Hey, I’m a big fan of your site. I saw something about crane swinging in one of your interviews and was wondering if you could give me some more information.
You’ll want to pick a crane that is tall enough that you won’t hit the ground when you swing from the shaft, but not so high that your rope won’t reach the ground when it’s time to get lowered. About 50m is ideal, but less will work. Of course, you’ll also want to pick a crane that has a clear swing trajectory: i.e. no power lines, trees, solid objects in the way. To avoid any uncertainty, it’s best to do a dry run with a heavy pack tied to the end of the rope.
Onto the swinging. You’ll need two people for this. The belayer climbs up the crane and out to the end of the boom with the rope. He anchors himself in, builds another directional anchor slightly above himself, and runs the rope from his belay device, through the directional, and to the ground. If you have one of those Reverso belay devices you can just belay off the upper anchor directly. The person swinging grabs the rope on the ground, ties in, and climbs up the shaft while the belayer brings in the slack. This is probably the spookiest, and most dangerous part: the swinger has to climb the outside of the shaft (as opposed to the nice ladder up the center) since he’s tied into the rope. If he were to fall low on the crane, before the belayer brought in enough rope, he’d swing out and hit the ground. Luckily climbing a crane is about as easy as climbing a ladder.
Swinger: pick your spot on the shaft where you want to swing from. The higher up you are, the crazier the swing. Remember, it’s best to do a dry run with a heavy pack from the height you intend to swing from. Be sure that the rope is clear of any sort of cables or hooks hanging from the boom. When your sure you’re not going to die, let ‘er rip! YAAAAAHOOOO! Belayer: don’t be alarmed if the crane rocks back and forth a bit, or a lot. It happens. That’s why you’re anchored in right?
Once you’ve done your swing, the belayer can lower you to the ground and it’s time to switch. Save some time and bring the rope up with you for the belayer.
Things to watch out for are friction on the rope: make sure that the rope isn’t rubbing on anything metal! A jagged piece of metal will slice through a rope quicker than anything you’ve experienced in rock climbing.
Crane swinging is one of the biggest rushes I’ve ever experienced. If you do decide to do it, take some photos and send ’em my way.