We went diving

At TCI Expo in Baltimore Chris, Taylor and I ran two treemagineers Deep Dives.

The first, at the DMM booth revolved around the question How does an activity influence the shape, form and properties of a tool in regards to concept, design and manufacturing? We had an interesting group of people raising some very valid points, such as the question whether it may be necessary for the industry to self-police itself in regards to some of the more outlandish techniques being bounced around the various forums and social media platforms. We also discussed the rationale behind adapting connectors to activities, such as the use of closed connectors, e.g. rings when remote installing or in situations in which you cannot visually inspect and ensure correct loading.

The second, at the Teufelberger booth considered the question As a climber, how do I profit from using certified systems? This brought together quite a sizeable crowd, again, many interesting points raised, one of them being the concept that certification and testing is one of the things that creates clarity for the end user and allows him or her to decide whether a tool is fit for the purpose they are intending to use it for. We also ran through the different ways in which a product can be certified, either to existing standards or to a manufacturer standard and also ran through some concrete examples.

I would like to thank DMM and Teufelberger for their hospitality in lending us their booth space, also to all who joined us there, I certainly enjoyed these sessions, they were lively, dynamic and interesting.

Let’s carry on diving!

Here is one to put in your diary

The date for next year’s vertical connect in Meiringen, Switzerland, is confirmed: 1 and 2 September 2017. I am pleased to be able to announce that from next year on we will be offering simultaneous translation not only to and from German and French, but also into English.

So why not plan a couple of days in the Swiss Alps and stop by this unique event? What makes it unique, you ask? Many things, such as the location, the broad range of disciplines of work at height represented and a friendly, inclusive atmosphere that makes it easy to enter into discussion with other persons who also spend their working life on rope…

Add to that a trade show area, a Friday evening party and rather a special project – but let’s hold back on that one and keep it as a surprise.

Apart from that, there is plenty of rock climbing spots in the Meiringen area and all sorts of Alpine activities.


Consider yourself invited.


I was speaking to a friend who was involved with some training for one of the large aircraft manufacturers. During a discussion with the safety officer of the site they were working on, this officer mentioned an incident that had recently occurred which really got me thinking on how we come to decisions.

Here is what happened:

During assembly, both wings are mounted onto the fuselage parallel to keep the aircraft in balance and stable. As part of the process of bonding the elements together, they need to be bolted on, this involves a person passing their arm through an narrow opening in the wing space to thread and tighten a bolt. During one such operation, an employee got his arm stuck. The situation escalated, the arm was thoroughly stuck and swelling – in the end a large group, amongst which were the shift manager, rescue services, paramedics and a doctor, were all huddled together on the wing around the poor guy with the stuck arm, who by this time one would imagine was getting increasingly desperate.

Now, bearing in mind that modern large aircraft, such as Airbus’ A380, cost around 400 million Euros, with the wings representing a substantial chunk of the total cost, obviously the shift manager was in a serious dilemma as to what to do. With his operational head on, he was certainly only too aware of the substantial damage, delay, cost and awkward questions that cutting the wing would bring with it – yet this made no difference to the fact that the arm remained stuck.

In the end it came to a head when the arm started turning blue, the doctor informed the shift manager that he had one minute (forget about 127 hours!) to decide how to proceed before he would be forced to amputate the arm to save the person’s life. Finally, and under extreme pressure, the manager decided to cut open the wing and save the arm. Talk about a decision being down to the wire!

There are various ways of looking at this. There is obviously a procedural aspect: how was it possible for this situation to occur? How can procedures be modified in the future to prevent such an occurrence from happening again, but short term the manager was probably weighing up the two options: which was he willing or able to sacrifice, wing or arm?

What is an arm worth anyway?

Well, for medical research for example, you can pick up a whole cadaver for around $2’500. So how expensive can an arm be?

But of course if the arm is still attached to a living person,  the picture changes somewhat. In regards to the exact costs involved, there are many factors in play, legal as well as geographical ones.

In Alabama, for instance, you can expect around $49’000 worker’s compensation for loss of a limb (this sum includes the prosthesis). However, across the border in Georgia, worker’s compensation is much higher, around $120’000 with additional benefits that can surpass $740’000 during a lifetime. In the UK the range of compensation you can expect for an arm injury amputation claim is £62,000 – £192,000 (you have to take these numbers with a pinch of salt, mind you, due to the many variables involved).

So how do you balance that against the costs that cutting open the wing entail? Whilst superficially this may seem like quite a cold, dehumanising take on such a situation, this balancing off of costs vs. risk, probability, exposure time and consequences is certainly something that is assessed in large organisations and companies and is the foundation for defining levels of acceptable risk.

The aviation industry has a deeply ingrained safety culture, as they are clearly working on safety-critical systems. If they fall prey to this kind of incident, what hope is there for the rest of us? Well, of course there is hope. It is down to the individual’s diligence, competence and proficiency to understand and analyse procedures. These may be set in stone in some instances, but in others, protocols may evolve in a fluid and dynamic fashion to incorporate new insights or in response to incidents.

