Thursday, 30 January 2014

Blocking down

Everyone seems to have a different term for this; Blocking, chogging, negative rigging, dynamic rigging etc...

Basically when the piece of timber is directly above the rigging point and is then inverted 180 degrees and lowered down I call it blocking down or dynamic blocking.

This is one of the bigger lumps we did, the rope should have been allowed to run a lot more to minimise the shock load, but we were a bit over cautious and put one too many wraps on the lowering bollard, which in turn led to too much friction on the bollard and the shock load on the system you see here. 

As a side note if the stem is to be dismantled in sections but not rigged, I call it chogging down. Don't ask me why, just always have. The guys on the ground always seem to know what I'm on about anyway.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Rigging line redirect

The anchor point I was using in the oak yesterday was slightly stepped out from the main stem meaning  that the rigging line wouldn't of entered the lowering bollard at the correct angle. So to rectify this I installed a second Pulley block at the top of the stem, at the crown break.

This ensured that the line ran plum with the stem and entered the Lowering bollard at a right angle to the stem. 

The large ISC pulley block might be a bit overkill for using as a redirect but it was the only pulley I had with us that would fit both the 16mm line you see hear and the 19mm we switched too when we moved onto rigging some bigger lumps. 

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Working a Spar SRT

I dismantled a large oak earlier this week, the crown came out easily enough and we were down to the stem by lunch time(ish)

Call me a cheat for using ladders but It's still the quickest way into a crown!
The stem was obviously slightly more time consuming, especially as it was up to a metre in diameter in places and due to a fragile patio underneath everything had to be lowered. Now I quite enjoy blocking down big lumps of wood but they can be pretty time consuming to set up, which is why I frequently work them SRT.

I simply choke my line at the top of the last cut, descend to where I want to cut next (with rope wrench attached) I have the pulley block, dead eye and rigging line clipped into my anchor ring, so they are out of the way and not hanging off my hips, I am then easily able to make the face cut without any danger of cutting anything. 
The stem after 3 or 4 large lumps had been rigged down, you can see the largest still at the base of the tree, to big to be moved we had to cut it up where it sat.

Once I've made the face cut, the pulley is attached as close to the face cut as is practical. The rigging line and pull line (if applicable) are next to be attached before I strop in, move my SRT anchor to just above the pulley, make my cut and hold on! Then its a case of un-tieing the dead eye, clipping it to my anchor ring (pulley/rigging line still in place) descend and get ready to start all over again!

When it comes to either descending to a point where I can't reach my anchor to retie it (or coming down at the end of the day) its a good idea to make the anchor retrievable, in which case I use an Alpine Butterfly

First enough rope is pulled round the stem to reach the next point/ground, then I tie the alpine butterfly into this long end, then simply clip a karabina through the loop and onto the other part of the rope (closest to harness/hitch) making sure the gate is facing up, this is then synched up tight to the stem.

Now I wouldn't recommend this as a permanent anchor to work an entire tree, but for working on a large diameter spar like this I think its fine; its always in sight so you can see its not cross loaded or coming undone, and the stem is large enough that the krab is being weighted along its correct axis.  

Coming down at the end of the first day

Retrieving the anchor 

Then when it comes to retrieving the anchor you just pull down on the knot side of the rope until it gets to you, unclip, untie the butterfly and pull the rope down. 

Monday, 27 January 2014

Beal Assure Max leather gloves - Review

Always on the quest for a decent work glove I decided to give these a go. I got them at the start of the year and have used them on and off for the last 3 weeks or so both on the ground and for climbing.

First impressions were good, they were comfy right off the bat, a good fit with nice dexterity. Being quite a short glove, with a loose cuff, means that they do have a tendency to accumulate sawdust and bits of dirt, which inevitably work there way to the finger tips and effect the comfort some what. 

That said it does make them easy to slip on and off, making them safer for chipping and would help with staying cool in the summer months. 

Made from quite a thin soft leather they still manage to provide a reasonable amount of protection from thorns and rough bark whilst maintaining flexibility and a good range of movement, but unfortunately this softness is also there main flaw. 

