Phase 4


We now move on the the final phase of the proposed systems approach to production tree climbing:  Descent

This phase may never be used or, if so, probably sparingly.  Descent by our systems approach refers to simply abseiling or rappelling from the tree.  The classic example of this is you have dismantled the entire structure of the tree during a removal.  Now, perched atop a tall spar pole, which you have room to fell, you decide to anchor your climb line and use a figure eight or other descending device appropriately to safely reach the ground.

There are other examples and many reasons you may choose to do this, but I think you get the idea.  What makes the descent different from the other phases is that the systems used are not work positioning.  They allow for little lateral movement and they are designed only to go down in a controlled manor.

Furthermore, they are anchored by the climber after a thorough inspection of the anchor is done “up close and personal.”  These systems may be employed to save time, or wear and tear on hitches or other climbing system parts.  The climber may or may not use the structure of the tree during ascent.  In our example, the tree is used by default.  However, there may be a time in which a climber deems it appropriate to descend out of a canopy remotely from the tree’s structure.

The descent phase may never be used during a climb, just as the ascent phase may never either.  Remember we are just laying a framework to encompass as many aspects of  production tree climbing as is reasonable.  The descent phase is a viable option and should not be ruled out as one just because of infrequency of use.

Now that we have briefly discussed the four phases as I see them; Assess, Ascent, Work and Descent.  We can begin to apply them to see how they can help us accomplish our daily tasks safely and efficiently.

Gravitational Anarchy Live!

In the last two months I have slowly working my way through a proposing a four phase systems approach to production tree climbing.  I know Slowly being the key word there.

I just received conformation that I will be presenting this very idea at eh 2013 TCI Expo in Charlotte NC this November.  I look forward to this opportunity to share my thoughts and ideas this fall and hope to see many if not all of you there.

Chainsaw Chap Cut

Here is an HD video of a set of chaps taped to a log and then hit with a Husky 372Xp going full bore.

Slowing it down is better.

If you would like a full size copy for a safety meeting or other presentation feel free to e mail me. I would be happy to get it to you.

Phase 3: Work


First, let me thank and welcome anybody who may have just joined out journey of dialog.  I sincerely appreciate your willingness to read and welcome comments as you see fit from everybody.

We now move into the third phase of production tree climbing as I prepose them: Work

In short, this is the reason we are in the tree.  To move in any direction desired to accomplish our tasks.  By definition the work phase involves using various combinations of tree structure and climbing equipment to progress through the tree. Other high angle disciplines may refer to this as work positioning, and I feel that term accurately describes this phase as I see it for production tree climbing and may be used interchangeably.

What differentiates the work phase from the ascent phase is the lateral movement in the tree, the availability of tree structure to the climber and the inspection process.  If you will recall, when in the ascent phase by my definition, the climber’s goal was only to go up, and is remote, or at the very least, uninvolved with the structure of the tree during this phase.  Furthermore, the T.I.P. was set remotely with no up close inspection.

In the work Phase the T.I.P has gone through close and up close inspection.  Rope or friction saver or other tie in device has been installed by hand or very close to it.  The tree has been inspected not only from the ground during the assess phase, but during the ascent and after reaching the desired anchor point.  The climber now has much more information and sound judgements about the tree it’s stability and overall condition.

Of course structural stability and general safety issues demand on going assessment.  The climber has done a more involved inspection and gained a better vantage point to draw much better conclusions.

Systems used during this phase may be similar to ascent systems, but generally do not require a back up for a number of reasons.  The above points about inspection and T.I.P selection and establishment come into play here.  Also the availability of tree structure to serves as a safety and/or backup through establishing a second tie in point, using a lanyard or redirect not to mention the other methods available to the climber to add addition security as necessary.

The use of ascender during this phase is not ruled out.  (Nothing is ruled out in any of the phases as we are just establishing a framework for evaluation of climbing systems and techniques.)  However, lateral movement on ascenders is generally bad practice and there are many other options that serve the tree climber better advantage for lateral movement.

Lateral movement is what separates tree climbing from other high angle livelihoods.  It is our varied movement patters in many planes that created our unique systems.  It is also the organic nature of the structures we climb and work in that demands our eclectic tools and techniques, and the demands caution and accuracy in out selection of anchors or any means of life support.

