Before we can begin to discuss actual climbing systems, we must first agree of a few basic terms. Often in discussions about climbing, words, phrases and meanings are bantered around without a clear concise agreement on their meanings. Climber’s talk has become a wonderful hodgepodge of eclectic terms. While colorful and vibrant, for our purposes we will slim things down a bit!
This will be a work in progress so we may add or modify our terms as necessary. Please feel free to comment if you are in disagreement or confused or simply have a better definition!
Ascent: This is the vertical movement up in a tree for a distance greater than twice the body length of the climber or 12 feet or so on average. During ascent lateral or horizontal movement is not required
Descent: This is the vertical movement down in a tree greater than twice the body length of the climber. Again Descent does not involve lateral or horizontal movement in the tree.
In both the above definitions I use a length of more than 12 feet or twice the body height of the climber. Why? In my experience this is the distance that on average we can assess/judge/inspect with a fair degree of certainty. Yes, there are those people and/or circumstances that this distance is either much greater or much less. However, w must for clarity’s sake draw a line somewhere. Twice the body length or 12 feet on average seems like a fair starting point in my experience, but it is only a rule of thumb.
Why draw that line? As we progress it will become important to differentiate between simply moving up or down in a tree for work positioning. How we asses anchor points hazards and the like changes as our climb progresses. For now bear with me!
Primary Life Support: This is a piece of equipment (mechanical or cordage), the climber uses to safely move on the line in any phase of the climb. In short this is what connect the climber’s harness to the climbing line and allows movement. The efficiency of this can be rated by the number of directions it allows the climber to move in, up, down, right, left. For example a series of bowlines tied ladder like could be a climbing system. however, it would not be very efficient in the up or down mode. A climbing hitch would accomplish the same with much more efficiency.
Backup: This is a piece of equipment (mechanical or cordage), that in the event of primary life support failure allows the climber to proceed either up or down. The efficiency of the backup can be rated by how “smoothly” this would happen. For instance. if a climber were ascending and the primary failed, the climber might continue up without any hinderance on only the backup. Or conversely might decide to descent to the ground and fix the issue.
Safety: This is a piece of equipment (mechanical,cordage or knot) that will limit the amount of fall in the event of primary Life support failure. The classic example of this is a slip or other stopper knot in the climbing line below the climber. Should a prussic slip or be forced down line, it would catch at the stopper. I have heard this referred to as “tying up short.”
As you may have noticed a backup may also be a safety. Again we are talking degrees of appropriateness and efficiency. For now it is important to note that while backups and safeties may coincide one, both or neither may or may not be necessary for ultimate safety and efficiency.
Failure: Any unintended fall of greater than 11 inches or 30 centimeters. I admit it. I kinda pulled that number out of the air! I have read testing data that used that number. I have done some ad hoc tests with a dynamometer and generated over 600 pounds of force in an 8 inch fall. Suffice to say we have to start somewhere. 12 inches may be harmless in some situations and tragic in others. Either way it is not good. This term leo includes slippage not just free fall. If a knot is loaded from above and unintentionally Slips more than 12 inches it is a failure. Notice the purposeful use of unintentionally. Of course we must “fail” our knot in some systems to come down, but we do it controlled and with the intention of coming down.
Lateral or Horizontal Movement: This is any sideways movement more than three feet of the vertical as composed by the climbing line. If a line is hanging straight down from an overhead anchor point imagine a tube 3 feet in radius or six feet in diameter surrounding it. Leave the tube and you are moving laterally or in a horizontal plane. Again three feet is a number I have been exposed to in the past and seems a good line of demarcation with which to realistically work.
Work Positioning: This is the movement through a tree in any direction with the intent of completing a specific task. Quite simply it is working a tree. Moving from point to point, using tools, equipment and /or techniques to accomplish the mission.
Point of Attachment: This is any secure, life support rated (as defined by ANSI Z133) line, tool , technique that will support the climbers weight. In short it is an anchor. A climber’s tie in point (T.I.P) is a point of attachment. Placing a lanyard around a branch or trunk is a point of attachment provided it can support the climbers weight without failure as we defined above.
Further more a point of attachment may refer to the climbers actual connections to a climbing line. For instance, a climbing hitch serves as a point of attachment to a suitable anchor provided the T.I.P is appropriate.
O.K. I think we have the basics down. However, I reserve the right to revisit this post as we proceed. I encourage you all to do the same!