Girl’s Guide to Rope Access – My Experience with IRATA
Written By: Vicky
Embarking on the IRATA Level 1 course, I had no idea what to imagine. It was a lot easier watching rope access training maneuvers through the glass walls of my cozy office desk. Once time came for me to step into the way too over-sized harness for the first time, my picture changed completely.
The KONG backup was no longer a piece of equipment in the sea of database files that reminded me of King Kong. Now this little device was a life saver I’d always forgot to pull down with me while descending. After getting my hair stuck in the chest ascender, I opted to braid it back for all future height endeavors. My hands and nails started resembling that of a chimney sweep. It was also the only time I could say I broke a nail without being called girly.
The hardest part of the course was lifting and putting on the harness in the morning. As the week progressed, the harness was becoming magically heavier (although the number of equipment on it remained the same). From a physical perspective, the IRATA course was the best workout I’ve done - I wish more gyms had an aid-climbing wall for building those thighs and calves!Tying knots was my least favorite subject. It’s the only time the words ‘Bunny Ears’ made me wince; so much I even dreamt of knots the night before assessment! During my week of training, I had made my fair share of beginner mistakes. Aside from a few troubles with the ID descender (putting it on upside down, loading the rope incorrectly) I also kept forgetting to lock off the harness croll, or would get tangled in the ropes during a rescue.
Although I initially felt nervous at the start of the test, as soon as we got on the ropes I became more comfortable as I completed each section.
As the test neared the finish line, I had started doubting and wondering whether I passed. I felt really excited and happy when I found out that I passed.
By the end of the week, my arms looked as though they got attacked by a sea of flying hammers and one could easily play a game of connect-the-dots on my arms. But the numerous bruises were completely worth the adventure and certificate which I am currently awaiting impatiently to hang beside my fashion design diploma.
After completing the course, I have even more respect for rope techs everywhere. I have more of an insight into the industry. Although it’s physically demanding job and requires a lot of work, it certainly offers the best office views to those who pursue it as a career!
The IRATA course was an incredibly exciting, and fun experience where I learned lots of new skills and I would suggest that everyone experience it for themselves. Since I can’t picture myself hanging off 500ft drops, welding, pipe fitting, or doing NDT inspections, I will gladly pass the torch along to the skilled gents who do a great job and I will go back to my cozy office view of the training jungle gym.
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