Building a Scaling Pole

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Building a Scaling Pole

Postby GroundquestMSA » Dec 24, 2013 5:35 pm

Just for the fun of it, I would like to build a scaling pole. Though it seems that such methods are somewhat obsolete, there are a few caves where I can practically put such a tool to use, and I would rather use a pole than teach myself to bolt climb. I have some ideas for materials and design, but want to see if you have any tips before I start wasting money.

Thirty feet is about the maximum length I'm comfortable with. I'm thinking a spur on the foot and two lines from the top should work for stabalization. I'm not sure how to approach the attachment point up top.

I also don't know what kind of stress a scaling pole is subjected to. I'm a flooring installer and have access to a bunch of steel carpet stretcher tubing. Are any of you familiar with these tubes? Do you think they're too light for the job? I'll test some later tonight.

Cheers,
J
Last edited by GroundquestMSA on Dec 24, 2013 6:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Building a Scaling Pole

Postby GroundquestMSA » Dec 24, 2013 5:55 pm

I just found this previous thread on the topic... should have checked first. I also just got word that there is a bunch of 2" galvanized pipe available in a local farmer's barn. That could work, but I'm not sure how to attach the sections.
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Re: Building a Scaling Pole

Postby rlboyce » Dec 24, 2013 6:14 pm

I prefer my grappling hook. :tonguecheek:

30 feet on a scaling pole... sounds kind of hairy!
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Re: Building a Scaling Pole

Postby GroundquestMSA » Dec 24, 2013 6:20 pm

GroundquestMSA wrote:I'm not sure how to attach the sections.

What do y'all think about sleeves and pins?

rlboyce wrote:30 feet on a scaling pole... sounds kind of hairy!

I suppose so. Of course, I'll test everything in the tree, on belay.
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Re: Building a Scaling Pole

Postby rlboyce » Dec 24, 2013 7:57 pm

Actually, a sleeve and pins might not be a bad idea. Just as long as the connections don't become too loose. Watch out for those tolerances! : ) If the ends of the pipe sections are threaded, maybe you can take advantage of that and use threaded couplers instead of going with a sleeve concept. Not sure how a threaded connection would last after many uses and cave dirt getting in there.

Depending on the diameter of the pole and the size of the pins, the pins may be able to double as rungs. Maybe that's getting too fancy though.

And if you want to get really fancy, maybe you can have a free-floating sleeve/collar that can ride up and down the pole. Attached to that collar you would have two eyes, where you would pass a rope through each eye. These ropes would drape down to the ground and would serve as a means for your helpers to keep you stable. As you advance up the pole, you place pins or rungs in along the way so that the collar can't go back down the pole.

No matter how fancy you get, any scaling pole over 15 feet seems kind of hairy to me. : )

Keep in mind also that things like this can get very heavy, very fast. Those pieces of pipe can add up to a lot of weight. It happens to us cave diggers every time we haul tools into a cave. We always end up with more weight than we want to be hauling. Additonal weight isn't bad for a little while, but it get's annoying fast, then just downright grueling as the trip goes on. Whatever you devise, keep it light as humanly possible, or you will never want to use it more than a handful of times.

I just did a quick calculation using 3.65 lb/ft (http://www.merchantsmetals.com/literatu ... anized.pdf). That comes out to a whopping 109.5 pounds for a 30' pole, and that doesn't include pegs or anything.
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Re: Building a Scaling Pole

Postby GroundquestMSA » Dec 24, 2013 8:15 pm

rlboyce wrote:Depending on the diameter of the pole and the size of the pins, the pins may be able to double as rungs. Maybe that's getting too fancy though.

And if you want to get really fancy, maybe you can have a free-floating sleeve/collar that can ride up and down the pole. Attached to that collar you would have two eyes, where you would pass a rope through each eye. These ropes would drape down to the ground and would serve as a means for your helpers to keep you stable. As you advance up the pole, you place pins or rungs in along the way so that the collar can't go back down the pole.


Instead of advancing a collar, I thought I would simply attach two guidelines to eyes in top section. These would be secured before climbing started. For the top attachment point (for rope, I haven't got a ladder) I think a U-shackle would work.

