I'll apologize in advance for not having any or many photographs. Donna was away during the afternoon and I was really pressuring myself to get this done.
I was up on the porch anyway, putting in another row of screws on two sides, and with that complete, didn't have many excuses not to try to finish off my ladder to the chimney. With my friend J! watching (to fill out the accident report I imagined), I stepped onto the bottom rung of my ladder timidly, and with it holding, I began screwing in more rungs.
Repeating this process, also while holding onto a rather thin rope I had thrown right over to the far side of the cabin and tied off, as a last-ditch safety device, I worked my way to the peak. At the peak, with legs shaking noticeably, I put on the last two rungs (one on the far side of the roof to give extra stability to the whole contraption).
I then went back up with my brush and rods to actually attempt the chimney clean.
This worked well, and I could feel the brush travel down, down until it hit the bottom of the chimney where my pipe narrows into the oval opening on the back of the stove. I brushed again as I raised it up and then returned to earth with a sense of accomplishment.
Heading indoors, I removed the cleanout on the front of the stove and crouched down with a flashlight. I could see a mound of black ashes pouring out of the base of the chimneybox. Grandpa held up a small box under the cleanout hole, and I used the cleanout tool to drag the ashes into the box. We nearly filled it (it was about the size of a box of 12 pop cans or 6 bottles). Towards the end, the ashes became grey, which we both interpreted as being the ashes that normally collect around the firebox.
Next up will be cleaning out the sauna stove, which I think may be more involved as I ponder the design of that stove itself.
Of course, the most important part of any job is the cleanup.