Preparing to climb the mast with an ATN Mastclimber

I need to climb my mast to run a new spinnaker halyard/topping lift for a yet-to-be-purchased whisker pole. I also want to see how the masthead works in general, see what needs attention etc. The climbing part I engage with some trepidation as I do not want to spend the rest of my life in a wheelchair or worse after falling from the top.

To learn how to climb safely, I scouted around the University of YouTube. People climb many different ways, and some make it seem rather involved. This guy seemed pretty reasonable:
Some general rules are:

  1. Have some safety redundancies built into the system.
  2. Don’t trust shackles. Trust ropes.
  3. Don’t forget that what goes up must come down.
  4. You may be up there for a while, so think comfort.

As a 13 year old boy scout I learned how to tie a swiss seat, and I know I could tie prussik barrel knots and probably do the whole process with lines I have inherited in my cockpit locker. No thanks. I bought an ATN mastclimber. The West Marine video sold me.


It’s expensive, but compared to the testicular compression of most climbing harnesses (don’t even ask about the swiss seat) I have encountered, and the sturdiness of the ratcheting gear that the ATN offers, I’ll cough up the $450. (Actually, I convinced myself that it cost less because I used a gift certificate I received as a thank you for coaching my son’s 2nd grade boys basketball team. Mental tomfoolery.)

“Bomber ratchet, bro”


At least two approaches come to mind as applies to redundancy.

  1. I could put the mastclimber on one halyard and have a backup system on a second halyard. I would have to move two lock points on the primary and two lock points on the secondary with each inchworm step up the rope.
  2. Attach two halyards to a reliable (read, rather new) climbing rope and depend on it. This is what the West Marine guy does, and I think it is how I will do it.

Both my halyards are wire-spliced-to-rope, and while in the example video, the climber can tie bowlines to his climbing rope, I need to find some satisfactory way of attaching the climbable rope to the wire halyards. The obvious solution is to use the shackles (which one is not supposed to do!) I have tied on ‘backup knots that are meant to catch on the wire thimbles should the shackle fail. I have tested the backup knots alone, but this is weak point in my system, expecting the knots to cinch over the wire thimbles. I feel okay about this given that I am (will be) using two shackles. If one fails, there will be another one and the knot.

Shackle loop and Backup knot


Backup knot will bear weight on thimble


One last point as to the reliability of shackles. The ATN mast-climber relies on shackles to keep a climber attached to the system. If one thinks shackles present real danger, he shouldn’t use the ATN mastclimber in stock condition as sold.


I got about 5′ off the deck in my practice session. I need a longer climbing line to go all the way up the mast and actually do the work. It’s going to be slow going climbing up the rope, I can tell you that.

I should add that this was a good exercise in part because it required me to lower my jib, something I haven’t had to do since purchasing my boat early in the winter. Lowering the furling jib was actually much easier than I feared. I also realized I have twin slots in my furler so I could run twin headsails if, you know, I “needed” to.

[Epilogue] After posting this in the forum I received consistent feedback to replace my wire-to-rope halyards. I did so before climbing my mast all the way.