Second conference day in Rotorua

Well, that was a busy day…

Climbers’ Corner this morning with Andreas “Rossy” Ross, bit of a tour d’horizon, touching on a wide range of topics surrounding system design, from exploring the Fit for Purpose concept, through certification criteria and standards, to worked examples and hands-on configuration and versatility discussions. It was a nice group to work with, bit stereotype, but Kiwis by and large just seem very polite and willing to give you the benefit of the doubt.

This afternoon I was the last speaker on the conference, which was good, as it meant I could go over time – in practice though I finished more or less on the dot after thirty minutes, after Jeremy Barrel, who went before me, had gone a bit over his time. Still, his was an interesting talk on managing veteran trees, definitively food for thought.

I presented a reworked version of Strong as the Weakest Link, which I enjoyed a lot. People ask me whether I still get nervous before workshops and presentations. The honest answer is, not really. But it does depend upon the content: some talks are more technical and the concepts more complex to convey than others, before these I definitely feel tenser than others.

Strong as the Weakest Link, however, really is like meeting old friends: It is a content that flows really easily, with one point leading to the next, especially after the re-working, I just dropped some of the clunky stuff and added in some fun points.


However, one humorous thing – it is especially funny because I realized that it was an issue as I was doing it – was that I added in a couple of elements last night and was going to sleep as I was doing it. How do I know this? I woke up with my finger on the keyboard, having writtennnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn… you get the point. Obviously I added in one slide that made no sense at all – I discovered this during the talk today 😉

So, competition day tomorrow – and guess what? The weather closed in today with rain forecast for tomorrow. Ummm…

Bad things do not happen here

On the flight to Singapore I was looking at the flight path app on my monitor and was struck by the flight route…

Obviously the direct route would pass over Ukraine air space, but after the Air Malaysia incident, airlines are taking a cautionary approach and flying around, rather than over the Ukraine.

One thing this brought home to me was how close that conflict is, essentially it is an armed conflict right in the middle of Europe. This just goes to show how bad things don’t only happen on the other side of the world or in remote places, somewhere in Africa, in  places with complicated names that you cannot remember,  but in this case right on our doorstep.

Just like the other war no one seems to want to talk about that the Frontex forces are waging right on the southern European border against people attempting to enter into Europe from Africa or via the Turkey/ Greece route. This has cost thousands of people their lives – just this year – especially the hazardous crossing by boat across to Italy and Spain, when nutshells of boats sink with hundreds of people crowded on board, after having been ripped off by organized gangs who exploit their often desperate plights by extorting ridiculously high sums of money for the crossing.

This just goes to show how conflict is happening on our very doorstep.

A bit like… exploitation.

I never cease to be amazed by the way that some companies treat their ground workers.

Companies will hire on people from low-wage countries, work them to the bone – and pay them a pitiful wage to boot. In the US they refer to the climbers as the industry’s athletes (something that irritates me intensely, but that is another story, to be written about another time). If that is so, then the groundies are this industry’s backbone, a backbone that is sadly all too often worn down and broken.

He’s glad for the money, it’s more than he would ever earn at home.

This tends to be the kind of justification you hear when you challenge this kind of practice. If I were to accuse that person of exploiting their employee, they would probably be mortally offended and deny it categorically. Exploitation is something that does not happen here.

But it does, like the conflict in the Ukraine, like the undeclared Frontex war, like the people drowning off Lampedusa, bad things can happen right on our door step – exploitation being one of them.

The good news is that we can do something against exploitation: we can ensure that people get a fair deal when they are working on arb crews and challenge it should this is not the case. Ground workers are an integral part of the work we do, should not become the weakest link – and ultimately influence to a very high degree the speed and efficiency of a team and therefore deserve our support and solidarity.

WorkSafe NZ meeting in Manuakau

Had a meeting with WorkSafe NZ inspectors this morning. The event was organized by Andreas “Rossy” Ross of Proclimb and Richard Tregoweth of Treetools, thanks to both of them for the effort they invested to make this happen.

I was impressed by how focused and concentrated everybody was, we ran through the Certified = Fit for Purpose presentation together, which is not the most easily digestible content, yet everybody was well on board and people were referencing the Fit for Purpose party tent afterwards, which I was well chuffed about. Lots of good discussion and a very common-sense, pragmatic approach to work place safety from the WorkSafe crew, which rang very true to me.

I must say that I do not envy the position the inspectors must find themselves in time and again, yet without a doubt their work is essential to preventing unprofessional and dangerous behavior. In the end it is a joint push towards a safer work place, shared between the health and safety organizations, manufacturers of PPE, employers, associations and last, but by far not least, the employees, the operators in the field. Hopefully events such as today will longer term contribute towards a work environment that is safer, more ergonomic, productive – and enjoyable.

So, thank you to all who attended.

Rotorua and the NZAA conference and TCC next…

Arborist Mythology

One of the things that Stanley Lonstaff pointed out is that in a marine community there are rituals, such as songs and music, to cope and come to terms with tragedy, but also to celebrate – and that this was lacking in arboriculture.

In one of The Art and Science of Practical Rigging videos he sings a deeply moving a cappella version of Like The Sea in memory of Peter Donzelli, for me without a doubt one of the most powerful moments in that series…

And I think he is right. So here we go, how about an arborist mythology? Rob Ironside and Maja Bellem have contributed a number of great characters to this project, it is work in progress, I will keep you posted.

So first off, this is Sona Harî , the Throwline Godess…

Sona Harî

It is her you want to address before you make that throw, you do well to stand humbly before her, as she does not look kindly upon the cock-sure and arrogant. She is the goddess of fair lines and high crotches.

