Applying Climbing Skills to Everyday Life (Or Why It Took Me An Hour to Get the Paper This Morning)

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Applying Climbing Skills to Everyday Life (Or Why It Took Me An Hour to Get the Paper This Morning)
Created On: Dec 6, 2010
Last Edited On: Dec 6, 2010
So, my wife is out of town for the weekend and I’m solo at home. I wake up on a Saturday morning and let the dog out, then back in. I feed the cats then head out the garage door to get the paper. I open the garage door, stumble down the driveway, pick up the Oregonian and wander back up. When I get back to the door in the garage to go inside, I grab the doorknob but it doesn’t turn.

Confused, I turned it again. No dice. Then, like an electric shock in my brain, the synapses connect and I remember locking the door to the garage the night before, something I never do. Well, something I’ll never do again, but that doesn’t help me much now, standing in sweats and slippers in my garage. Seriously, what the f am I going to do?

Hmm. Do I have my cell phone? No. Well, why would I? I wasn’t expecting to need to make a call on my way to the ….newspaper. Do I know anyone who has a spare key? I think to myself on that one. Well, I have not given any out since we moved to this house a couple years ago. My wife gave one to her former neighbors since they watch the cats when we are out of town. I could go to the neighbors and wake their happy asses up to borrow their phone to call my wife but the problem is, I have no idea what my wife’s cell number is. It’s just #1 on my contact list in my cell phone, which is sitting happily inside on the sideboard.

Maybe I better check the windows to see if anything is miraculously open. So, I make the round that I know will be fruitless. After coming up with no fruit, I do what any other sane man would do. I look at my dog through the back door in the kitchen looking at me and I try to use the Force to teach her how to unlock the back two locks on the door, despite the lack of opposable thumbs.

After that little exercise, I think about other options. Do I break a window? It’s not cold outside. But I can’t wait 34 more hours for my wife to return. I mean, I could tough it out in the garage drinking old beer and thawing raw meat from the refrigerator, but, I am thinking Luna, our dog, is going to have about a dozen accidents in the house by that point. Well no, actually, it would be worse. After not being fed, the cats might get that look from her that all cats fear. I need to find a way inside!

But, I really don’t want to break a window. We DO need new windows but there has to be another option. And then it comes to me.

Our roofline is rather odd, being a 70’s split-level home. Multiple levels and lines to it, and, there are two windows up there that don’t currently lock. They are sliding windows that allow light to come into the living room and are about 2 feet high by 3 feet wide in a row where one roof level is higher than the other. We have these vaulted ceilings in living room about 15-20 feet up where its roof line is higher than the kitchen’s. But that is a long way to drop onto a new hardwood floor. That is not going to end well. I mean, I’d be inside, but then I’d be on the floor for 33.5 more hours until my wife came home to find me unable to move with broken legs. But could I rappel into the house?

I start looking around the garage for what was there to see if I could make this work. First off, rope. There was about 40-50 feet of an old static 8 or 9 millimeter frayed-end thing that could pass as rope that a contractor once left behind. I grabbed it, ignored the spongy feel to it, and set it next to me.

There were plenty of ladders in the garage with which to get up on the roof. No problem there, but what about a harness? Well, there was the dog harness in the car. We have a larger dog and we harness her in the car when she rides with us (can’t stand those guys who have a loose dog in the back of a pick-up truck, but I digress). I pulled that out and by putting it on upside down, I came up with a sort of harness that I thought would work for a quick rap (and would be quite embarrassing to be seen in by a neighbor should I be spotted). But I wanted a chest harness, too, so I didn’t end up dangling upside down halfway down my living room wall next to the framed leaf prints and light fixtures. There was a leash in the car, too, good, but that only worked for half a chest harness. I then pulled out the webbing that makes up the rest of the dog harness. Along with this is a pretty damn decent carabiner that clips from the dog harness to the webbing that attaches to the car’s seatbelts. I used that to link the seat harness together and then I spotted the heavy bag.