In some ways this incident reminded me of the weighing up of the consequences when considering the removal of a dead tree: the cost of dropping the tree across the garden and making good the damage vs. the risk of putting a climber in the tree.

I certainly do not envy the shift manager having to make that call – yet without a shadow of doubt, from an ethical point of view, the right call was made.


Oh, yes! Just in time for the TCI Expo we have received our extended t-dot sticker range. These complement the original green dot stickers nicely, we reckon. We have got a limited amount here, if you want one, stop by on of our Deep Dive sessions (and no, Nick B, you cannot stuff your pockets with them 😉).

Einstellung Effect

In his book The Net Delusion: How Not to Liberate the World, which I can thoroughly recommend, Evgeny Morozov mentions about the Einstellung effect. This was not a term I was familiar with, after having read some more about it, I have to say it is a very interesting concept.

Psychologists use the term Einstellung effect (Einstellung is German for approach or stance) to describe following situation: Take two problems that are superficially similar, with similar solutions. If you are familiar with one of the problems and its solutions, your approach towards the second problem will be biased towards the set of solutions you applied to the first problem. The pitfall being that this bias may prevent you from recognising other, equally – or more – viable solutions that might be employed to resolve the second problem. The Einstellung effect is the negative effect of previous experience when solving new problems.

Of course, it makes sense to apply templates when approaching a situation, like modules you can interchange and slot into position, using past experience to base decisions upon how to proceed and resolve problems. Obviously if we were to start our problem solving from scratch every time when confronted by a new situation, this would make our decision making processes highly inefficient, unwieldy and time-consuming. Yet this comes at a price – as this is where the Einstellung effect kicks in.

The mechanism described by Einstellung effect cautions against confusing problems which are superficially similar with ones that are identical.

Take the two trees above… the temptation is to assume that one tree is like the next one and that it therefore follows that the solution successfully applied to the one is also applicable to the other. Understandable, but not necessarily correct – and probably the Einstellung effect in action.

Let’s assume two trees above are in a back yard, and that both trees are displaying extensive die-back. So far, so similar. But actually, whilst one of them is dying due to a fungal infection in the roots, the other is infected by a wind-borne fungal pathogen. So whilst the trees may look similar, that is as far as the similarities extend, as the cause and the effects are de facto very different – for instance in regards to the stability of the tree. So a solution that is applicable to the tree infected by the wind-borne fungal pathogen, e.g. dismantling it with a climber using rigging techniques, may not be applicable to the one with the fungal infection in the roots due to loss of structural stability, where it may be necessary to use a crane.

The truth of the matter is that, as so often, reality is more messy than psychologists’ models that portion things into neat boxes, probably in the end the Einstellung effect is merely one ingredient of a cocktail. Further ingredients of this mix are target fixation, tunnel vision and operational blindness, where you fall prey to unconditional faith in operational procedures, failing to heed warning signs.

So there you go, the Einstellung effect, certainly a term I will be taking on board and intend to bear in mind in the future when considering a problem.

A manifesto

Waking up to the breaking news of the US election results, once again this drives the point home that it is essential to stand up to intolerance and bigotry in whichever guise they may manifest themselves. Sadly, today such tendencies can be observed in many countries all around the world.

Every country seems to have its own breed of these groups, UKIP in the UK, SVP in Switzerland, Front National in France, FPÖ in Austria, Jobbik in Hungary, NPD and AfD in Germany, Donald Trump’s vitriolic anti-immigrant positions during his campaign – and so the list goes on… these groups feed off – and at the same time nourish – the disillusion and fears regarding the future of parts of the populations, serving them with populist, simplistic slogans and apparently easy solutions, baiting them with empty promises and identifying scape goats and legitimate targets for people to vent their frustrations and anger on, e.g. immigrants, Jews, Roma, homosexuals etc., who supposedly are to blame for all of this.

We understand that it is not possible to dissociate oneself from these developments, no one is on the sidelines and there is a necessity to take a clear stand in these matters. It would be deeply wrong to believe that a professional life can be split off from a private, emotional or political life, as we see this as all being an integral part of the definition of one’s self.

treemagineers stand for a belief in certain core values, such as mutual respect, inclusion and tolerance. For this reason we cannot accept attitudes or ideologies that are racist, fascist, homophobe and/ or sexist.

Another world is possible
Another world is possible

We believe that by creating strong networks based on these values – mutual respect, inclusion and tolerance – , a better world can be achieved, step by step, starting in small, every-day matters such as how we interact with our families, co-workers and people around us.

We believe these are strong, affirmative messages to send out to all who preach intolerance and hatred by standing up to them and by answering their simplistic, populist slogans with a firm, resounding “No!”.

Autumn here we come, I suppose

It is probably time to let go of the illusion that we are still in late summer – it is, after all, November. Driving to Lucerne today I drove through snow drifts, so this is probably trying to tell me something… yes, autumn would definitively appear to be here.

