How to Climb Up on the Roof When You’re Terrified of Heights

Roof, Justice, and the American Way.

Faster than the DMV. More productive than the U.S. Congress. Able to sleep ten hours in a single night. Look! Up on that roof! It’s a girl! She’s afraid! It’s…

girl on the roof afraid and not ok

Guys, it’s just me. And I am freaking out up here.

Girl freaking out on the roof

I’ve owned my house for nearly a decade and, in all that time, I’ve never needed to climb onto my roof. My dad would clean my gutters every year, and, when he got a little too old to be climbing ladders, I met Schmoopy and he took over. Good thing, too, because I’m terrified of heights. So, wtf am I even doing up here?

See that tree debris (treebris?) caught where the roof angles meet?

house with debris in the roof angle

It was really bothering me. My landscape looks crappy enough without having treebris on my roof.

leaves caught in the roof angle

Normally, Schmoopy would take care of that for me, but he selfishly went and tore his Achilles tendon last month, so… no climbing for him. (He’s also now “conveniently” unable to clean the cat box in the basement and take out the trash, but I digress.)

So, while treebris isn’t really a big deal, and it totally could have waited until the spring, I made up my mind to go up there and clean it. I mean, I’m capable, right? I’m independent. I installed a freaking brick wall by myself. I’m Princess Spackle, for crying out loud! I can climb onto a stupid roof!

girl on ladder afraid to climb on roof

Pfsh! Not that way, I can’t. This is how Schmoopy climbs onto the roof, but… nnnope. No freaking way. I got up there and… there’s, like, nothing to grab onto and the ladder was feeling a little wobbly and OSHA explicitly says “DO NOT USE THE TOP OF THE LADDER AS A STEP” and, if you’re gonna pick a single rule to follow on any given day, that one really seems like an excellent choice…

Bottom line, there was just no way to pull myself up without risking certain death, so I abandoned that idea.

I never should have listened to Schmoopy in the first place. Back when we painted the front of the house, this was his idea of ladder safety…

Man painting house on dangerous ladder

And now he’s on crutches. Coincidence? I don’t think so…

Anyway, I was about to give up on a treebris free (fris?) roof when I remembered our other ladder. I decided to try climbing up in the corner. For some reason, I thought I might feel more secure.

I can’t explain why, but I did. This way felt much safer.

Climbing ladder onto roof

I made it!

girl on the roof and afraid

(In case you missed it, that was the answer. You know, from the headline… “How to climb up on the roof when you’re terrified of heights?” Well, if your house has a corner, that’s where you should climb up. I know, right? What kind of crappy advice is that? What if your whole roof is straight? Then I have no crappy advice (except to listen to OSHA.) This post has failed you. I’m sorry. You can have your money back. Please contact customer service during regular business hours. Come again…)

Anyway, I got rid of the treebris easily enough, but, while I was up there, I could see the gutters were pretty clogged.

gutter clogged with leaves

Standing on a ladder and reaching into the gutters from below would have felt much safer to me, but that would mean climbing up and down the ladder and moving it every few feet, and I’m very lazy, and… since I’d already made it onto the roof without dying… I decided to man up and just do it.

Cleaning the gutters on the roof

I was terrified the whole time that I would accidentally roll off of the roof. Did I mention there’s literally nothing to hold onto up there?

On the roof cleaning gutters

I cleaned the whole front gutter without dying, so I forced myself to climb over the peak to do the back one too. I mean, I was already up there…

It’s like a different world up on the roof. This is how tall people must feel all the time.

girl on the peak of the roof

I’d never seen this side of my chimney. Fascinating. And remember my crazy neighbor I told you about? Her backyard is crazy too.

(What’s up with the tent? Like, wtf is she doing over there?)

I’d also never seen Schmoopy from this perspective. He’s so sad he couldn’t climb on the roof. (That makes freaking two of us, honey.)

man on crutches looking sad up at roof

By the time I was finished with the job, I was feeling… well, still terrified, but overall, it was an empowering experience. And, you know what they say…

With great power comes great responsibility.

Who do I mean by “they”? You know. The superhero people…

Superhero on a roof ranch house

Anyway, I’m probably ready to start fighting crime now. If only I could just remember where the hell I parked my invisible jet, I’d be good to go…

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  • Barbara Christianson

    Very brave of you! It takes a lot of guts to get up on the roof. I’ve had to do it twice & both times I thought I was going to die.

    • My Crappy House

      Yes! Dying was at the forefront of my mind the whole time! I’m now looking at all of these TWO STORY houses with Christmas lights strung on their roofs and I’m wondering what kind of maniacs live there!