I think the pictures speak for themselves here. This ware is from less than 15 days worth of use and at £20ish/pair not really great value for money! In there defence they are not really designed for tree work but aimed more at mountaineers and big wall climbing that said they do advertise themselves as being "designed for the most demanding rope work around" which to my mind should definitely include tree work. 

I have no doubt if you used these for mountaineering and the like and only wore them for a few hours here and there then you may well end up getting years of use out of them but unfortunately they are not really durable enough for tree work. 

When looking for a good work glove it can be a bit of balance. You either need something cheep and cheerful that you're happy only to last a week or so. Or if spending a bit more you expect the quality to increase as well as the durability, I'd happily spend twice what I spent on these if I knew I'd get at least 6 months out of them. 

By cutting the finger tips off I may well get a few more weeks work out of them! Shame really as they were a really comfy glove to wear day to day. 

Oh well the quest continues...

Saturday, 25 January 2014

That time of year again - Loler - equipment maintenence

Had a Loler inspection this weekend, which was motivation enough to sort out a few bits of my kit that have needed some tlc. For starters a few of my karabinas have been sticking a bit lately, so they got a good soaking in hot soapy water, then properly dried and a tiny squirt of WD40 had them working as good as new

The other main thing to sort out was replacing the hitch cord on my main line and my side strop

I'm sure I'm not the only one guilty of leaving my hitch tied on too long. Trouble is when you've got it running really nice it seems such a shame to take it off, but as you can see from the picks maybe I need to change mine a little more often. 

I've used the hitch climber system since it came out, and before that a swing cheek pulley and I have always used hitch cord tied with fisherman's either end. This is partly because spliced eye to eyes are too expensive but mostly because they are way too long! I like my hitches tied real short, I find they jam less, tend nicer and most importantly there is virtually no sit back! 



and then melted to seal the end and prevent fraying 

Then re tied and set 

Friday, 24 January 2014

Another way to chip

Its sometimes easy to forget that you can use a wood chipper without it being hooked directly to the truck, infact it is often better to use it like this:

This was quite a tight garden to work in and there wash't space to have the truck and chipper in a line. But by using it like this you can potentially have more space to stack brash, the chipper is closer to the truck so fires the chip further towards the back, meaning you get more in and less dust is blown about the place, saving the clear up at the end of the day.  

Not rocket science or revolutionary but definitely a time saver in certain situations. 

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Husqvarna T540XP - First impressions

We got this yesterday and I got to give it a spin today

We mostly run with 200t's where I currently work. Some of them are getting pretty tired now and spend more time being fixed than being used. We have one 201T that hasn't really impressed us, so when the time came for a new saw we opted for Husqvarna's new offering to the market. 

Now this has been out for a few months, long enough for people to give it a good battering and I read a lot of reviews before deciding to commit. Most of which were pretty positive. 

First impressions are good, its well balanced and lightish, it does feel a little bit plasticy, but most saws do nowadays. I have only used it on a couple of smallish reductions so far so can't comment on the power too much, but it does seem to be there and no delay when squeezing the throttle, which is the 201's main flaw. 

Although I think I'm going to have to give it a good couple of months of hard work before I make any kind of judgement on it, watch this space…

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

SRT Strop

This is a neat little trick for when your work positioning strop isn't quite long enough and you want to choke it round a stem/branch and use it in a single line configuration and want to avoid cross loading the karabiner 

Obviously you shouldn't be descending solely on a hitch, but if used for assent or work positioning it should be fine. 

Monday, 13 January 2014

Nice bit of Rigging - Stein RC-3001

Had this Eucalyptus to fell today, nothing too serious, but quite a tidy lawn so we rigged everything down.

Multi-stemmed with a reasonable spread, managed to select a decent stem to have both my anchor point and a rigging point, from which we were able to rig everything down safely. Had 3 groundies on this so we were taking it in some pretty big lumps, 1 guy working the ropes and 2 clearing the drop zone.  

As I knew there was going to be a fair bit of rigging we brought the Stein RC-3001 along with us (where as we often make do with the humble portawrap)

Works exactly the same, with wraps being added as the lumps get heavier

Although being a fixed bollard its a bit more fool proof and much easier to remove slack from the system; I've seen guys get in some horrendous states with portawraps before now. 