Having said that, you’ve got to love autumn for its colours – and it is also a good time of year to run courses in…

However, if you happen to be a leaf, autumn is pretty rubbish as you – and all your mates – are going the way of the Dodo.

Off to TCI Expo in Baltimore tomorrow. This promises to be an interesting point in time to be travelling to the US. I wonder what news will be awaiting us in the morning?

Mix your media reloaded

I have said this before and will say it again: when you are presenting or communicating content, do not always  automatically default to the well-trodden route of PowerPoint, rather consider alternatives that might be available to you – or that you might combine with screen-based materials…

Ok, I’ll be the first to admit: I like flip charts and whiteboards, as this tool allows you to interact with your audience in a much more responsive way, for instance by reacting to and/ or integrate input. This creates a dynamic and constantly evolving landscape. Add to that the kicker: When you are working with a PowerPoint presentation, you know exactly what the next slide is going to be, which can be a bit boring when you are doing the identical presentation for the umpteenth time. However, when working with flip charts, you never know exactly where you are going to end up.

This, again, keeps you on your toes. Sofas. Ejection seats. Remember?

You cannot draw? Bollocks. This is not about high-standing art work, rather it is something functional, about investing effort. Get yourself a book on visual communication, some good pens – and get busy.

Here are a couple of examples from the past weeks…

Recommended Reads #3

I have been meaning to write about this for ages, but somehow life got in the way…

Tony Tresselt from over at Gravitational Anarchy has finally got round to finishing his second book, Fall Factor, after his first offering, Free Falling, which he published in 2013. In Free Falling, Tony brings together eco defenders, tree climbing, ITCC in the Pacific Northwest and a accident (or was it murder?) in a classic whodunnit. Do not worry, I am not going to spoil the end of it for you, but Tony being Tony, it ends with a somewhat unexpected and warped twist… 😁

Reading Free Falling was a blast, as many of the characters, whilst fictional, share more than just a fleeting resemblance to persons within the arb community and comp circuit, some obvious, some less so. What tickled me is how the main protagonist, Mike Duncan, seems to wind up at bars drinking Fat Tires whist mulling over the intricacies of the case. And then I go to TCI Expo and bump into Tony drinking… a Fat Tire in the hotel bar. Made me feel like an extra in the book! (That aside, I think Fat Tire is a funny beer, because when you have had a few, you inevitably start ordering Flat Tires from the barman… errrr, yes, time to go to bed, I suppose)

Anyways, I enjoyed the first book and am very much looking forwards to getting stuck into the second one.

Tony self-published the first book in hard-copy as well as in eBook format, which you can still get hold of on-line, the second one — for the time being — is only available as an eBook, due to the expense of publishing.

As I have mentioned before, I love it when people within the arb community bring their various skills to the table as by doing so they add threads and enrich the climber culture tapestry. So I would suggest that you look up Tony’s books and support the time, passion and effort he has invested in them by getting hold of a copy and letting him know what you think.

Sofas and ejection seats

The old photo of myself back in the nineties working up that big tulip tree got me thinking about times past… a person who was very influential for me during the time I was learning to climb was Dave McIntyre, who then was living and working in southern Germany. Dave was a very talented and inspirational climber, not only in terms of his abilities, but also due to his attitude. Dave to me epitomised the mind set of the freelance climber, who is able to turn up on site, mucks in with what is at hand and gets the job done. Not only that, but gets it done well.

Now of course you can also do a  good job in a familiar setting – but the degree of flexibility required to do so is considerably less, as you know what to expect, what equipment is available and on site and how people are going to respond in a given situation.

Pfff, you say, why go to that effort when I can simply stay home and earn money more easily – without the hassle of travel and fitting into a new team?

Training and retaining a degree of mental suppleness is a strong incentive to take a step out of your comfort zone. This can be achieved in various ways. Freelancing is one way to do so and is also an interesting means for a young arborist to gather experience and to see different work processes and philosophies apart the company they trained in.

Another way, for me, is training or running workshops, which achieves similar goals. Both of these activities require you to step away from your set framework of expectations and familiar parameters, in order to work with a group of people you do not know and to try to gain an understanding of where they are coming from, what their requirements are, and what you can offer them that might be meaningful in a given situation. In some instances this process can be obvious and fairly straight-forward, in others it is less obvious and a prickly, drawn-out process. In some instances you may also fail.

In a training situation, simply imposing your views and opinions on others is hollow. I believe that teaching entails elements of both giving and taking, in this sense it is a two-way process. It is fairly easy to teach a means to solve one specific problem, however should a new, slightly different, problem crop up that solution may no longer be applicable, therefore identifying generic problem-solving tools that the attendee/ trainee can apply to a range of problems is a much more sustainable and long-term strategy.

In my experience, when teaching it is desirable to take something with you from every event you run, to keep on learning, to view issues from a different point of view – effectively introducing just that wee bit of imbalance, taking that one step away from your sofa to one side of your comfort zone – enough to keep you on your toes, interested and able to adapt to changing situations.

By all means enjoy down time and periods of routine activity, but do not forget now and again to turn that sofa into an ejection seat!