3-Point Rule

(Disclaimer: This presentation does not advocate, endorse, guarantee, imply nor infer any person can safely climb utility poles based solely on reading its content. It is for informational purposes only.)

The first fundamental rule of utility pole climbing is that one must always maintain a 3-point contact with the pole. This means that of the four limbs (right arm, left arm, right leg and left leg), at least three of them must be in contact with the wood and supporting the climber. Never think you can get away with breaking this rule. If you do - you'll go down!

Now that this basic rule is fully understood, the more refined aspects of the pole climbing technique can be presented. After you have been issued your pole climbing gear, check that everything is correctly assembled. In my training, the individual student was responsible for assembling their own equipment. It does not require a lot of knowledge or talent, but the hardware must be tight and the straps correctly attached.

The gaff hooks must be kept sharp and free of knicks. Usually, you will be issued a honing stone to maintain your gaff hooks. The only absolute about this is keeping the original profile of the hook. This is a precisely manufactured shape, therefore it must be preserved. Gingerly glide the honing stone over the cutting edge of the hook and rock it with your hand. Remember, it is a honing operation, not filing.

NEVER file the gaff hooks! If you get a set of gaffs with knicks, fractures or rust - turn them back in. It is not worth the risk no matter what anyone may say.

You may be outfitted with a set of gaff guards for training. These are a set of heavy plastic guards that ride at shin level and protect your calves from being cut with either gaff. The gaff guards are mounted to the gaff hook frames with wire tyes. Generally, gaff guards are not used in the field, but are a very good idea in training. Some instructors may even leave the wire tye ends sticking out to serve as "curb feelers" while negotiating the pole.

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So, now you don your gear. If it is brand-new equipment, the rubber-impregnated, heavy-weave straps are going to be stiff and require some time to work in. Keep track of the number of eyelet holes past the buckles each time you put the gaff hooks on. This should increase each time until you feel comfortable. Initially, cinch the straps tight - to the point you are cutting off your own blood circulation. Trust me, they will loosen up in a hurry during your first climb. You approach the pole and you should have a set of gaff protectors that need to be removed first. They fit over the gaff hooks and protect you and the hooks when walking. The rule-of-thumb is to only remove these protectors when you are within one arm's length to the pole. Never walk any distance with unprotected gaffs. The potential for injury is much greater.

Now comes the fun part! You are ready for your first climb. And I get to throw in industry buzz words and simple grammatical devices that help you remember the steps to safe pole climbing. The first one of the devices is also the most fundamental: "Hand, Charlie, Stroke!" That's right, "Hand, Charlie, Stroke!" The technique to pole climbing is based on developing a rythym, much like a runner's pace or a soldier's march. This is the pole climber's: "Hand, Charlie, Stroke!"


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[ Welcome to Page One! | 3-Point Rule | Hand, Charlie, Stroke! | The Safety Strap | Intermission | Maneuvering, Part 1 | Maneuvering, Part 2 | Summary | Contact ]

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Last Revision Date: February 12, 2011
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