i would take three weeks to get sick of it, but instead; it absorbed me as well as I had absorbed it. California is an amazingly vast state, huge, and the changes in weather in the different regions is to reflect on that. I began in Oakland, the only thing I could think of when I thought of when I think of Oakland is that it was the home town of MR. Cooper, an old television show that I had watched as a child in the 90′s. when I reached the state the weather seemed moderate. I recall that it was supposed to rain, as an ever occurring joke would rise that I had brought rain(and eventually a touch of snow) to the Bay area.

The first night we went to the California academy of Science for their ” night life” I had never thought that they would be vending mixed drinks beer and wine in a place with a planetarium, an extensive aquarium as well as it’s own environment controlled- 4 story rain forest in the middle of it. from butterflies to fish to lizards to an albino alligator, I was astounded through and through. They had many living specimens and boastful amounts of dead ones, I was in awe with the seahorses, the queer way they would float along boasting their unique texture and shape. Coral would sway in the man made currents, it’s pastel and florescent array of  colors only comparable to a kaleidoscopic of an alien planet. Only Yards away there would be a room with spiders well known for their hourglass markings and others that were beautiful as well as large and perhaps nerve wrecking making you swat at the faintest fibers of denim nipping at the hairs of your leg. Still further along, dart frogs, tiny and potent, vivid green reflecting the light off it’s moist skin as if they were lone candles in a dark room. We eventually headed home, tired from the excitement of the eyes, and myself from jet lag, quite a memorable first night in a land that I would come to know.

 

Within a week of my stay in Oakland I was to go to a place called Bishop, it is to be a popular climbing area eight hours away. We started off meeting at a friend’s house  at 7P.M. packing tons of equipment, food, water and people( and a pair of dogs) in 4 cars. We all stopped at a taqueria after gathering more climbers and I met about a dozen strange faces to pair to names that I would eventually come to know along with some confusing nicknames given by perhaps some stranger faces. The “Dynos”, a group of climbers that traveled to gyms and climbing areas together, I had been “sold to them for a skimpy “two-fitty” by one Mafia. The transaction ended up as three dollars even, and I had been on my way about 500 miles to a camp site in lower California. The roads were dark and the weather irritable, I was in the back seat of the car with three strange faces and miles ahead. we were to drive in legs, sleeping initially and picking up legs of the drive later on. Halfway there at the mid point, Bakersfield we stopped at a gas station to refuel our caravan as well as ourselves. The gas station confused me, I had just woken up and found myself in a strange mini mart of sorts, selling not only gasoline but also Hard liquors, energy drinks, guns, beer, ammo, fireworks, lighters, ,more energy drinks, cigs, wine, jerky, knives… and… SWORDS? Where was I, the supply shop for a third world zombie army surplus store? Fully awake now and still slightly disorientated I purchased a coffee and jumped into the front passenger seat. The drive forward here was straight and narrow through farms and small towns on an at most 2 lane highway. The weather had seemed to with to make things interesting, breathing out a thick fog over the roads before us, the road disappearing into what seemed to be a dream. Sixty something miles per hour doesn’t seen fast until your traveling that speed, staring down the hood of the car at the short blacktop before you, knowing that there is no way to stop in time if anything were to happen. Face to the wheel we barreled down the freeway headlights reflecting the fog, that would cut in and out depending on it’s mood and our elevation. around the time that the fog decided to dissipate it was time to switch drivers, and I was to become in control of the beast. It was windy as I continued on, the open air now making visible the dark areas to the side of the road, that had turned out to be desert, where was I and where were they leading me? I never seen tumble weeds prior to that night and I felt like I was driving fast through ghost towns in an old western film. We were to go through three towns the speed of travel to be diminished to a snail paced 25 miles per hour, a speed that I conspire is enforced in order to bring attention to the establishment in the town along with potential business, all on a road that two miles before you had been traveling 80mph.

We eventually arrived at the town of bishop, yet continued on to a small area on the outskirts of the town, a camp site called “The Pit”, it was late, about 4 in the morning when we stopped at a pebble and sandy spot surrounded by more tumble weeds and rocks. I never had pitched a tent or camped prior to this and a driver from another car, (also the one who paid two fitty) helped me out in setting it up. the technology used in camping never ceases to amaze me, and it didn’t let me down on that first cold night at 4 in the morning. I found myself soon curled in a down sleeping bag, on a hand pumped air pad, in a thinner then paper yet waterproof tent, on an icy cold ground using my book bag as a pillow. When we woke, at about 9 in the morning, I got out of the tent to be in shock, I was surrounded by mountains with snow covered tops, the outline of the blue sky and the formations of the clouds against them was jaw dropping. we traveled all night in the dark and all along there were enormous mountains we were passing, hiding in the weather and star light.

We traveled to town to a large bakery with tons and tons of bread,  I am still confused how they can make so much and sell it all in such a small town. After breakfast I  was told that we were to be going to the happys that day, a bouldering area with volcanic rock( which meant nothing to me at the time, for it was my first outdoors trip). We left town and went some ways to a dirt road, that was almost like a bad path with rocks and pot holes everywhere until we stopped and began stuffing these portable landing pads with our stuff, and then wearing these pads as if they were portable book bag mattresses and continued on to hike up a small rocky trail. fifteen or so minutes later we began seeing gigantic boulders , that seemed to be in a valley stretched endlessly in the heavy sun. We all stopped at one particularly textured rock and were told by one that this was the warm up areas.

Day one : Here’s a bridge, climb it

It was a week-long class, that I had taken but a few days earlier, 40 hours of being shown how to properly tie off, build anchors and climb and rappel off fixed static ropes. It had been but a few days earlier that I passed the class and got my SPRAT certification that allowed me to legally do what I had done in my youth, but much safer.

The gear

I woke up at 4 o’clock in the morning that day in July to get to the first job site. I got to New Jersey to the office at a bit after, loaded the truck with ropes and gadgets and we headed out; the destination an hour north to the Newburgh walkway over the Hudson river. We were to rappel down the side and to take pictures of the legs of the bridge and to document any areas that had rusted so badly that it would affect the integrity of the bridge.

The climb

We need to be all attached to two separately anchored points at all times, redundancy, the points need to hold 5000 lbs each and need to be protected from sharp edges so the ropes don’t get cut, common sense? The concept is simple and it makes sense always to have a backup line. I guess my days of free climbing buildings in queens and hanging out on top of buildings after dark for fun are over (maybe). So we build anchors off the beams under the railing and lower down the ropes 200 feet to the base of the bridge. I rappel down take pictures while in awe of dangling 200 feet up over the Hudson River, the only thing going through my mind… Am I really getting paid for this?!? It almost made sunburn and the frustrating hour getting the ropes untangled from the beams and trees due to the high winds worth it.

The view

Hanging around: Jeff Tan

So I’m hanging off two short ropes and I look down and it reminds me of the time I went sky diving, the cars so tiny and the Manhattan skyline looking like I’m in a plane. People are almost indistinguishable up here and the conditions a bit cold and windy.The job at hand is to do a magnetic particle inspection of the boom of a crane that’s mounted of what would replace the buildings that had fallen over ten years ago. My name is Jeffrey Tan, and I work in the field of industrial climbing under rope access.

The game is the same as in the gym–don’t fall… the stakes are a little bit higher though. You might have seen me climbing at BKB, jumping around like a monkey, but that’s only half the story. My aim is to share experiences with you from the climbing of the (under-construction) Freedom Tower and the bridges connecting the boroughs, to my unforgettable experiences camping and climbing in Bishop and Yosemite. This is my life and I hope you find it interesting, so until next time, this is Jeff the monkey signing out.