  • Sandra

    The gravitational pull seems much stronger up there – it is fun to spend some time up there (we used to sit up there with our coffee when we did the roof and wave to our teeny tiny neighbour ants crawling by). Way to go, you, you’re even bad-asser now!

    • My Crappy House

      Oh, you sound way more bad ass than I do… Sitting up there enjoying a coffee??? I could only mildly enjoy each moment I didn’t die…

  • Barbara H.

    Oh my gosh, maybe when I was younger? Nope, don’t think so. As hard as getting up there is, the thought of coming down scares me even more. What about those mesh like strips that you can put over the top of the gutters? I’ve got some of that keeping leaves out of the little opening inset into to cement patio to give the crawl space some room for air flow. I don’t know how well they actually work on the gutters but I think I’d be trying that. Of course, you’d be up and down the ladder putting in on. Anyway, glad you made it.

    • My Crappy House

      With any luck, this will be the first and last time I will ever need to go up there. This was only because Schmoo hurt himself. I fully expect him to heal and NEVER BREAK ANY PART OF HIS BODY AGAIN so that he can do the gutters for ever after.

    • My Crappy House

      Haha well, that wouldn’t have helped me because Schmoopy never installed any. The gutters are his deal USUALLY, so I stay out of it. And I never wanna go in it again!

  • Mom

    I’m glad I didn’t know you were going on the roof but now reading your blog I’m LMAO. By the way I could have made your dad do it. Wink wink. Still LMAO.

    • My Crappy House

      Haha sure…
      Dad on the roof: Where did the ladder go? I want to come down.
      Me: I dunno. Mom took it…

    • matty

      Im a man and i gotta go up on my roof to put some sealant on my skylight and im shaking like a Leaf, and my roof is sloped same as yours, last time i was up there i almost froze when i looked in the neighbor’s backyard, your right its something strange going on with your Brain equilibrium up there, imagine a really sloped roof twice as high. Scary

    • My Crappy House

      I’m looking at all of these Christmas lights on TWO STORY HOUSES and I’m like nooooo freaking way would I risk my life for stupid lights! I’m happy I’m not alone in my anxiety.

  • Joan

    Good job! When I was a kid, I lived in a two story house. It was a schoolhouse converted to a house back in the late 40’s. We could climb out onto the room from our bedrooms (“we” = my sisters and I who lived in those rooms). I decided one day when I was around 9 or 10, to traverse the roof and go to the other side. It was pretty cool and I was a sure-footed goat back then. I did this again one other day while my brother was working in the field across the street (he worked for a farmer not far away) I did this maneuver and I decided to stop at the antenna and, holding on to the antenna, waved at him across the street. After a bit, I went back into the house. My brother came home from work that day and grabbed me by my collar and said “DON’T EVER DO THAT AGAIN!”

    • My Crappy House

      Haha I can just imagine what he thought! I was never so brave. When I was a kid, my cousin (my age) coaxed me up onto the garage roof. There was a ladder attached to the side wall. Going up was easy enough, but there was NO FREAKING WAY I could climb down! It was so high! He climbed down and left me stuck up there, crying, until my older cousin climbed up and carried me down. I never went back up on a roof again… until NOW!

  • Joan

    Shoot. Hit a button wrong and wasn’t able to finish my story. I think I did do that a few more times after that, but not when he was working. My parents weren’t home at those times, or they would have killed me had they caught me doing that. Now, my weight has changed my center of gravity and I’m bit more cognizant of the dangers so I don’t go on my roof. My neighbor climbs up there when he’s clearing their gutters with a leaf blower and clears my gutters for me when I can’t do it from the ground. I got a Worx AIR and also the extension kit that will allow me to stand on the ground and clear the gutters. Trouble is, it only works when the leaves haven’t gotten wet. If they’re dry and light, they blow right out.

    • My Crappy House

      I’ve gotten much more… sane? in my old age. I went skydiving when I was 22! I can’t even fathom that now!

      That blower idea wouldn’t have worked for me. Under the layer of dry leaves was a leaf soup complete with nuts. It was so gross. And there was a hole in my glove

      I’m glad you have friendly neighbors!

  • Cecile Lowrey

    I live with my twin sister and I have been doing the gutters until this year. They are full of leaves!
    We both have creaky bones and COPD. Now I have sludge!? In my gallbladder. We are 71. One year we tried hiring people but they broke the ladder and tore the end of the gutter and did not tell us, charged us $150. We are on Social Security. I guess the leaves are winning this year.

    • My Crappy House

      Ugh, I’m so sorry! It’s hard to trust anyone now-a-days… Your health is more important than the leaves, but I hope you are able to find some reliable help in the future!

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