Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Where Angels Fear To Tread

This work gives you an adrenaline rush and you need to be a certain type of person to do this, says Chase Wakeford.
Where angels fear to tread - high-rise window washing: For some, a day at work means spending the day in a dreary, neon-lit office, sitting in safety and comfort. High-rise window washers however spend their days dangling hundreds of metres above the ground. These mavericks on a line are responsible for a job few would want - cleaning the exteriors of some of the country’s tallest buildings.

The three-man team from Rope Runners could not have asked for a more picturesque view as they dangle from The Oysters on Umhlanga’s affluent mile. They speak with excitement about "jumping", their term for hanging precariously above terra firma.  

Chase Wakeford, 21, the youngest of the crew, loves his job. "Being up on the ropes hanging in the air is perfect for me. We get to go places that very few people get to experience. This work gives you an adrenaline rush and you need to be a certain type of person to do this," he says.

His colleague Matthew Knowles, 23, cuts a confident figure on a ledge on the building’s highest storey. There are only a handful of people who can do what they do, he says. "There is a huge element of trust in doing what we do. That is trusting your team mates and trusting the equipment that we are using."

Their supervisor, Abraham van den Heever, is a quiet, unassuming man. He checks that Knowles and Wakeford are safely fixed to their anchors, and monitors their progress as they lower themselves and clean. "This is better than sitting in the office staring at four walls all day. I can sit here and do this and watch the ocean while I feel the breeze on my face," he enthuses.

Knowles acknowledges their work is dangerous. "It would be if you didn’t know what you were doing. If the weather picks up and the wind gets strong then it can get risky, but we take precautions. We do that because we know that one little mistake can be the end of you," he says. "I can’t see myself doing anything else."

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