I don't actually have a lead that's 30' up. I do have multiple 15'-20's. That's still going to be 100 lbs of stuff once everything is included. Split three or four ways that'll be manageable I think.
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Re: Building a Scaling Pole

Postby tncaver » Dec 25, 2013 12:50 pm

A few years ago, several cavers used a hardwood tree as a climbing pole to access a lead that was about 20 feet up. We cut a live tree and hauled it into the cave after removing all limbs. There were places where the tree barely fit around corners but we managed to get it to the dome. We chose a hickory for it's strength and ability to bend rather than break. Rather than attaching any kind of steps to the pole, we rigged a rope to the top of the pole and climbed up the rope using normal vertical gear. The pole was also tied on two sides with ropes for stabilization. The ropes could be tied to boulders or held by other cavers like a rebelay to stabilize the pole. A loop was tied onto the pole at the top. It was firmly attached with a separate rope wrapped many times to ensure that it did not slide down the pole or come off. A main line was then run through the loop before the pole was lifted into place. One end of the main line was tied to a nearby boulder or rock outcrop. The the main line was then climbed up to the ledge where the caver could get off rope to check out the passage. This method worked perfectly, although 20 feet is about the maximum distance for such a pole and of course the pole required a cave without any tight bends. Once the passage is accessed, a permanent rope can be rigged to a bolt in the wall or if the passage ends, everyone can rappel back down and the rope can be untied from the bottom and pulled down. The tree can then be removed or left to rot. This method worked perfectly for that dome.

Another idea is to build a ladder made of either pressure treated or synthetic deck wood. Synthetic wood is heavier and more expensive than pressure treated, but it does not rot, mold or mildew. Ladder sections can be pre-designed, pre-cut and pre drilled before bringing into a cave, to be assembled on location inside the cave. This offers the advantage that short sections can be hauled into the cave around bends in the passage. Ladder rungs can be pre-cut and hauled in and holes pre-drilled for either galvanized nails or stainless steal wood screws for a stronger and more permanent ladder.

Once a ladder is assembled, it can be lifted into place which may require two to four people. Guy lines may also be attached as needed and the
length of the ladder is only dependent on the amount of space available to lift a ladder into place (which is basically the same amount of horizontal space as the height of the ladder required. It is possible to attach additional ladder sections while standing near the top of the ladder if necessary which will allow a taller ladder to be installed than the horizontal space available. It helps to pre-drill all holes and attach wood on the side poles to guide and hold a section in place while it is being attached. All sections can be assembled inside the cave on site and sections added
and assembled as necessary. It may be necessary to make the lower sections with sturdier and larger pieces of wood if the ladder is to go higher than 12 feet. This type of ladder has proven very useful even for very short pits that must be climbed repeatedly and makes it easy to haul digging equipment up and down a short drop. Ladders can eliminate the need for vertical gear in many cases.
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Re: Building a Scaling Pole

Postby Phil Winkler » Dec 25, 2013 4:10 pm

We used these extensively (pun intended) during the exploration of Holloch in Switzerland many years ago. I think we had 3 inch by 6ft sections of aluminum pipe which we joined using sleeves and bolts to clamp them. I've got a few pics somewhere of their use, too, which I'll post. They make a wonderful sound as you drag them up walls, thru passages, etc. Pretty sure there is a pic up on Old Caving Pics on FB showing the large climb with one in Niagara Fall Hall which we first discovered back in 1978.

Tilted against a wall and stabilized with lines port and starboard, we'd rig a cable ladder to the top, climb up and begin a technical rock climb with bolts, etc. It made the first 10m quite simple and fast.

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Re: Building a Scaling Pole

Postby tamarmole » Dec 26, 2013 8:50 am

I've used aluminium scaffold poles in the past. Typically six foot lengths joined with proprietary expansion clamps designed for scaffolding which fit in the end of the poles. Take at least one spare clamp as threads will inevitably get damaged or get gunged up. Likewise take a proper spanner not an adjustable. Drill a hole in the top of the top pole and use a shackle to attach an electron ladder. Anything over thirty feet becomes too unwieldy. I never used bracing or guy lines; I did have issues with the pole flexing; the best answer is not to look and climb quickly (and put the lightest person on the ladder).
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Re: Building a Scaling Pole

Postby caverdan » Dec 26, 2013 10:15 am

I heard a story many years ago about a self made scaleing pole breaking and killing a guy in the Guads. I believe it happened in Cottonwood cave. Does anyone else remember this?

