The history of a bloke on a rope
Ropes have been used by man for several
thousand years. The first 'ropes' were natural
vines that were used to swing like Tarzan from
tree to tree.
By platting and joining plant
fibres it was possible to make
strong ropes that could be used
to join, bind, pull and climb up.
Without rope, the pyramids and
Stonehenge could not have
been built, boats could not have
sailed, wells could not have
been dug and simple
mechanical devices such as
the pulley would have been
Like spiders, man was able to
use rope to ascend and
descend in order to access
food and shelter or simply
travel from one place to
Modern-day examples of
the early use of rope for
access can be seen in
various parts of the world.
The honey hunters of
Nepal descend sheer
cliffs on ropes to harvest
precious honey. In
Thailand and Viet Nam,
agile climbers ascend
ropes to collect the glutinous nests of swifts that
are the main ingredient in bird's nest soup.
On sailing ships, crew members are hauled aloft
to effect repairs to the sails, rigging and masts.
Over the last two hundred years, buildings have
become taller and the man-made world has
created a vertical challenge. As you can see in
the photos on the right, safety did not appear to
be a concern in the early 1900s when
construction workers operated without ropes or
Mainly as a result of advances in mountaineering
and abseiling, rope access techniques were used
to position workers onto the outside of structures
for cleaning, maintenance
The offshore oil & gas
industry operates in a hostile
environment and works to
high safety standards.
Access to hard-to-get-at
locations on the many
offshore installations was a
problem. Initially scaffolding
or a crane and basket was
used but this was both expensive and carried risk.
It required a radical new approach and the
industry called upon the expertise of climbers with
ropes to reach these otherwise inaccessible
Rope access is now a standard and cost effective
route to get the right skills and right equipment to
where it is required.