Not Climbing : Mattress Rescue

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we have a problem

Now lockdown is easing in the UK my mother has starting making noises about coming over. She usually visits at least once a year, but her health’s not been great the past couple of years and, ermm, pandemic. I mentioned this to Marinella this morning, she asked, “where’s she going to sleep?”. Well, my bed, I’ll take the fold-down, as usual. I do have a spare bed on the soppalco (mezzanine above music room) and the fold-down couch in the kitchen, but my bed is the comfiest, and has a bathroom next to it, major bonus in my mother’s book.

Except it hasn’t been very comfortable of late. Ancient mattress, and when Claudiopup was a bit younger he enjoyed tearing it up. Bare springs in places, which I’ve worked around by piling on folded blankets in appropriate places. Has got a bit medieval.

Over in No.7, my previous house just across the lane (empty, awaiting letting or sale), there’s a perfectly good mattress – a futon I was given years ago, no doubt better for the spine. I’ve been putting off bringing it over because it seemed so daunting. Double mattresses are fairly heavy things, total nightmare to shift because of shape & bendiness and both houses have narrow, winding stairways. Two strong people needed, even then there’d be a lot of cursing. I’m not strong. Could ask neighbours who’d be happy to oblige, but don’t like asking…

But, in recent months I’ve been accumulating climbing gear. For other jobs around the place – fix roof; trim trees. I do fancy trying climbing for recreation again (after occasional attempts 30+ years ago), but that’s a just corollary of having spent $$$ on climbing gear, get the most out of it.

This mattress replacement, surely I, with the help of climbing gear on Newtonian physics, can do it without breaking my back. Give me a lever long enough…

[[Tyrolean traverse did cross my mind, very elegant solution, but most of this house would be in the way, and frankly, it’d be suicidal…]]

Step one : hugely encouraging.

I’ve watched lots of videos recently featuring not only people that fix roofs and rock climbers but also those of arborists (Rivendell with chainsaws). And high-building window cleaners. And the Americans that hitch themselves up in trees on a weird ladder setup to shoot things, presumably at half-term when the schools are empty. A brilliant bit of kit across them is a lanyard (longe, cordino). Shortish, extendable line, clip yourself in for backup safety/support.

The number of times I’ve been around climbers on crags in the Peak, had to look away. They’re hopping around unroped right on the edge of a potentially fatal drop. When so easy to be safe.

So I got a 3m/10′ bit of dynamic rope, a double-lock Via Ferrata-style carabiner and a Kong Slyde, a minimal little plate that allows the length to be adjusted easily (funnily enough Kong mention their use as energy dissipators, but I for one wouldn’t trust one for a Via Ferrata).

So versatile. Slapped on a pulley, hoist the mattress into a roll, lock it with (120cm) slings held by quickdraws.

At this point, 90% of the hassle of shifting a mattress has gone.

Next, set up anchors for my speedline (hah, terminology).

I put a bolt into my bedroom window ledge and attached a knotted rope some years ago. I guess around the time there were the nasty earthquakes around L’Aquila, not all that far away, bit of (rational) paranoia. That end sorted. Sling around a sturdy bush at the other side of the yard. Rope between, this one a proper dynamic climbing rope. Frictions knots and pulley to tension. Very ad hoc, but worked.

BIG POINTS IF YOU CAN NAME THE SIX KNOTS (one used twice). I only knew one of these a few weeks ago. Thank you weird YouTube people.

Here we go

I’ve already been surprised by how stretchy dynamic rope is, but that was with my weight on it. Mattress must weigh a lot less, but still, boing! This photo is staged – I pulled in more slack.

Note the blue lanyard used again, this time to stop it swooping down to far (it did anyway).

I took it down, put some crappy nylon rope around with bowlines to keep the roll and bunged it in the cantina. Either for the end of the month to put by bins when big things are picked up or to use as a bloody awful bouldering mat.

Next, new mattress. Same tying procedure. Even though it looked like heavier material, I guess without all the iron of archaic European mattresses it was much more manageable.

Here I made A STUPID BEGINNER’S MISTAKE. For an anchor I’d looped the rope around the bricks & mortar divider between the windows, I think with a hitch so it’d dangle a bit and balance. I used a locking carabiner. DIDN’T LOCK THE CARABINER.

Early on it crossed my mind a lot of this looked like mountain rescue stuff. Where I grew up in Derbyshire, that, and cave rescue were things. Similar terrain & issues here, but about 5km from here the Protezione Civile guys have a helicopter. Doubt they’d take a callout for a stuck mattress.

Right here you have a very bad situation. On loading, the rope etc. got messed up, jamming the anchor carabiner open and the rope stuck. Freeing the rope might have caused the casualty to fall to their doom. In this case, no human life involved, but it was lucky a lovely old planter at the top of the steps didn’t get knocked off.

I was able to hook the lanyard just below the bad carabiner, yank it from above and it clicked back properly (lanyards ftw!).

Taking it to it’s new home, hooked back onto the rope there.

Retensioned. Attached the other rope from bedroom, naively thinking haul it up.

Ok, not that naive. Did occur to me at this point that it really should be able to clear the window ledge. So stuck a couple of screw eyes into the beam in the bedroom, rigged anchor to haul it up higher.

Hmm. No clearance whatsoever.

I swore twice. Once with this realization, second time on catching myself on some dangling thorns. I tried putting another screw eye into a rafter just above, outside the window. But the wood started splitting, thought better.

Now properly stuck, in the abstract sense. Spent ages just trying to haul, (just using lanyard & the remaining carabiners with friction knots on cords).

Last night I heard mention on the radio of whalers, apparently Arthur Conan Doyle worked whaling ships to make a bob or two before doing Sherlock Holmes. On my mind, got a steel fence stake and trying hauling him aboard. No joy.

Gave up. Let Moby Dick go free. Lowered down, unclipped.

I guess because I had been pulling a lot, it didn’t know feel too heavy. Pulled it over my back, took it upstairs without any trouble, Igor stance.

Job done.

This took hours. But apart from getting the job done, was really good for learning. I need to be totally familiar with all this stuff before taking on the tasks where there will be genuine risk (however small). I came close to damaging plant life this time, def don’t want to damage mine. Some lack of foresight – making it up as I went along didn’t entirely work (though I never went to a position I couldn’t back out of). Outrageously stupid mistake of not screwing up a key carabiner. Also, you can never have too many carabiners.

Hope this thing is comfortable.


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