Confusion

I was recently reading an article in a glossy magazine discussing the pros and cons of stationary versus doubled line work positioning systems.

I have to admit that I returned from TCI Expo in Charlotte slightly nonplussed, having been informed that climbing any line configuration other than stationary single line automatically makes you old-school. I find this puzzling in the extreme – as well as a crass misrepresentation of the way work was and is performed in trees.

It is a fallacy to dogmatically divide the world of climbing arborists into those who climb stationary lines and those who do not.

It is a fact that for decades there was cross-over: when ascending into the canopy using the footlock technique, climbers were ascending a stationary line, see the image below taken from Sharon Lilly’s 1985 publication “The Tree Worker’s Manual”. In fact, back then, climbers were not even tied in, the use of a long Prusik only being introduced by Bob Weber and a friend of his (whose name I forget, apologies) in the late eighties.

Looking back at my climbing career, I have been using stationary lines to ascend into trees ever since the mid-nineties – after leaving the days of body-thrusting behind without so much as shedding a tear. The range of ascent techniques diversified during the first decade of the millennia, in fact I remember Ronny Epple causing quite a stir when he demonstrated a very smooth rope walker ascent into the Masters’ Challenge tree in Pittsburgh in 2004. As far as I am aware this was the premiere of such a technique being used at ITCC, but it was thereafter rapidly adopted and further developed by other climbers – all the way to today, where such techniques and tools not being used, be it at work or during competitions, is nigh on unthinkable.

For many years it was standard practice to use a stationary line configuration for ascent, to then switch over to a  doubled rope configuration for work positioning in the canopy. Since the arrival of stationary line work positioning tools, the techniques and equipment used to move around and work position in the canopy have further evolved and expanded.

To suggest that the efficiency of ascending a stationary line is inherent to stationary line work positioning techniques is a misrepresentation, this configuration was being used many years before stationary line work positioning gained its current popularity. This is in part due to ambiguous and unclearly defined nomenclature.

When all said and done, I sometimes find myself wishing that we could all calm down a bit and just get back to having calm, informed, adult conversations, assessing the respective strengths and weaknesses of tools and techniques as they arise, rather than backing that one configuration or tool as the be all and end all, embarking upon regular crusades. This does not do the complexity and range of situations we find ourselves confronted with on a daily basis in tree care justice.

In this spirit, the aim should be to expand our tool boxes in an open-minded and balanced manner, based upon credible evidence and high-quality information.