When its notched into the tree its rated at 3 tons, and at 500kg when mounted just on the rubbers. But to be honest we rarely notch it and have dropped some big lumps with out it moving an inch. This is in part due to its bomb proof construction and the heavy duty ratchet strap that securely fixes it to the tree, (This can be done with one person but is much easier with two) 

Having used a fix bollard lowering device quite a lot in the last 12 months I would find it hard to go back to using a portawrap for big trees. If the Stein block (as we call it) wasn't such a heavy thing to carry round we'd no doubt use it for every rigging job large or small. But as it stands it is a big thing to take to every job, so we often just take the portawrap, which does the same thing, just not quite as user friendly and harder for inexperienced ground staff to become proficient at. 

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Token TIP (tie in point)

I've been doing quite a lot of storm damage work lately. Any of you with experience of this will know that its not as clear cut as most stuff and you can't always rely on having a suitable anchor point to work from. So you frequently have to improvise, compromise and generally make do.

Take this willow from last week, it had lost its top leaving only a couple of biggish side branches that curled upwards, over a fence, so couldn't be dropped in one. Not practical to get a cherry picker in for it so had to be climbed.

I'm probably a good 1.5m above my anchor here, with enough rope in the system that I would probably deck out if I swung towards the tree, but by keeping my work positioning strop attached to the branch I'm walking out on I'm protected from a major swing and it at least offers a small amount of security should the branch fail. 

By working single line it meant I could tie in around the broken stem and maintain constant friction on my hitch. Now some may say whats the point in this TIP (tie in point) when you'd hit the deck if anything were to fail, the point is that any roping point is better than none and this one gave me something to lean against when walking out on the branch, and by balancing the tension between that and my work positioning strop I could stand upright comfortably and securely, enabling me to safely remove the branch in manageable sections. 

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

My Rope wrench/SRT set up

I did a post last week on some of the benefits of SRT and i thought I'd just share a few pics of my current rope wrench set up

I love climbing single line, but I don't use it for every tree, so having the wrench set on a Dmm oval, means that I can quickly switch from double rope (DRT) to single. The knot is a distil tied on 10mm line, but with fisherman's either end instead of spliced eyes. This enables me to keep it real short and minimise sit back. The knot works equally well for DRT

The tether is based around a short Wild Country quick draw sling, this fits snugly in the wrench, keeping that end fairly rigid, the other end has a petzl quickdraw rubber and another karabiner rubber that stops the tether moving too much on the Krab. it is all then stiffened up with a few layers of heat shrink. 

My climbing line is Yale lime light (11.7mm) works really well with the wrench, can be a little bit bouncy when working single line but otherwise a really nice rope. May well do a full write up on it at some point. 

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Gear storage - Petzl Classique 22

I've nearly always used a large duffle type bag to store my personal climbing gear (there will be a post about this at some point) and for years I always just coiled the rope in the conventional way and lay it onto of everything else in the bag. Then when working a tree I would simply take the rope out, and uncoil it at the base of the tree, laying it out so that the working end was at the top and it would peel off without getting tangled
There was nothing wrong with this and didn't really take up much time, it wasn't ideal in wet or dirty conditions, but ropes get wet and dirty all the time. You had to be careful not to drop too much around it and inevitably brash would tangle up in it or a careless groundy would drag it across the garden! 
I'd seen other climbers using rope bags and had often thought of trying one out, but to be honest if someone hadn't of given me this one I may not of ever bothered.
I have to say I'm glad I did, the bag still fits in my large duffle bag, but now I just dump it at the base of the tree, clip into my harness and climb away. No uncoiling or making sure its not tangled, no more trying to find a dry spot or branches getting caught...well to start with anyway, as you might expect in the course of working the tree it inevitably comes out of the bag and gets in the way again! But on straight forward conifers and small trees it definitely keeps things tidier.

Construction -
I've been using this one for about 18 months/2 years now, its made to the expected high standards of most petzl gear and it is definitely what I would call 'Bomb proof' it frequently has lumps of wood falling on it and piles of brash dragged over it and looks none the worse for wear. Made from TPU its tough and water resistant, most of the seems are welded and show no signs of failing. The stitching on the handle/straps seem solid and I fully expect to get many more years of use out of it.

