The following is excerpted from a conversation on a specific climbing system called the “Hitch Hiker” I had with a few on treebuzz.com. However, the ramifications pertain to many “systems’ and to tree climbing in general.
Question of the day, should/can we differentiate between ascent, descent and work positioning when climbing trees? I think we can and should. The forces on the rope are different. Inspection of (Tie In Point) T.I.P’s is different, the end goal is different, the activities performed are different, as well as what equipment may or may not be appropriate and or used.
For example, let’s look at ascent. For our discussion this is where the line has been set from the ground and the climber’s goal is to go up. In these cases, redundancy (in the form of back up or safeties) can have many benefits. In my mind the tenants of any ascent system should include:
- The inability of the climber to capsize.
- The ability to proceed up or down should any equipment failure happen.
- The inability to fall should one piece of equipment fail. (Naturally if your rope fails you lose, so let’s leave that out of the discussion for now as catastrophic, spontaneous line failures are rare)
These seem simple and necessary precautions for a tree ascent system, but overly protective for a work positioning system.
Once the climber has ascended, secured in the canopy and closely inspected the T.I.P. and is preparing to descend and work. The systems must change and hence the equipment, techniques and most importantly the mindset.
To lump one system into the “climb” category is oversimplified and fallacious. For years tree climbers have used but one method to ascend, work, descend. It worked but with sacrifices in efficiency and ergonomics.
Today we have much more knowledge, techniques and “thinking” at our disposal, yet I feel some climbers still “lump” too much into one basket looking for the holy grail, the pie-in-the-sky-one-system-does-it-all-equally-well. In the process, clear thinking, open minds and in the end safety may be compromised.
In summary, it is my judgement that as climbers we should differentiate between different aspects of our tree climbing activities. We should use systems that are redundant yet efficient and suited to the activity using the appropriate equipment, cordages and techniques. Furthermore, our mindset must change to suit the activity we are engaged in.