People who work in big cities are used to seeing window cleaners working high up on skyscrapers. One does not normally see high-rise window cleaners working in national parks and nature preserves. But since the 2007 opening of the Grand Canyon’s Skywalk—a glass-covered horseshoe-shaped structure that extends 70 feet from the edge of the Grand Canyon 4000 feet above the Colorado River—specialist technicians can occasionally be seen cleaning its more than 40 large panes of glass.
The high-strength glass panes of the Skywalk form the floor of the structure, allowing visitors to walk high above the canyon floor while looking straight down at it. Hundreds of thousands of people walk across the Skywalk every year. The glass tends to get cloudy and dirty over time, especially during winter. In late April 2016, the technicians spent two days polishing the glass. The technicians dangled from ropes beneath the Skywalk as they worked and as visitors continued to walk on the top side of the glass panes.
A Phoenix-based company called Abseilon USA employs the cleaning technicians, who are members of the Society of Professional Rope Access Technicians. Two of Abseilon’s eight technicians performed the April cleaning, using a sturdy two-rope system to ensure their safety. In addition to cleaning the glass, the technicians also rappelled to the canyon floor to collect objects dropped by visitors.
The Skywalk originally cost $30 million to build. In 2011, all the glass panes on the structure were replaced.