Of course by ANSI standards any work positioning system should be able to get the climber to the ground.  Good sense tells us to always have a viable escape route when working at heights as well.  How an individual climber may meet these requirement is varied and again beyond the scope of guideline and into the realm of specifics.  We can discus those at a later date after I have laid out the system as I see it.

Production = Ef…

Production = Efficiency accomplished Safely

The above quote is from Tim Ard and excellent chainsaw instructor with Forest Applications Training.  

Just thought I would share as it is a great way to look at production tree work!

Phase 2: The Ascent



Now we will address the second phase of production tree climbing as I prepose them, Ascent.

 This is the phase in which we will ascend into the tree.  It encompasses only upward movement and may or may not be used on every tree.  That may sound strange since we are talking about tree climbing, but bear with me.  Of course we must climb, but not all vertical movement into a tree is by my definition purely ascent.  

The act of rope advancing from limb to limb with body thrusting or other means of constant slack tending is certainly climbing, but not by my definition, ascent.  By the terms we laid out earlier, Simple rope advancement up the structure of the tree would be work positioning.  Understand that, in my mind, we need to differentiate to this level for a number of reasons.  First, the end results may be the same, but the means is different.  Hence, the tools, techniques and mindset must be different.

Furthermore, the inspection process may be different in that by rope advancing up a tree the climber uses T.I.P’s that may be much closer to him or her allowing for better inspection.  Proximity to the tree is also closer offering two benefits.  First, the ability to inspect tree structure up close and personal.  Second, allowing for a ready means of secondary attachment through proper lanyard use. This is why even when setting a high T.I.P initially, that climbing the structure of the tree is not considered an “ascent” phase by the definitions we have laid out.

To further complicate things a climber may use elements of ascent and work positioning interchangeably while working his or her way aloft!  Suffice to say that, as we have defined it, ascent is the vertical movement  up into a tree for the purposes of establishing a fully inspected, suitable T.I.P to continue work on the tree.  Ascent may be used at different points I the climb according to the climber’s work plan.

What makes ascent so different?  First, is the establishment of a T.I.P or suspension point remotely.  The use of a throw bag or other means greatly enhances efficiency, but comes with a price.  Even with load and pull testing, which should always be done prior to climbing, here remains an element of the “unknown.”

It is my judgement that most experienced climbers can and do consistently establish remote T.I.P’s and or suspension points reliably on a very regular basis.  With due diligence and good work practice catastrophic failure is rare.  What is not uncommon is the small lurch or drop from a hidden stub or the shearing or cracking of limb or stem as repetitive loads are applied.

Many good climbers using good practices have experienced this, myself included.  While the exception to the rule, these drops and shock loading of systems certainly must be planned for and mitigated against whenever possible.

The next aspect of ascent that sets it apart from the other climbing phases is efficiency.  Ascent systems can be highly efficient.  Moving through mid air, largely unencumbered by the canopy, allows for quick “verticalness.”  The very 1:1 efficiency that ascent systems can produce means that often they require specialized equipment.  The classic example is a rope walker system.  With mechanical ascenders and/or cordage hitches, climbers can use the leg muscles to propel upward.  Ascender use requires kernmantle ropes as mechanical ascenders are safer and work better with that type of construction.  However, kernmantle ropes are rarely appropriate for the work phase of tree climbingThe examples and situations are numerous and much discussion could take place.  The idea here is to lay out a basic framework into which we can put our tools equipment and techniques and develop consistent applications that are safe and efficient.  So if it seems I am being general, I am!

Another aspect that sets ascent apart from the other phases is the tendency of these systems to be used away from the tree’s structure.  In the work phase, climbers can use a lanyard or second climbing system or other options for a secondary attachment to tree structure.  This is often not the case and/or undesirable in ascent systems.  Therefore, it makes sense to backup or integrate redundancies and/or escape methods into ascent systems.  This would be redundant and down right clumsy in many work positioning systems.

Ascent into the tree is but a small part of the whole climbing/work plan.  Systems, safeties and backups that may be appropriate for ascent would be cumbersome and down right silly for other phases of the climb.  The opposite is also true.  I do not believe there is any silver bullet for all situations.  As climbers we must adopt to each and every climb as the work and environment dictate.