Let’s talk about it

I had to opportunity to spend another couple of days working in Brooklyn’s Green-Wood cemetery a couple of weeks ago, thanks once again to Phil for having me along for the ride. There is something very humbling and moving working on these often veteran trees, surrounded by almost two centuries of stories which the headstones tell of people from all over the world. Apart from that, the work is also very challenging, as the trees present multiple challenges, biomechanical defects, decay, die-back – or a combination of all of the above. This means you really have to think out of the box, considering very carefully what exactly you are trying to achieve, and how you intend to do so. In this process I found it invaluable to have Phil as a second competent person on site to bounce ideas off and to discuss issues through with.

Also, I was once again very impressed by the diligence and professionalism which Joseph Charap and his team display when caring for and maintaining this important area of urban forest surrounded by densely populated Brooklyn and the constant bustle of millions of people going around their daily business.

There was one interesting situation we had on the last evening which I thought was worth writing about…

Apart from the issues I described above, the trees also present formidable climbing challenges, really forcing you to dig deep into your work-positioning tool box and now and again stretching out as far as you can. After we had finished up we went for a bite to eat and a drink and were chatting about the past few days.

After a bit of hesitation I said to Phil that there was one thing I wanted to mention, as a feedback, which was that there were one or two anchor points he had used during the past two days which I had felt uneasy about as they were quite low diameter. Phil said that that was interesting, because my flat rope angels had stressed him out a bit. So we got talking. Phil explained that he had had an accident years ago where he fell on a flat rope angle and had impacted against the stem very hard, injuring his shoulder. Consequently, today he tends to opt for higher anchor points when given the choice between height and flat rope angels. I tend to go not for the very last viable anchor point, as I just do not want to spend the day wondering about my anchor point strength, but by doing so take into account that I will need to manage flatter rope angles. I actually rather enjoy this, as from a technical point of view it is quite challenging: I find myself using V-rigs, throwing hooks, the second end of my line, redirects and/ or my lanyard to mitigate the risk of a pendular swing.

The discussion showed me though how valuable it is to be able to have this kind of discussion, I was glad that Phil did not hear my initial statement as a destructive criticism of him and his climbing, which was by no means what was intended, but rather was able to react to it, talk about it – and give me feedback regarding my climbing and issues which had stressed him out. Rather than being touchy feely, I found this very interesting, as it offers insight and understanding, it allows you to reflect upon choices you make and how (and whether) your mitigate risks that they entail.

And finally, it spoke to me to the quality of relationship and trust between Phil and myself, to be able to enter into such a discussion. Communication, without a doubt is the key – yet to achieve good communication we need to strive to understand what the person opposite us is actually trying to tell us, rather than what I think I am hearing.