Inconvenient truth #2

Following on from yesterday’s post, I would like to thank everybody who shared their thoughts on the matter on Facebook. The feedback was interesting and diverse. 

Isn’t it interesting how once you get talking about something that seemingly there is a consensus on, all of a sudden it becomes apparent that in reality there are all sorts of assumptions and assessments being made, some wildly divergent. Communication, as so often, is the key…

One of the points which a number of people commented was the fact that other practices also causing damage: This is uncontested and not the point I was trying to make. This is not a case of one over the other. I am sure we all agree, for instance that heavy mountaineering or forestry boots cause significant damage. But here is the kicker: in all likelihood we agree upon that. The question I was raising was what about instances where we are not picking up on damage we are causing using techniques or tools deemed to be fit for purpose? And to be clear: foot ascenders was but one example. Also, there are many variables, the species of tree being worked on, the work being performed, the model of foot ascender being used, to name but a few.

One person also raised the issue of damage at the anchor point when not using cambium savers. I agree this is a concern – after all, as an industry it has been a fair few years since we agreed upon the fact that it makes sense, as well as being technically feasible to protect the bark of the tree from abrasion damage at the main anchor point.

I think it is a moot point trying to prioritise one of these issues over others, it is a matter of considering them side by side: there may be a compelling argument to go ahead regardless of a degree of damage being caused, but where we can avoid and prevent damage, why not do so? The key here is not shying away from examining issues even if they involve tools and techniques which are dear to us. After all, often it will not be a question of ditching something outright, but rather of analysing the issues to then identify solutions.

Craig Johnson made me laugh when he wrote that the reason he removes his ascender is due to muscle memory: climbing with foot ascenders reminds him of climbing with spikes, so he found himself trying to spike with his ascender 😊

But on a more serious note, musculoskeletal disorders or repetitive strain injuries, as with all other techniques, also are worth considering in this discussion – on the pro as well as the con side of the argument… in regards of loading, unlike footlocking, the use of a single foot ascender could potentially cause quite asymmetrical loading and, as Kay Busemann pointed out, considerable load on the outside ligaments of the foot. But then again, footlocking imposes other loads and stresses on the body. In both instances there are fixes: maybe by alternating left and right foot ascenders or using a knee ascender, or by modifying your footlocking technique in differentiating the moment you push up to reduce the lateral force being exerted on the knees when bent. The reality though is probably that there is not such thing as a silver bullet: that one technique that ticks all boxes for everybody simply does not exist – bodies differ and so will appropriate, viable techniques.

Anyway, interesting stuff and food for thought, thank to all who shared their thoughts on the matter. Let’s carry on talking.