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Skala takes on a tall order

Pat Patera

Skala Group of Reno is shining all 605 feet of the Seattle Space Needle.

The Reno company was hired by Karcher GmbH & Co., a German company that cleans the world’s most-famous monuments.

Skala is a spin-off from Ropeworks Industrial Group of Reno. Ropeworks trains at- height workers and sells equipment, while Skala Group handles industrial jobs. “Skala is a customer of Ropeworks,” says Jon Holan, president.

The team of five rope-access technicians including one from Reno and two from Tahoe City will spend five to eight weeks on the Space Needle job. They work by lamplight from 10 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. because they must wait until the busy tourist attraction quiets and the last diners have left the needle-top restaurant.

Then Skala Group erects an exclusion zone below the structure a 500-foot radius to protect against the possibility of something being dropped from the cleaning crew.

To pressure clean the structure, the Skala crew hefts giant hoses 450 feet long that shoot high-pressure hot water. But the curvy structure means the rope-access technicians can’t simply tie off at the top and rappel straight down. The curvature of the tower requires cleaning undersides. So they clamp onto cross beams and work in 200-foot sections.

Karcher GmbH & Co. knew Ropeworks personnel from a previous job at Mount Rushmore National Monument, one of 80 historical monuments Karcher has cleaned as a goodwill gesture its primary business is the development and manufacture of new products. Ropeworks provides training and equipment to the National Park Service at Mount Rushmore.