Up 1,000 feet!
A ham friend asked me what was the highest ham tower I had ever been on.
I suppose it is a bit unfair, considering that I am a professional TV broadcast engineer, but I've been up 1,000 feet in the air. True, it was a TV broadcast tower, but a few years earlier the local club hung a 2-meter Ringo antenna on an upside-down arm mount (ice protection) for the new .31-.91 repeater we put up that covered West Central Wisconsin. So it was also a 'ham tower'.
It was the fall of 1977, and I was working at WEAU-TV 13 in my hometown of Eau Claire, Wisconsin. The tower in the backyard supported an FM station at 900 ft. Up on the pole at 1,000 feet was the old Channel 13 slot antenna, unused now as the station had a 2,000 ft. tower 30 miles south at Fairchild, Wisconsin, the only 2,000 footer east of the Mississippi. The lamps were going out, and I begged my engineering boss to let me climb the tower and relamp it for the station. He finally relented, and gave me stern instructions not to drop any bulbs. I had one laundry bag full of 12 sidelamps (100 watts each) and six big 600 watt beacon bulbs for the three flashing beacons. I also had an empty laundry bag for old bulbs. It didn't matter if the old bulbs broke in the bag, but the boss threatened to count lamp bases when I got down!
He paid me overtime rates for the job one Saturday, and it took me 8-1/2 hours to get back to the ground. The only thing I carried besides bulb bags and climbing belt was my Yashica camera full of Ektachrome slide film.
APPROACHING 900 FEET. These are the FM broadcast ring antennas. You can see the side platform on the tower above. That is the transition to an outside ladder to access the top triangle plate. The post sticks up another 100 feet above that point. You can see the ladder inside the tower legs, also.
Just below the platform you can see two of the three obstruction 'sidelights' at that level that I have to replace yet. After that I have only two large beacon bulbs up at the top to replace.
THE POST! To reach this point, I had to take a short ladder up the outside face of the tower and climb onto the flat triangular plate across the top of the 3-legged tower. This is a flat surface with no handholds, there is a bit of a breeze, and the tower is shimmying and shuddering as it normally does. The horizon everywhere is downward. I had to focus on crawling ten feet or so over to this post for a handhold, all the while feeling much like a leaf blowing in the wind! Once here, I strapped on and rested to take this picture of the rest of the way up. This was the most nerve wracking part of the whole climb. I had to climb the bronze 'rib cage' of the channel 13 slot antenna you see here. The ribs are barely wide enough to get a fat boot toe into for a foothold, and it's like climbing a flexible ladder that moves and sways a bit in the wind.
Finally reaching the top beacon, I strapped on and leaned out, flexing the post a bit to get this shot. You can see the side platform where I had to crawl out onto the exterior ladder, and the triangle platform to crawl across to get to the post. The FM ring antennas are barely visible between the platform and the tower leg apex.
The View to the North. US Highway 53 and Dells Pond on the Chippewa River.
Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Fall of 1977.