I’ve got a heavy bag hanging in the garage that hangs on a hook from the garage ceiling by a small carabiner attached to a small chain, attached to another carabiner to the bag. I took it down and pulled all the carabiners and chains off. I then connected up all the parts of the harness and looked at it. It was hideous, but would it work? I pulled pretty hard on it from various angles. Ow. I then noticed I didn’t have padded leg loops and that hurt. But I thought it might work for a short rap. There was also a small two-looped piece of metal chain on the apparatus that the bag hung from that would have to do as a rap device. It was pathetic but again, all I needed was about 30 seconds or less before the metal probably twisted apart. Then again, it holds up an 80 pound heavy bag, it would probably hold up twice that, right? Well, maybe a bit more than twice that.

The harness!

The harness

I grabbed the “rope” and made off to the roof with a ladder. Once up there, I opened up the broken window (Oh, it’s been fixed since then, so don’t get any cat burglar ideas!) and looked down. My dog looked up at me. I could identify at least two looks from her. The first was a “what the!” look. The second was “what are you thinking of, idiot?” I looked around the roof but there was nothing to rap from. Back down I went into the back yard to look around. There was a barbeque grill, no. Patio table? Nope. Wait! There is an iron rail around one of the window wells. I went over to it and checked it out. It didn’t wiggle too much and it seemed secure. I wrapped the rope around a corner of it where it is thicker as the iron curves. I tied it off.

The Anchor

The anchor

Back up the ladder I went to the window. I gently lowered the rope to see if there was enough length. To my surprise there was. I pulled on the rope to see if the iron made a sound or if I could hear bolts loosening in concrete. No sound. I looked at the rope and it struck me how thin it looked. This was not meant to be climbing rope. This was meant to pull a bucket up or something. Was I really going to do this? Was it worth it? There were so many ways this could go wrong. I could see the chain snapping, the non-climbing biners failing, the rope snapping. Hell, I could see a huge iron railing come thrashing up onto the roof from below and through the windows down into the living room on top of me like some Wile E. Coyote cartoon. But all I needed were just a few seconds. I tried not to think about how those could be some famous last words.

I looped the rope into my “rap device” and wrapped it around the “biner.” I leaned back on the roof and it seemed to work. I worked my right leg inside the window, then my left. I gripped that rope in my right hand like I was holding on to a pair of front row Led Zeppelin reunion tickets. I leaned in, then back, then in, then back. I looked down into the living room and saw that the rope had wrapped itself around a triple-candle holder that my wife cherishes. Great. Now I have to try to be gentle too when I do this? I leaned in again….shoes!

Looking down

Looking down

I had put some shoes on that were in the garage and I figured now would be a good time to take them off so there aren’t muddy footprints down the wall. Whew! Glad I thought of that one.

The window

Shoes and window

Then, I leaned in again and this time kept leaning. I got over the sill and was fully weighted on the rope. I looked down at the rap device, it was holding! Good Lord, this was working. Good Lord, quit admiring this and get down before it falls apart. I pushed the little rope through the tiny device and to my astonishment, I was lowering myself. It didn’t get stuck, the rope was not fraying apart. And I kept on going. About 12-15 more feet to go. Push more rope, push more rope. 10 feet to go. Then it was 5 and I felt better because if it snapped now, I liked my chances better. I s-l-o-w-l-y pulled the rope up a bit and around the candle holder until it was clear. Then I finished off the inaugural living room rappel at my dogs feet and started laughing.

Rap Device

Rap "device"

I honestly was shocked it worked. Of course, I grabbed the camera and memorialized this great accomplishment in abseiling history before cleaning it all up (with several doors unlocked this time). Then I read the frigging paper and had some damn breakfast.

And that, my friends, is how you apply climbing skills to everyday life.



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Viewing: 21-40 of 62
Brian Jenkins

Brian Jenkins - Dec 12, 2010 11:35 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Hey Brian ..

Oh no, then there would have been soot all over the place! I carefully weighed the options on this one. ;- )


norco17 - Dec 13, 2010 4:29 am - Hasn't voted

That's Hilarious!

But I think it should be a trip report not an article.

Brian Jenkins

Brian Jenkins - Dec 14, 2010 2:29 am - Hasn't voted

Re: That's Hilarious!

