Prelude: Stacking The Odds

I know last post I promised to delve into the four phases of climbing.  However, a bit of background is needed first.  You see, safety is as much if not more about mental attitude as it is about individual actions.  What makes an action or attitude safe?  

In my mind, it is about repeatability and consistency.  An action, a tool, an attitude can be considered safe if it reliably and to the best of our ability produces the same predictable action.  The tool, action or attitude may in bits and pieces be “unsafe” or better yet contain “risk,” but how we manage, use or act make the whole process, act or situation predictable.

Let’s look for instance at dropping large chunks of wood from a spar with a rigging line.  The risk is high.  There are many things that could go wrong and the consequences are steep.  taken as a whole without proper tools training and knowledge the act itself is hazardous.  With proper tools, training, techniques and knowledge it can yield consistent, predictable results.

Of course I realize we do not live in a perfect world and often the best acts and intentions can go awry.  Life is rarely fair, but that is no reason not to try!  We cannot account for every variable, nor see into the future.  “Safe” actions may yield unpredictable results.  However, we must move forward and draw a baseline where reasonable.

When it comes to production tree climbing, I believe in stacking the odds in my favor. If incorporating a second attachment point for SRT ascent does not hamper the efficiency of the situation or compromise climber safety then I see no reason not to do it. This is but one example

Redundancy in systems can guard against operator error or unforeseen hazards.  For the reason stated paragraph before last we will leave out sudden alien attack!  

Should all systems in climbing be redundant, in all situations? No. Climbing down with gravity through a tree’s structure where a second point of attachment (lanyard) is readily available when work or excessive lateral movement is necessary is different that scaling up a line mid air on remotely inspected anchor points into a canopy that may have hidden dangers.

Body thrusting up the trunk with a taunt-line in a birth control saddle is yet another!

That is why I am suggesting we segment our work into task/goal oriented pieces. This will help us define objectives, identify tools, equipment and techniques that offer the most amount of security for the given situation. What we do on a daily basis is to complex for one single “silver bullet”

If we would recommend two points of attachment when using a saw, weather it be hand or chain, why would we not when ascending mid air into a tree?

Let me be clear, I am not advocating that we always take redundancy and backups to the extreme . However, when easy to do, when not offering interference or compromising safety then we must ask “why not” instead of “why.”

I often use my lanyard when sitting still for a drink of water and quick break. Not because I need it, but because I can think of no reason not to.

In my mind this is the struggle. The struggle to progress, but not forget the often tragic mistakes of the past. The struggle to borrow judiciously from other disciplines. The struggle to innovate, but not get lost in our own independence and pride. The struggle to develop systems, tools and most importantly processes that others, new and old alike, can be educated on, trained to use and promote first and foremost safety through intelligence and efficiency.

We must approach the phase system of climbing, safety and productivity not with a “why?” mentality, but a “why not?”Image

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