This is a permanent ladder, but it is made of aluminum and is in sections that bolt together. It might give you some ideas. Be careful.
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Re: Building a Scaling Pole

Postby Extremeophile » Dec 26, 2013 10:27 am

There are a few places in Mammoth Cave where sectional ladders, design for deer hunting tree stands, have been used to access areas up to ~20' high. Each section is about 4' long. This might be a practical option for short climbs that are not too far from an entrance, but a scaling pole may be lighter. In some areas these ladders have been left in place to avoid the need for SRT.

http://www.amazon.com/Guide-Gear-20-Mini-Ladder/dp/B003BUXMP6/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?s=sporting-goods&ie=UTF8&qid=1388071270&sr=1-1-fkmr0&keywords=tree+stand+ladder+section
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Re: Building a Scaling Pole

Postby GroundquestMSA » Dec 29, 2013 6:34 pm

caverdan wrote:I heard a story many years ago about a self made scaleing pole breaking and killing a guy in the Guads. I believe it happened in Cottonwood cave. Does anyone else remember this?

This is a permanent ladder, but it is made of aluminum and is in sections that bolt together. It might give you some ideas. Be careful.
Image

Image


I like this ladder a lot. It looks expensive though.

I got 3 13' poles from a flooring store. They use them to hold rolls of vinyl flooring on the rack. The inside diameter is 2", and they seem to weigh about 30 lbs. each. I plan to cut two of them into 6.5' sections and the third into 4' sections. Instead of sleeves on the outside of the poles, I bought a section of scrap pipe with an outside diameter of just under 2". I can insert a bit of this into the ends of my sections, and secure them with pto pins. I'm thinking about welding one side to eliminate a bit of slop. Maybe something like this:
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Re: Building a Scaling Pole

Postby msm0711 » Dec 29, 2013 7:58 pm

If you followed along with that concept, but put some holes for a "U" shackles on each "female" end of the external pole, and matching holes on the "male" ends of the internal pole, you'd have some great stability. A locking pin on the "U"s would insure that they stayed put.

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Re: Building a Scaling Pole

Postby caverdan » Dec 30, 2013 11:46 am

GroundquestMSA wrote:
caverdan wrote:This is a permanent ladder, but it is made of aluminum and is in sections that bolt together. It might give you some ideas. Be careful.
Image

Image


I like this ladder a lot. It looks expensive though.


This ladder is installed in a Williams Canyon Project cave. One of the big advantages of being an NSS sponsered project is we can approach people like the US Air Force Academy engineering class and give them a problem to solve. They both designed the ladder and built it for us to put in the cave. :kewl:
It bolts together in section using an inner sleeve like your thinking of doing on your own pole. When I look at the drawing from msm0711, I see large diameter, heavy duty truck rear end shackels, in place of those u bolts. they could be used as rungs in the same manner as the ones in my picture. :wink:
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Re: Building a Scaling Pole

Postby tamarmole » Dec 30, 2013 2:42 pm

GroundquestMSA wrote:
caverdan wrote:I heard a story many years ago about a self made scaleing pole breaking and killing a guy in the Guads. I believe it happened in Cottonwood cave. Does anyone else remember this?

This is a permanent ladder, but it is made of aluminum and is in sections that bolt together. It might give you some ideas. Be careful.
Image

Image


I like this ladder a lot. It looks expensive though.

I got 3 13' poles from a flooring store. They use them to hold rolls of vinyl flooring on the rack. The inside diameter is 2", and they seem to weigh about 30 lbs. each. I plan to cut two of them into 6.5' sections and the third into 4' sections. Instead of sleeves on the outside of the poles, I bought a section of scrap pipe with an outside diameter of just under 2". I can insert a bit of this into the ends of my sections, and secure them with pto pins. I'm thinking about welding one side to eliminate a bit of slop. Maybe something like this:
Image


Slightly concerned about the poles, they don't sound like they are designed to be load bearing - if the walls are not thick enough the poles will buckle when loaded with catastrophic results.
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