Not Climbing : Washing Machine Belay

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I’ve not had a functioning washing machine for several years. Not a major inconvenience. I’ve always been lazy about washing clothes, nowadays can justify for green reasons. As long as I have a clean shirt if I’m going out anywhere, that much is hand-washable. Girlfriend Mari has kindly been doing bits for me for the past couple of years.

But I have a washing machine, in the old house (No.7, 50 metres away), but the power’s off there. My plan was to get a new one for New Place (No.10), part of the reasoning being that if I manage to rent No.7, anyone staying there will want one. The other part is that there’s a flight of steps outside No.7 and that the designated place for a washing machine here is upstairs in the bathroom. Washing machines are very heavy, by design, if you ever open one up you will notice a big lump of concrete, for stability.

I specifically wanted to get my next wachine machine from the local stockists, in Castiglione. Local, local. Also they could haul it up. Twice I’ve typed wachine. Why did that never get contracted? Exported? ‘Lavatrice’, though perfectly logical Latin-based form, sounds a bit toilet to an English ear.

My mother gave me money last Xmas to get a new Waschmaschine. But getting one was still not high on my list because a machine à laver (රෙදි සෝදන යන්ත්රය) demands a modicum of water pressure, and the supply here is lacking. This is solved by having tanks and a pump, but my setup had been out of action for a couple of years, thanks largely to the plumbers I was using being the lousiest on the planet. But recently I sorted out the pump, it was quicker to learn how to do it myself than have these jokers do it (mostly motivated by the desire for hot water, another story…).

So, washing machine time.

Coincidentally I’m virtually out of gas – there’s a tank buried outside, which will cost a lot to refill, and the last electricity bill was painful and there’s another due any time. I may well also have to pay megabucks for re-certification, the gas stuff was still in Caroline’s name, no sign of the paperwork. Rubbish at doing paid work, funds descending.

Plan B, shift the washing machine over.

I’d discussed it with Mari the other day. She’d suggested borrowing/buying one of the trolleys designed to go down stairs, a step up from the basic thing I have. But it bugged me, I must be able to sort this with what I have…

Although the thing weighs about the same as me (say 75kg), once balanced on the wheels it wasn’t at all difficult to move it on the flat. Down steps is another matter, and there were other liminal spaces (to use a word that I’ve only ever heard Will Self use, frequently).

Climbing gear!

But first I screwed together some old, surface-wormy but basically sound barrel staves to make a sled :

They say ‘measure twice’. Aye, but don’t measure the same bit twice. I somehow made the length one more stave-width than intended. It worked out well though, I had the ends I’d cut off the cross pieces, screwed them in and they kinda clamped it in position. A lot more luck than judgement there.

I’d already noticed there was a rusty old metal loop in the wall, tapped with a hammer and it seemed sound. A little further up was a more recent loop associated with the power lines.

Which could not have been better. I’ve watched a lot of videos on this. Bomber quad anchor!

I put harness on, attached Grigri (belay device) to the other side of the pulley, shuffled it down the steps.

(Slightly misleading title to this post, this was more like a rescue setup, I was following the dead weight down, kicking back in line as needed).

So far so good.

The next interstitial event was the step up out of the yard of No.7, now with the 2-wheel trolley. Quite high, tight angle. I reused the sled as part of a ramp, added a couple more loose staves. I managed to thug it, but not without some cursing. But I did think about it plenty, did everything to minimise pain to myself and the washing machine.

Up across the lane, drive, path into the yard of New Place. Relatively painless, but had to do it at a low angle – my back is already reminding me.

There’s a very small step up into my yard, on a slope, step sloping, but call it 10cm. I put a stave across, so 5cm + 5cm. I didn’t think this was anything to worry about, fool, but it was nearly The Fail. Balance went way over, nearly lost control. Would have battered the washing machine a fair bit, and my leg wasn’t far off. Luckily got it back in balance, up to the next transition (suck on that, Will Self).

There is a place for the washing machine up in the bathroom. But actually, no reason it couldn’t live in the Lab, room around ground level, for now.

But nasty pair of steps to get up to get in.

By now I was flagging a bit. Just last week I bought another pulley. Sod this, let Archimedes move the world from here.

It worked, but I should point out one major issue with using rock climbing gear for stuff-shifting tasks : the rock climbing ropes are really stretchy. I got some gear initially for roof repair, have serendipitously found it useful for tree work and shifting stuff. Not knowing any better, I defaulted to kit designed to catch you painlessly if you fall off a climb. (I believe that one I’ve got is 20m of a Beal 9.8mm, was cheapest that looked reliable). Dynamic rope, extends 20-30% on a bounce. Totally inappropriate when you have things attached close all the time. Things like yourself, tree branches or washing machines. Through pulleys, it gets really silly, pull pull pull…stretch stretch stretch.

The arborist/architectural/potholing folks tend to use static ropes (maybe <10% extension?). But also really thick ropes that mean the devices have to be suitable, and their devices cost lots more than hobby climber’s stuff. For odd jobs, not climbing, I didn’t make too bad a choice.

Job done.

Well, I haven’t checked it still works yet.


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