Rope set up

Jugg’s thread about snapping mentioned tieing off. I’ve done a few gutters from a ladder or from up top. Had an experience this fall that got me to thinking I’m not doing this anymore. At the same time, I’ve done a fair amount of protected rock climbing, moutaineering, ice climbing. Years in the past. I’m not a pro, but rope work is not foreignt to me. Can someone point me to resources to explore this. Gutters might stick around if I can find a way to do it from the ground or midigate risk from up top.


For a few months now, IWCA has promoted WC’er training for At-Height WC’ers:

Desert Specialty Rigging - Supply
Lost Wages, NV

They offer a “complete 4-day course developed specifically for at-height window cleaners based on IWCA I-14.1 and ANSI standards.”

A g e n d a s - S a f e t y - T r a i n i n g

Either that, or buy Phil some beer and he’ll help you.

Theres a pro model gutter vac available or theres a DIY plan for one at the link

It’s not that hard. Just takes a few extra minutes to set up. I toss a weighed small rope over the home, pull over my rope, then go to the back of the home and toss again. This is only done if the home has a chiminey. I then figure 8 one end, put the other end through it. I then just pull the rope to close the loop around the chiminey. I then set up my harness, put the rope in my GRIGRI. The grigri is sweet as it allows you to basicly work hands free. But with that said I also have a prusik knot set just in case the grigri slips. Which can happen if your rope gets frozen or wet, but with that said you really should not use a rope when frozen or wet. Set up my ladder an go up top and start cleaning. Big thing to be aware of is the pendulum (spelling) effect. Basicly if you go all the way out to a corner of the roof and fall, your rope could be long enough where you will swing to the middle of the home. Could still be very dangers and life altering. If there is no chiminey I toss over the home and tie off to a tree. nothing safe to tie off to I won’t do the job. I won’t even tie off to my truck. I want a perminant structure, but that’s just me. I know tieing to a truck would pretty much be safe, but my luck the bumper would rip off. The way down is a whole other issue. I basicly stradle the apex of the roof by the chiminey, untie the figure 8 and then tie that into my harness. I then go back down the ladder with basicly both ends of the rope. Untie the figure 8 and pull the rope. Also sometimes I will take an old garden hose and put the rope through it so the chiminey will not wear out the rope.
Whole set up cost me maybe $250.00 with 250 ft of rope.
Even though I had an issue with that one customer, most are very happy to see me on the 2nd and 3rd levels of their homes. Seems around here it’s very hard to find someone who will clean that high. They all say the same thing when they see me up there tied off. “Oh how great, you are tied to the house. That makes me feel alot better.”

Btw I uploaded a Army FM to my site that will teach you just about everything you want to know about climbing, safety, knots etc.

Great post!

I’d like to add my 2 cents on the subject.
Chimney’s in my experience, are one of the last places I would tie off to. I’ve seen too many unstable, loose brick chimney’s in my area. Once I tried tieing off to one. I leaned against it, and the thing nearly tipped over!
Anyways, Anchors and safety lines require good judgement and creativity. There are “engineered” anchors and “non-engineered” anchors:
Engineered: A fixed anchor point built into the building by the manufacturer or contractor such as Roof Anchors.
Non-engineered: Tree trunks, the hitch of your truck.
Here is a link from Washington Labor and Industries. Good info.

I use just a prusik knot. Although I have great confidence in the prusik, having the GriGri in combination isn’t bad either. I would never use the GriGri by it’s self. It will slip because the device doesn’t have a multidirectional bite like the prusik knot does… And the grigri is not a hands free device.

Harnesses - do you use a seat harness or a full body harness and to you clip in front or back. Regarding decent, from my rock climbing days. You could also attach a figure eight belay plate or rescue figure eight belay plate to your harness, run both ropes through this and walk yourself backward to your ladder and down your ladder. Requires one hand to stop a fall, but once at the ladder you could just climb down. One concern on the described setup. Climbing ropes are amazingly durable, but if you did take a fall, pendelumed (?) from a far edge to a middle chimney or other-end chimney and you draged your rope over any sharp edge, you could be history.

