AMHERST – Some assignments provide a great learning experience, and on Monday I learned I’m a wimp.
My 8 a.m. assignment was to climb, rung by rung, to the top of a 100-metre wind turbine and capture on camera the grandeur of Sprott Power’s Amherst wind farm project on the Tantramar Marsh.
Six of us started with a safety meeting at the base of the turbine and discussed exactly how we would scale the behemoth.
It was explained that there were four or five landings where we could rest, breaking the climb into manageable pieces.
I thought, “rest, who needs a rest. I’m going to zip right up.”
We were also told we would go up the ladder one person at a time. When somebody reached a landing, it would then be the next persons turn.
After the safety meeting we headed to the ladder and Sprott wind asset manager, Peder Schlanbusch, asked, “are you going to be alright.”
I said, “yes,” and thought to myself, “of course I’ll be ok. Why are you asking me? It’s the other two reporters we’re going up with that you should be worried about.”
Next, we stepped inside the base of the turbine and clipped on our harnesses.
Each harness has a safety clip that hooks onto a half-inch thick steel cable running right to the top of the turbine. If, for whatever reason, anybody were to fall from the ladder, the clip would immediately stop their descent.
We then went up one at a time. First went Schlanbusch, and Sprott technician, Joey Keough. Then it was the three reporters, with me going last, followed by a second Sprott technician, Zack Fisher.
The first part of the ascent went well. The ladder forced me to breath hard but I steeled myself, doing my best to show few signs of hardship when I reached the first landing.
The route to the second landing was a different story. The climb was double the length, and I began to worry.
I watched the others scale to the top without a break and figured it was up to me to do the same.
Half way up I took a break. I became concerned the others might begin to fear for my well being if I didn’t hurry, so I pushed hard, stepped on the second landing, staggered straight to the wall, put both forearms up on a four foot-high ledge, and breathed heavy.
“Everything OK,” asked Schlanbusch.
“Oh yeah,” I said, trying to smile between breaths.
“There’s no hurry,” said Schlanbusch. “Take your time.”
The next climb was even longer, so that sounded like a great idea.
The plan was, come hell or high water, to take as many breaks as I needed to make it to the next landing, and I didn’t disappoint myself.
I started to climb and felt every last nutrient drain from my body. I hung off the ladder, cursing myself for not eating breakfast and wondered if I could continue. I somehow dug down, finding new reserves of energy, and climbed a little more.
Another 15 feet up I stopped again. Depleted of all energy, I hugged the ladder for dear life. I was hunched over and swayed like I was being blasted by 200 kilometre gales when, in fact, it was perfectly calm inside the turbine.
I waited, and waited, for what must have been five minutes, before I got my second wind and made my final push.
I made it to the next landing and, seeing the final two landings were only a short distance, I knew I would make it tot the top.
I made the final ascent, stuck my head out the top of the turbine and sucked in the fresh air.
I then clipped onto the safety bars on the roof of the turbine, pulled out my cameras and snapped away.