Another pink elephant

It’s funny how you can talk about stuff, sort it – and put it to one side, to then forget about it over time.

A recent episode brought this fact home to me.

We have a new vehicle in the company, my old Hilux, which I kitted out with the gear we need for work before it went into service. Over a period of a couple of weeks, every time we were setting access lines and were on the job site with the Hilux, I had something niggling at the back of my mind, yet could not quite put my finger on it.

We were finishing off a job for the city, that alignment of chestnuts I wrote about a couple of weeks ago. I was setting my access in one of the last trees, aiming for a crotch fairly high in the tree. Got it in on the first throw, as visibility was not great, I decided to pull in the access line. I could see that the stem branched into three sizeable limbs which were nice and upright, so after proof loading it with a second person, I decided to ascend upon that anchor point. The access consisted of two isolated lines attached to a rigging hub, onto another line passing through the crotch down to a stem anchor.

Once I got to the top, I realised that things were not as they had seemed from below: Two of the limbs were upright, but the third was fairly flat, with a slight inclination upwards – and that was what the line was isolated over. Gah! I really should know better. I felt grumpy and disappointed in myself for making a bad call. Having said that, when I had another look at the point later that morning, after having calmed down a bit, I had to admit to myself that it was not that bad. The line was right up against the trunk, the diameter there was a good 20cm. But the fact remained that I ascended upon an anchor I was not clear about – and which turned out to be in a different orientation from what I had anticipated.

The red thread in all of this?

We have a set of binoculars in all vehicles, this one of the remedial actions we agreed upon after a cluster of incidents around selection of access line anchor points five or six years ago, another one being a decision-making flowchart – but there are none in the Hilux. Talk about a glaring omission. It was only then that I realised that this is what had been niggling at me all the time: it’d be great to have a pair of binos to check that point – was the thought that was just not reaching the surface.

Isn’t it funny how sometimes things can be hidden in plain sight, against all better knowledge, just because of a shift in focus or other preoccupations. I do not say this by means of an apology of my bad call, that was quite simply a bad call, an error.

Talking of errors, this is what James Reason has to say on the matter in his book Human Error:

Error is intimately bound up with the notion of intention. The term ‘error’ can only be meaningfully applied to planned actions that fail to achieve their desired consequences without the intervention of some chance or unforeseeable agency. Two basic error types were identified: slips (and lapses), where the actions do not go according to plan, and mistakes, where the plan itself is inadequate to achieve its objectives.

Yep, my chestnut incident would would fit the bill as a slip or lapse.

Did anyone say “binoculars”? Binoculars are great!

BUT you most certainly do not want to skimp on quality. A friend of mine, Phillippe, who is my go-to in all matters bushcraft, certainly the person you would want to have around after the Zombie apocalypse, used to work in an outdoor store. His recommendation when it came to binos was simple: There are the cheap and cheerful ones for €50, which are a waste of money, plain and simple. Then there are the mid-range models, €150 to 200 – which you can also forget about. His advice was to go straight to the top of the range, to Leica, Zeiss or similar brand. It is going to sting you, but anything less is just not worth having.

This coming from the guy who spends weeks in the bush with nary but a blanket, a ball of twine and a knife?! I’m all ears!

So I ended up splashing out for a set of Leica Ultravid 10×25.

These are both water- and shockproof and at 260 grams light enough to carry with you. You can argue the magnification back and forth… you can get the Ultravids in eight- or tenfold magnification, some say that it is harder to keep the binos stable with the factor ten, I don’t find this to be a problem to be honest, not with what I am using them for at any rate. The second number is the objective diameter in millimetres. Essentially, this defines how much light passes into the binoculars. The higher the number the better you will see in low light conditions or in shade. So when looking into a canopy, I would suggest to aim for a fairly high number for this. The quality of the Ultravids is stunning, you really get the sensation of being right close up to whatever you are looking at!

They are expensive, without a doubt, but this is one of those things you only buy once – and will probably pass onto your kids or grandkids.

From a professional point of view, this is an indispensable piece of kit, which helps to avert incidents such as the one I described above. I highly recommend looking into a good set of binoculars if you do not already use it as a matter of course.

This post was brought to you by Leica… 😂 no, just pulling your leg. Simply nice kit, call me a geek.