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.