There’s gotta be a way that you can work in the middle of the rope with opposing anchors set apart from eachother on opposite ends of the rope. This would allow you to move along the length of the middle of the rope while following a roof edge. It would minimize or eliminate the swing factor if you went off the edge. Maybe opposite anchors with middle of the rope run through a figure eight belay plate and a prusic in either rope leading into the figure eight. You could play the prusics against each other to move along the roof line. Problem would be getting your rope length right in the first place so that you could reach all parts of the roof.

Just thinking.


I believe OSHA requires use of a full body harness for a fall “arrest” system. For a fall “restraint” system you can use a seat type harness.
Me personally, I use a rock climbing harness. I know, I need to up grade to a industrial style seat harness. I have a full body harness somewhere in the truck :o Full body harness are way too cumbersome for all that movement. Quite honestly, I’m not sure which one I’m suppose to wear. I’ll need to look into that more.

I use a seat harness. There are many set ups that will work for you. Thing is you will always be in danger, it’s a matter of how much risk are you willing to take. For me, my set up works fine. I’m only 145 lbs so I’m not putting a ton of weight on anything. Of course with that said, that’s me taking a risk by taking off my break hand. Which should NEVER be done. But there are times I have too. I only do it when I know I’m fully locked off. I thought about the figure 8 also, in fact when purchasing my gear it was my 1st choice. I like how that can also be used to lock off, but once again. Not recommened. I took the grigri cause I liked the automatic functionality of the device. I don’t need to have a belayer with me and if I happen to fall when I don’t have my hands on the device it should lock off. I’m trusting the device will do what it’s advertising it will. The set up you mention would be super safe, but I use my stuff for gutter cleaning. I think that would be over kill and take sometime to set up and breakdown. I could see using it if you are going to be the roof for a long period. I am mostly on a roof for about 1 hour.
Good call on the chimney. It is true that they are not the best things to be tied off to. Another risk I’m willing to take. Man I’m a big risk taker. lol. Anyway there was 1 chimney that I ran across last week that had me question leaving my rope around it. So I took it off and tied off to the vent pipe. LOL JUST KIDDING. I was actually kind of ****ed cause now I had to go back down and reset up with a back yard tree. But when I question certain things and get a little lazy about them. IE I just want to get the job done an move to the next one. I tell myself. “If you don’t do this right, you might not make it to the next job. Then what will you be thinking when you are laying on the ground. If your thinking at all.” Then I change the set up.

BTW I have yet to run into a gutter that I think would fully cut threw the rope. What I can see happening though, is the rope ripping the gutter out by getting hung up on a nail.

What precautions do you use when you tie-off to a tree (or anything else on the ground? Helper, signage, lock vehicle and take keys with you, etc.

Well I don’t tie off to the truck but I always lock it. I have this fear I will walk out of a house one day while cleaning only to see it driving down the road lol. But when I tie off to the tree, I show the customer where the rope is. I tie a large yellow beach towel to the rope so anyone walking in the yard can see it. I also have 2 orange cones and two yellow folding signs I set up about 10 ft out of the rope. I hate using the yellow fold outs as I always have to sand bag them down or else they tend to blow over. I don’t have enough gutter work to justify a helper although I wish I did. If I had a helper with me I would have them belay me and the job would go alot faster. But still I’m lucky if I can pull in $200 per day in gutters…


Lot of great info here…Thanks!

This post reminds me of what our profession used to be… “those guys who do things people are scared sh*tless to do themselves.”
When half of the job was figuring out how to get it done.

Safety Direct Ltd. (Fall Protection Equipment Manufacturer) look at their catalog and they are quite willing to talk to you and provide, design and manufacture equipment for you. all my harness’s are custom made for me. and i have the fun of trying out their prototype equipment. as they are a major equipment manufacturing business. they know what they are talking about