Topclimber trial run

One of the things that I had to solve at some point was finding a way to get up the mast by myself. Previously, I had gone up the mast by putting my climbing harness on, attaching both halyards and then bribing the Nancy Blackett crew with beer to winch me up the mast.

This had several problems

  • It took ages
  • Required 3 people (or two if the person winching stopped occasionally to pull taut the safety line)
  • Most importantly, climbing harnesses are NOT made to dangle from for any length of time. This meant that often after going all the way to the top my genitals had turned into something resembling a smooshed plum, and my legs were all tingly. Not great.

A few months ago I bought a topclimber from a guy on the internet, second hand (though it was unused). This is basically a bosuns chair, a strap and a couple of those climbing things that I can’t remember the name of that don’t let rope through with tension on it. You basically haul up a line with a halyard, pull it taut and then haul yourself up, alternating between feet and arms. It makes a lot more sense once you get going.

Here is me looking unimpressed around 20 feet off the ground


With someone pulling a safety line, I used it to go up to unbend the AIS antenna that I’d bent in the summer by being lazy and not bothering to turn into the wind to drop the main. Oops.


  • it was a lot more stable feeling than the ‘winched up by friends’ method.
  • didn’t destroy my private parts
  • was actually faster

so I’m pretty pleased with it. It’s pretty fiddly to setup, but there is a newer version called a mastclimber which apparently improves on that. And unlike some other mast climbing methods, you don’t have to remove the main sail to use the sail track.

The thing I gotta figure out now is how to rig a safety line so I can go up solo. Thinking of using one of those fancy sliding knots on the spare halyard, but we will see!

Also if I have to do this in the middle of the ocean (as my friend phil did after his shroud broke crossing the pacific) I’m going to literally shit myself, so lets hope I don’t have to.



  1. Honestly it sounds like something you should try doing for practice, just to know how it would feel if you needed to on your big trip next year. I guess you would have to probably have someone with you to steer for the practice if a ship/boat approached.

  2. They are called Ascenders 🙂

    Look into a prussik, a short loop of cord/friction knot you can use as a back up on a line. But the issue with most back ups like this is descending. I don’t know how many hands you need to lower using the topclimber but prussiks, Klemheists or Bachmanns all take a bit of fussing if you want to lower smoothly.

    • Ah yes, that’s it! Thanks Bruce, I’ll look into doing that. Def gonna take a bit of fussing I think to sort it

  3. With my topclimber I use a customized knot on the spare halyard (I wind a non-slippery line around the spare halyard and over itself a couple to times, with the last roll tucked under two rolls and out – hard to explain!). Easy to do, easy to push up and down along the halyard, enough friction to save me, not too much to leave me hanging in case of main halyard failure. By the time I re-learned to make a prussik knot, it would be dark.

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