Ha! I'll have to submit my living room wall as a mountain page. ;- )

Glad you enjoyed it.



Dean - Dec 13, 2010 7:22 am - Voted 10/10

Loved it

A great way to think "outside of the box". That just goes to show that all that climbing experience can pay off once in awhile in ways that you'd never expect. Nicely done and Merry Christmas.

Brian Jenkins

Brian Jenkins - Dec 14, 2010 2:30 am - Hasn't voted

Re: Loved it

Glad you enjoyed it, Dean. Thanks and Merry Christmas to you too. May Santa bring you good gear!


Brian Jenkins

Brian Jenkins - Dec 14, 2010 2:27 am - Hasn't voted

Re: I'd have...

Damn. Where were you when I was making my decision?! Good call.

Jukka Ahonen

Jukka Ahonen - Dec 14, 2010 12:08 pm - Voted 10/10

Thank you for sharing


Thank you for sharing this great window into the mind of a practical man! This explains us two things: First of all, why guys usually get the job done even in odd situations, and also; why guys have to pay higher insurance rates ;)


Brian Jenkins

Brian Jenkins - Dec 14, 2010 8:21 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Thank you for sharing

Ha ha, you are absolutely correct. (And since I also work for an insurance company, I can vouch for this.)

Thanks for the nice words,

JJBrunner - Dec 15, 2010 10:50 pm - Hasn't voted


This was so overly complex!

Nevertheless, a funny and worthwhile read!


WalksWithBlackflies - Dec 17, 2010 12:50 pm - Voted 10/10

Most excellent!

However, you should have left the muddy shoes on.

Brian Jenkins

Brian Jenkins - Dec 17, 2010 1:31 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Most excellent!

I take it you are not a marriage counselor? ;- )

Glad you enjoyed the story.


Flanders - Dec 17, 2010 10:57 pm - Hasn't voted

How do we ever survive our trips?

Even when we're not hiking you find a way to get in a good scrambly route. Surprised you took it down....

Brian Jenkins

Brian Jenkins - Dec 18, 2010 8:14 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: How do we ever survive our trips?

Honestly, I don't know how we haven't had more mishaps on our trips. The hiking gods are looking out for us.

Scrambly is good!

Sierra Ledge Rat

Sierra Ledge Rat - Dec 18, 2010 10:34 am - Hasn't voted

Similar experience

I had a similar experience, except I applied my caving experience to climb into the crawl space and tunnel into the basement to get back in the house. Now I just hide a spare key in the garden. (:

Brian Jenkins

Brian Jenkins - Dec 18, 2010 10:13 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Similar experience

Oh, wow. Would love to read that story some time. That's awesome.

Yep, have been thinking about the hidden spare key thing too. Haven't decided on a spot yet.


bajaandy - Dec 19, 2010 12:10 pm - Hasn't voted

What the hell?!

I can see the looks that the dog gave you...
Your story reminds me of the time we got rained out of Joshua Tree and instead "camped" in the living room. The exposed beams hanging over the two story facade made a perfect place to practice jugging and rapping.

Brian Jenkins

Brian Jenkins - Dec 20, 2010 1:41 am - Hasn't voted

Re: What the hell?!

Nice! You're giving me ideas about the beams we have in here. I don't even think my wife will notice if I put some bolts and hangers up there! Thanks!


kwag - Dec 21, 2010 2:44 am - Hasn't voted

Great Story!

Sounds like it was an epic adventure, and you didn't even have to leave your house. It was very fun to read.

Brian Jenkins

Brian Jenkins - Dec 21, 2010 2:52 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Great Story!

Thanks very much, glad you enjoyed it.



dadndave - Dec 23, 2010 4:46 pm - Voted 10/10


As soon as I saw the title I figured you were heading for a roof to rescue a cat or something.

You could have used a dulfersitz for which you only need a rope but although I've tried it, I honestly can't recall ever doing it on a totally vertical surface.

That was a fun read. Glad you thought to take your shoes off.

Viewing: 21-40 of 62

Applying Climbing Skills to Everyday Life (Or Why It Took Me An Hour to Get the Paper This Morning)

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