Spot the pink elephant

Depending on which forums you frequent or discussions you are involved in, everybody seems to be talking about stationary rope technique, SRT. You will see all sorts of variations upon the theme at tree climbing competitions, at demos or at trade shows. And indeed, this has been one of the hot topics in recent years, sparking a lot of discussion right across the industry, involving employers, climbers and manufacturers as well as legislators.

So why has this topic not been discussed here? Have we been boycotting it?

Let me say first off that that is not the case. There are however a number of other reasons.

Via the tree climbing competitions we have very much been involved in this discussion from the get go. As early as 2011, when we submitted the first draft of the Performance Criteria document, which Chris penned, to ISA, we were striving for a framework which would be able to incorporate a broader diversity of line configurations and techniques. The same rationale also applied to the Ascent Event showcase events, the first of which was held in Vienna in 2011 – and a number of subsequent events.

The key point is however, that in our opinion it is important not to create pedestals for each different rope configuration, but rather to define generic criteria regarding performance of tools, systems and assemblies, which can then be applied across the board in a fair and consistent fashion. Apart from anything else this creates clarity and transparency. In the end, I do not really care whether someone climbs with one stationary line, a doubled line, two, three or even four lines – so long as certain safety aspects are addressed and guaranteed. This naturally applies to the wider industry, not just the comps.

A further reason is that I do not believe that these virtual spaces are the suitable format to discuss a topic that people feel passionate about – too much opportunity for misunderstandings and bad blood (yes, experience talking here). After all, my goal is not to upset people just for the sake of it, but rather to promote safe work practices and to help move our industry forwards.

The way we have tried to contribute our part in doing so is by making sure that the tools whose development we have been involved in come supplied with a comprehensive package of appropriate and sufficient information, allowing the climber to decide whether the tool is fit for the intended purpose. We have also invested considerable time and effort to perform testing and support research to gain a better, deeper understanding regarding how we work, to communicate these findings and then to use the information to underpin best practice guidelines.

We are more interested in contributing this kind of positive input rather than getting embroiled in frankly rather fruitless battles over the specific merits of one configuration or tool over another. Let’s be consistent and fair to one and other – behaving in an adult, truthful and rational manner, then we ought to be able to work this one out in a fashion beneficial to the industry as a whole.

That is why. In case you ever wondered.