Jim Harrigan

Jim Harrigan photo by Emilie Bourque

Occupation: rope access supervisor / industrial climber

Age: 38

Home town: Witless Bay

Musical preferences: Peter Gabriel, world beat, percussion

Zodiac sign: Libra

Words of wisdom: “Stay true to self. Tune in.”

The story: One of his first jobs as an industrial climber was in Nova Scotia, where he had to do a ‘stack wash’ for Nova Scotia Power, which involved rigging up a high pressure water system to flush it out.

“In order to do that, you have to bring a 500 foot cable up top, and two 600 foot ropes… in order to get to the top, [you climb] a 500 foot ladder.” He carried 114 pounds up that ladder on his 135-pound frame.
He first got into recreational climbing here in Newfoundland in 1996, then decided to move out West. He climbed & coached recreationally for nearly a decade in Vancouver, then moved to Nova Scotia, where he met someone from a company called Remote Access Technology (RAT). By 2003, after training and getting certification, he became involved in industrial climbing himself.

Industrial climbing is where recreational climbing skills are used in the industrial world—say, in situations where scaffolding or more costly methods were used in the past. Jim does contracted work for RAT, and is a member of The Industrial Rope Access Trade Association (IRATA), which was started by a group of fellow climbers and spelunkers (cave explorers.) As Jim explains, they were doing it recreationally anyway, and figured they could make some money at it in the industrial world.

Their work can include inspection, maintenance, cleaning, bridgework, or various types of skilled labour on large structures of all kinds.

What’s his favourite thing about climbing? “Being in the moment… a lot of people say that they’re living in the moment, but their mind isn’t… with this particular job, your mind’s gotta be right there.”

— Emilie Bourque