Modern tree climbing has come a long way since the old school lumberjack days of climbing insanely tall old-growth fir trees with just tree gaffs, a lanyard, and an ax. The best way to visualize modern tree climbing is to imagine if rock climbers and Paul Bunyan had a baby. The addition of pulleys, foot and hand ascenders, prusiks (small diameter rope that holds your weight on the climb line) etc; have made climbing trees much more efficient and safe. With that said, if you have a fear of heights there isn’t a single piece of equipment that can save you from that fear. It takes time and trusting/knowing your system and climbing gear. In my opinion, there are two main climbing systems used most commonly today known as Double rope technique (DRT) or, Single Rope technique (SRT). If I had to give an analogy to describe the difference between the two it would be like comparing fly fishing to a basic rod and reel set up. One is slightly more complicated and complex, but both have their purpose, and those purposes change depend on the situation you are embarking on. The same thing applies for trees, some times it’s better to only climb SRT, or you may start with SRT and then switch over to DRT once you enter the canopy. Just like you might switch rods depending on what the river is giving you that day at that particular time of the year. I have found that using SRT to enter large mature trees for pruning in particular, then switching over to DRT once I’ve reached my highest tie in point works best for my style.
The Double rope technique climbing system consists of a 11-13mm rope (typically 150ft in length), a micro pulley, two oval-shaped carabiners and a 8- or 9-mm prusik rope that is typically around 28-30” in length. There are two points of friction with this climbing system; one is the friction created by your climb line as it travels through a natural crotch in the tree (or a man-made one) and comes back down attaching itself to the micro pulley. The other is the friction created by the small prusik that is configured in a very specific arborist knot around the climbing rope, the prusik works symbiotically with the pulley when ascending or descending, the prusik is also what holds most of the climbers weight but it needs the added friction of the rope traveling through a natural crotch in order for the system to work efficiently. In DRT the climb line is constantly moving depending on if the climber is tending slack or not. When climbing SRT the rope stays stationary and is anchored either at the base of the tree or in the canopy itself. SRT still needs two points of contact for the right amount of friction in order to work properly, however instead of using a natural crotch to establish your climb line through that also creates friction one can use a rope tether or some other type of tool that will create two points of friction on the climb, too much friction and you’ll burn yourself out tending slack, not enough friction and you’ll slip down the rope or you won’t be able to descend/ascend effectively.
In my opinion, SRT is the most advanced and efficient way to climb trees whether you are pruning or doing a full removal. Large corporate companies have come out with a multitude of mechanical advantages that have taken the place of a prusik to even begin to count, but, the most simple, cost-effective and widely used SRT system is the Rope tether and prusik set up. First, you will decide whether you want to anchor your climbing rope in either the canopy or the base of the tree. This anchor will hold all of your weight so if you anchor at the base back it up with some insurance knots/gear in case of an emergency. Next, you’ll set up the rope tether and prusik. The tether creates one point of friction on the rope by giving it a small captured bend(friction) just above where you will tie your prusik(2nd friction point) around the climb line. Now you have two points of friction right in front you, where with DRT your second point of friction is through the natural crotch in a tree in which supports all of your weight. In SRT the second point of friction is the rope tether. I wanted to write about this in order to give customers an idea of what’s going on before we enter and or exit the tree. Once again, I really appreciate you stopping by, and see ya around: See pictures for better visual descriptions.