Day three of testing

Day three, what can I say?

Fantastic weather and big forces sums it up. Best explained with some pictures…

A manifesto

With European parliament elections approaching, as things stand at the moment it seems clear that in many countries of Europe right-wing parties stand to win a large percentage of the vote.

Every country seems to have its own breed of these groups, UKIP in the UK, SVP in Switzerland, Front National in France, Jobbik in Hungary, NPD in Germany and the list goes on… these groups feed off – and at the same time nourish – the disillusion and fears regarding the future of parts of the populations, serving them with populist, simplistic slogans and apparently easy solutions, baiting them with empty promises and identifying scape goats and legitimate targets for people to vent their frustrations and anger on, e.g. immigrants, Jews, Roma, homosexuals etc., who apparently are to blame for all of this.

We understand that it is not possible to dissociate oneself from theses developments, no one is on the sidelines and there is a necessity to take a clear stand in these matters. It would be deeply wrong to believe that a professional life can be split off from a private, emotional or political life, as we see this as all being an integral part of the definition of one’s self.

Treemagineers stands for a belief in certain core values, such as mutual respect, inclusion and tolerance. For this reason we cannot accept attitudes or ideologies that are racist, fascist, homophobe and/ or sexist.

Another world is possible
Another world is possible

We believe that by creating strong networks based on these values – mutual respect, inclusion and tolerance – , a better world can be achieved, step by step, starting in small, every-day matters such as how we interact with our families, co-workers and people around us.

We believe these are strong, affirmative messages to send out to all who preach intolerance and hatred by standing up to them and by answering their slogans with a clear “No!”.

Things get heavy

Wow! That was an interesting day yesterday. And it was only day two of the week, wonder what more is going to come to light.

Don’t expect any quick statements regarding the testing. The temptation of course is to rush out to share snippets of information, but the truth is when it comes to rigging, caution may be advisable when attempting to express generic guide lines. Rigging is complex. Many factors come into play, that will influence the way the machine you have built into the tree behaves – and that is one of the things we are trying to improve our understanding on.

So the next steps will be mulling over the data, evaluating all of the video and photographic footage and trying to formulate coherent conclusions that are of use in the field. The problem is not lack of data, but the sheer volume of it, and this will only increase by the end of the week.

Bit of rain over night, cleared now, so it looks like we’re good for today, which is fantastic as it means we can press on…

Caledonian Give It Some Depth

A while back I wrote a post about giving it some depth, reflecting upon the need to beef up opinions with fact it they are to be meaningful. So here we are, in the Highlands, with a load of rigging gear, attempting to do just that.

Arrived on site on Sun and was blown away by the amount of work that Chris has put into this. The site was super-well organized and well set-up, more or less ready to get going on Mon. We had a day of drops yesterday and regardless of what comes out of all of this by the end of the week, just watching rigging systems under high dynamic loads teaches me lots every time: Seeing the impact, hearing the equipment being loaded, and seeing the damage that these kind of forces can cause.

Food for thought indeed. I’ll be very interested to see how the week progresses.

So maybe this is the other side of the coin of what I wrote about the other day, about just going out there and doing some testing yourself if you have questions you want to find more out about.

Testing doesn’t come free.

You have to invest time and effort. The degree of which depends upon how ambitious the scope of the foreseen testing is, so to a degree you can influence that. The aim has to be for the methodology to be sound and for it to be replicable, i.e. the test set-up to be clearly defined.

One of the exciting things about going into a process like this is that you don’t know what’s going to come out the other end… some profound insight, a confirmation of something you already knew (but can now put figures to or can back up) – or profound puzzlement, because the outcome was not at all what you had anticipated. But that’s ok, then it’s really down to discussion to find out where the variables are that influenced the outcome, was it a mistake in set up, were you thinking down the wrong lines… or was is something else that’ll take some more work to understand?

So, big thanks to Chris for making this all happen, with this kind of preparation things go more smoothly, even if unforeseen events occur. As is often the case… especially when chucking big lumps of wood overhead into rigging systems.

Tree climbing competitions

To me, an event like the Climbers’ Forum in Augsburg is an integral part of climbers’ culture.

It’s where we get to spend time together, discuss issues, develop solutions, meet old friends and make new ones. I believe that what we strive to achieve with them, is to empower people, to instill a sense of pride and of being part of a larger culture that reaches beyond merely your company or organization. I love seeing young climbers buzzing with excitement, visibly inspired and bubbling with enthusiasm… that’s what it’s all about!

Another facet of this culture are the tree climbing competitions. This is where a lot of the issues discussed at a theoretical or demonstration level at industry events are put to work: new or refined techniques or equipment may be shown here the fist time, a novel approach to solve a problem or industry best practice showcased in a really proficient manner.

And it’s not just about the competitors. I find working with the volunteers just as fun and rewarding and year for year marvel at the dedication of returning volunteers.

Stihl produced some great video footage of ETCC last year and it seems appropriate to brush the dust of them for the beginning of this year’s competition season.

As a reminder: This year’s ETCC will be hosted by the Polish chapter and will take place on 30-31 August in Swierklaniec Park, Swierklaniec, Poland.

Sounds like a fantastic location…


You can access all the videos in the playlist by clicking on the toggle in the top left hand corner of the Youtube window.

Make your life easier

Yesterday during a break we were discussing how sometimes it’s all very well to decide to do something in a certain way, but if the correct tool to do it with is missing – you won’t do it… until the right tool comes along.

A classic example for me to illustrate this is the throw line on a spool or in an old paint bucket. You won’t use it, because the line off the spool is all twisted and really annoying to wind on and off and the paint bucket is just not handy… along comes the folding cube, and hey presto, suddenly your life gets much easier, you use the throw line more – and become more proficient by doing so. Well, most of the time anyways, unless you happen to be having a throw line meltdown day.

