Back from Slovakia

2’000 km later, back from Jahodnik in Slovakia, where I was invited to do a workshop last weekend.


I enjoyed spending time with a new group of people, there were climbers there from Slovakia as well as from the Czech Republic, some I had met before, but also some new faces, which is always great – thanks to everybody who came along.

I was impressed by once again by the can-do attitude that seems wide-spread in Eastern European countries, where people just get on with the means that they have  – and manage to do a bloody good job of it.

One of the topics we were talking about on Saturday was crane felling.

At lunch time on Saturday the crane turned up on site – we had two dead trees to remove –, it was a pretty tired-looking Tatra, which is a Czech truck manufacturer, with a CKD crane mounted on it, also of Czech provenience. This was rounded off by Anton, the driver, who also looked like he had seen better days… I was a bit worried. Add to that the fact that the trees were thoroughly dead, that the crane was to be set on a gravel embankment, not to mention the smashed glass in the crane cab and the buckets to catch the leaking hydraulic oil – I felt a growing sense of unease.

Oh yes, and there was no means of telling the weight hanging off the crane, no load cell or any such niceties.

Still, I figured that when I was in Japan the first time, there was an earth tremor whilst I was doing the Aerial Rescue presentation, so that was my Japan rite of initiation – and likewise, this Tatra juggernaut was to be my elemental Slovak experience.

So, we discussed it all, worked through a step-by-step plan of action, I did my spiel on attaching to the hook, risk assessment and site preparation…. and came to the point where it was time to commit.

Anton fires up the Beast that roars away, tries to engage to clutch for the crane – and the engine dies with a loud cough. Likewise the second time. Michal, I said, I think this doesn’t seem to be working, let’s do something else! But I had reckoned without Antons seat-of-the-pants engineering skills: He gave the Beast a well placed whack with something heavy – and the clutch engaged.

Oh-ohh. Here goes nothing…

The crane will shake a bit and make clunking noises as you go up, Anton had warned me before we got started. He was not exaggerating.  The Beast shook and clunked all the way. Turned out it was considerably too small for the first tree, swung round to the second – and did two picks, which worked fine. The felling in the end was a bit of an anti-climax, but the build up was great!

The things you do…

Rest of the weekend was great, we were lucky with the weather and the whole thing took place in a nice location in the middle of a forest. We carried on well into the evening on Saturday discussing the Historical Development of Arborist Techniques presentation … I soon realized that there is no point trying to keep up with the Slovaks and the Czechs when it came to drinking their home-brewed spirits – or to do so would probably end in tears. I chose the reasonable route.

Thanks to Michal for organizing the event, for doing a fantastic job translating and for being patient with my rambling delivery, it was much appreciated.