It was common to use a hook ladder on transmission towers and steel poles when we couldn’t get a truck to them.
Two of our 115kv tower lines were built early in the 1900’s through what is now a national forest. They used horses and mules, so a lot of it is now inaccessible. These lines have been in service for over 100 years. We have used helicopters on these lines as well. One particular line is still the original 250 copper, a six-wire circuit, three phases on each side of the tower. The dead ends on this line had double strings of insulators, utilizing yoke plates at each end. In certain places the uphill side dead-end insulators are in reverse orientation, so they won’t hold water, it’s that steep.
Two or three of us climbed a tower to replace some flashed insulators on a dead end. We would hang the hook ladder on the arm with a tag line tied to the end opposite the hooks. Then the tag line was thrown to the ground across the conductor. The guys on the ground would pull the tag line causing the ladder to lift up next to the phase. We always left the ladder a little below the phase, so we didn’t have to bend over so much. Whoever was on the ground would tie the rope off to a tree, rhododendron, or mountain laurel.
Well on this day, my foreman Johnny V. (“V is for very good", he said) Brown tied the rope to a mountain laurel bush. As I got out to the end of the ladder, the damn thing dropped about 16 or 18 inches. I was not too happy about this and let everyone know right away. Johnny assured me everything was all right and that it just slipped a little bit. I accused him of tying it to a dead bush. Anyway, since it held at that point, I carried on and we got our insulators replaced.
Dick Weaver - Retired Lineman