Features -
With two webbing shoulder straps its easy to carry over long distances, being unpadded you wouldn't want to carry too much weight but for the average tree climber they are more than adequate. It also has a carry loop on the top with a moulded handle, handy for short distances. The bag also features a cord loop inside for tying the end of your rope too, making it easier to find, if like me you coil the rope directly into the bag. There is also an internal waterproof flap with a clear window for a label, presumably this is for further protection of the contents but to be honest I never use it and it really serves no purpose.

Usability -
The bag is 22lts in volume and happily holds my 40m 11.7mm rope and 3m strop with some space to spare. With some rope in the base it will stand up on its own, but obviously not as well as the Bucket bags. When coiling the rope into it from over your shoulder you sometimes need to lean the bag against your leg to start with and as the opening is not especially stiff it isn't quit big enough when the bag is empty and nothing is keeping it open. But you soon get the hang of it and feeding the rope into the bag takes only a few minutes and ensures that it comes out tangle free when you need it too. The draw string closer is strong and simple, basically there to stop the bag filling with sawdust and the rope from falling out in transit.

Overall I'm very happy with the bag, its solid, well made and if it ever wears out I'd definitely buy another. It is slightly overpriced at around the £60 mark, but if it lasts as long as I think it will then definitely a worth while investment. I'd sooner have one thing last me ten years than have to buy one a year! And as for coiling vs using a rope bag, I'm definitely a convert, the only thing you have to remember is that a wet rope doesn't dry in a water resistant bag, they just go mouldy!

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Benefits of Single rope technique: Part 1.

This is not intended to be an instructional post, just a brief intro into single rope and what it has done for me. If your looking to get into single rope working I suggest looking for a more experienced climber to teach you, or first try having a look on arbtalk. There is a wealth of information to be found. I'm also working on the assumption that you have a basic understanding of traditional tree climbing.

There is nothing new about single rope technique, it's been used in tree work for a long time, mostly for access into the tree rather than work positioning.

It's routes lie in caving and industrial rope access where the need to ascend larger distances would make working from double rope highly inefficient. 

The efficiency of SRT is what first appealed to me, that and the increased compatibility of mechanical ascenders. Having climbed for numerous years I was on occasion plagued with a repetitive strain injury that would after a couple of days working on big trees start to make work very painfull for me. 

I had tried useing foot and hand ascenders whilst climbing double rope but the 2:1 mechanical gain you get with traditional tree climbing meant they never really felt like you were getting anywhere as your pulling twice as much rope through as the gain in height. 

Now when climbing SRT there is no mechanical advantage, which may initially seem like a disadvantage, but the first time you set up a rope walker system and climb the rope as quick as you'd climb a ladder you realise how much energy you must have wasted over the years!

And because you are using your legs rather than you arms it feels so much easier, when you step up on the rope the gain in height is just that; one hole step, so with a combination of foot ascenders you can literally walk up the rope, covering huge distances in seconds. As I said before, there is nothing new or revolutionary about this, foot locking achieves the same gains. The main differences come when you start using SRT for work positioning.

There's far too much to cover in a single post so I plan on doing a series of posts, covering further benefits and my own personal SRT (work positioning) set up. 

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Everyday carry items part 1.

So this is just a couple of pictures of the sharpening kit and mini tool kit I mentioned in my previous post

The sharpening kit is one I made up myself in an old axminster chisel roll, contains the usual items you'd expect to find; files, spanners (both kinds) couple of mini allen keys, piston stop, carb screw driver, guide bar raker and a couple of beech file handles my brother turned me years ago.

The mini tool kit contains a few essentials; some spare chainsaw bar nuts, selection of bolts, pull cord, socket screwdriver, mini adjustable permanent marker, bar greaser, guide bar clamp, knife, tape, pliers and a torx and allen key multitool.

They all live in this petzl crampon bag

This is by no means a comprehensive kit, but does seem to cover most field repairs you would be likely to make. Its stems more from my days of freelance climbing when I got fed up of working for guys who wouldn't even have the most basic tools, but I didn't want to take everything with me. So by stripping it down to the bare essentials I could take it wherever I went and it wouldn't take up too much room. 

I have a larger kit in my work truck that I will post about soon.