Another use of a throw line
Another use of a throw line

The example we were discussing yesterday was securing the load on the back of the vans.

The authorities in Switzerland have become much more restrictive in this matter over the last couple of years – probably rightly so. When we first got a net to cover the brush we got wide mesh nets, with the result that they were really annoying to use as the branches would always get stuck in them, it was hard to install and to remove. The result? Often as not they were not used. Then we found very fine-meshed material – I think that originally the fabric is used to shade green houses – , really tough but still easy to handle. One person can easily cover the load area on the back of a van with it and it’s easy to remove as the branches don’t pass through the mesh.

So, because it’s easy to do so, it gets used.

This got me thinking about lanyards: I think lanyards are a fantastic tool right there on our harness that can be used in many versatile ways. I find it frustrating to see people thinking no further than side D-ring to side D-ring. But often as not, this is because in people’s perception a lanyard is something that’s inconvenient and burdensome.

So, I say, let’s make it easy.

For instance, you might consider how you stow the lanyard. I dislike nothing more than returning from a limb walk to find my feet tangling in the lanyard hanging down behind the adjuster… this will provoke very un-Zen like states in my mind! So you could use a shorter lanyard to prevent this from happening, which seems a pity as you lose versatility – or stow it in multiple loops, so that when you’re not using it, it’s out of the way – and when you do need some extra length, it’s there for taking.

Over the years we used different ways to do this, small prusic loops of accessory cord, short bits of hose – but all of these methods didn’t feed very well.

Gabriele Dovier from Formazione3t in Italy came up with a very elegant solution: Scuba clips. These are used for scuba diving to hold the air hoses. They have two or three open clips that will take a line from 10 to about 11.5mm. If you give the line a tug it’ll pull out, if you pull it steadily, it’ll feed nicely.

Scuba clip
Scuba clip

So, you just attach it below you lanyard adjuster, stow the lanyard in two loops – and you’re sorted. Most models even have an integrated swivel, which is handy.

With this simple, compact and light solution, that’ll cost you maybe a couple of Euros, you have uncluttered your harness and tidied up your lanyard and by doing so made your life easier. This means you don’t have to focus on messing around with your lanyard, but can rather focus on the climb. Which is a good thing.

Testing stuff

Heath Robinson's rope test
Heath Robinson’s rope test

Got a week of testing coming up next week in Scotland, which I’m looking forwards to, good crew to spend time with, in the Highlands, which is always beautiful – and let’s not talk about the weather forecast. I’ll be writing about it on the blog as we progress…

Thinking about this got me pondering testing.

Testing implies something that is complex and somehow mysterious. It’s not – or at least it needn’t be. As a kid I loved Heath Robinson’s drawings (see above) – still do, come to that – where he would develop a solution to a seemingly easy task by means of some ridiculously complex contraption held together by bits of string, nails and springs (I suppose the modern-day equivalent to that would be zip-ties and Duck tape). This is one way to do you testing, but there is a different approach, which – as in any systems design – is to keep it as simple as possible.

First off you want to decide what you want to find out about: maybe it was a question that came up during a lunch break and that lead to a heated debate. One way to resolve this is to define a test set- up and to run some tests. An example? One year I finished off a presentation with a slide with a picture of a compact steel karabiner choked onto a lanyard. The discussion that year had been on configuration of connectors and one of the summaries was a suggestion or a question whether it might be an idea to use a compact steel connector in certain applications. Thinking about this, observing my own use of karabiners and discussing it with Chris raised further questions, so we decided to do some testing on choked karabiners.

We defined a test methodology, met in our yard on a Saturday, set up and got going… The test set-up involved a mechanical advantage system, three steel drums of different diameters to simulate a range of branch diameters, a load cell and a Dyneema line.

Test set-up
Test set-up

We defined a three minute 15kN pull on three different diameters of “branch” and documented each sample. This resulted either in a pass or fail. The summary was that all karabiners struggled on the small diameter, with one complete failure (karabiner broke), whilst on the larger diameters, the shorter the karabiner, the better it handled this unusual loading – unusual in the sense that the connectors are not designed for this. No manufacturer would ok this kind of loading, the design merely foresees loads along major and minor axis and with the gate open. Still, we felt this was a configuration used fairly frequently in tree care and we weren’t able to find any answers to our questions, so by doing this testing we improved our knowledge – and were actually able to back up a gut feeling with facts.

The other testing I mentioned in a post a while ago was the continuous long descents testing. For this we went to the Musical Theatre here in Basel, as that offered a height of 20m plus, sufficient to do the testing in. Next problem was measuring the descent speed, 1, 2 and 3m/second. The way we sorted this was by building a rig consisting of a wooden base that we could load with weights and a small 20″ kid’s bike wheel with a speedometer on it. The line ran round this and gave us the speed km/ h speed that we converted into m/ sec. Obviously not super-accurate, but good enough to get the descent speeds roughly right.

Not brilliant quality image, sorry about that, lighting left something to be desired… still, gets the point across. Actually looks quite Heath Robinson-ish, come to think of it.

The point I’m getting to here is that if you have a question about a technical issue, go beyond a web search on Wikipedia, Youtube and the forums, get together with some friends, work out a replicable test methodology and go for it. Don’t let yourself be intimidated, testing is not something reserved for boffins in labs in white coats, it can be hands-on, exciting and can expand your comprehension of tools and systems you are working with.

It doesn’t even have to look very sexy, as long as it does the trick! Just look at the Russian space program – basically tractors sitting atop big rockets, but they get the job done.