Yes, she herself endorses high-quality throw bags, as you can tell in the image above, not some yellow, knock off copy of the original. We should do well to follow her example and not rip off our own scene.

Cryptic? Think about it…


Counter balance rescue techniques

Counter balance rescue techniques tick many boxes for Complex Rescue situations.

The concept of Complex Rescue refers to the rescue matrix used in the Pocket Guide for Aerial Rescue a couple of years back, also was published in Arborist News, Baumzeitung and Arb Climber.

It is also a concept I use in Aerial Rescue training sessions…

Rescue Matrix

This matrix differentiates between level one situations, which is a self-rescue by the injured person. Level two, or Basic Rescue is when a second person needs to assist the injured person due to injury and/ or damage to their climbing system. Level three, Complex Rescue, will be the case when a system is under tension and the casualty therefore needs to be lifted before a descent is possible. There are a wide range of scenarios where this may be necessary, such as rescue from an access line, ladder or stem.

Over the years my position in regards to rescue strategies has shifted. Where initially I felt that dedicated rescue kits and systems were the best route to take, today I feel that the best course of action will involve techniques, configurations and tools that you are deeply familiar with, as these are less susceptible to errors that can occur as a consequence of stress and tunnel vision.

Counter-balance rescues do exactly this, employing a re-configured work positioning system with additional friction added in for the pick off part of the rescue.

Long haul rescue

The long-haul rescue shown above is one example for a counter-balance rescue.

The basic concept of counter balancing the casualty with your own body weight was first brought to my attention by Salim Annebi from France and Jörn Benk published an article on it at a similar point in time in the German Baumzeitung and it has constantly  evolved since.

Interesting question

Here is an interesting question that someone asked at the workshop in Christchurch last week…

Does rope twist in the other direction in the southern hemisphere than in the north, like water down a drain?

Just joking… obviously the Coriolis force that causes the direction of spin for water is a different matter than the twist induced in a line due to braiding, imbalances caused by the friction hitch or one-sided friction over a surface.

Still, made me smile.

If I were stuck on a remote island


If I were stranded on a remote island, what kind of karabiner would I want to have with me?

Well, bit of a silly question really, in view of the fact that if I were stuck on a remote island, I would hardly need a karabiner. But you know what I mean…

So, what would it be? Without a doubt an oval shape karabiner. This shape is so versatile, it is the tractor amongst karabiners, good at doing most things: due to its symmetrical shape it is reversible, allowing you to install pulleys and other hardware on either end, giving you a choice of gate orientation. It has a tolerance to wider loading (within reason!) top and bottom, facilitating correct configuration. Whilst other karabiner shapes may be good at specific tasks, for an all-purpose connector I would default to ovals…

Now all I need is a deserted island.


First couple of days in New Zealand.

After a slightly trying flight, Chris and I arrived in Auckland on last Thursday. On to Christchurch where I did a one-day workshop with Andreas “Rossi” Ross from Proclimb on Friday.

During this we discussed the question whether certification alone ensures that equipment is fit for purpose, looked at a range of examples and then widened the debate to include generic considerations when designing systems and assemblies and what we base decisions on.

I would like to thank Rossi for the invitation and for organizing the event and Matt and the Palmer family for being generous and gracious hosts – once again.

On Saturday then the drive down to Dunedin with Jelte Buddingh’ from Omnitree. We took the scenic inland route and were treated with great weather… oh, and we stopped off at Steampunk HQ in Oamaru, which was fun.

Tomorrow we fly up to Auckland again, next event there on Tuesday.

Hardware on rope bridges

Time and again, when discussing connectors and karabiners, I will harp on about how I think that rings are such fantastic connecting elements, providing a uniform breaking strain, without locking mechanisms which could be cross loaded – and just generally wonderful.

When considering hardware on rope bridges of harnesses there are further factors that come into play, such as the fact that the ring is free to rotate.

This means that wear is spread evenly all around the ring, at least in theory. Every so often, however, there will be a ring that has two grooves, one opposite the other. This is probably due to very slight unevennesses in the surface, that cause the rope to locate in that area, once an indentation is started, this will alternate between rope bridge and connector, this is the reason for the grooves being directly opposite each other.

Having said this though, the kind of wear described above is relatively rare and the fact remains that wear on rings is reduced due to the way that they are able to rotate freely und thus spread the load  and the wear over a large area.

In the image below you can see the very beginning of such damage, where the anodizing is starting to be polished away. This is different from a uniform wear of the anodization, which is normal. In this case you could already feel a slight indentation.

The DMM anchor rings are machined from 7075 T6 aluminum, wich is the highest grade, hardest aluminum available, even so, this kind of damage can occur.

I still remain slightly perplexed by this, in theory I understand the explanation, but one time I came across a ring with wear in three spots, evenly spaced around the inside face. How does that happen? I am not quite sure…

We have done some testing on rings with substantial loss of material and found that the breaking strain was hardly reduced, despite the fact that quite a bit of material was missing, but do not get me wrong: When a groove is detectable, it is necessary to replace the ring.

This matter is exacerbated further when using hardware on the rope bridge with a positive load orientation, such as swivels or rigging plates. In these cases, there is a limited number of positions into which the line can orientate itself, which leads to a much more rapid wear of the element.

The swivel in the images below was in use for six months.

A lot of these swivels are made from a softer aluminum on top of it, to make matters worse. But even DMM’s Axis swivels (not the swivel in the images above), which like the anchor rings are made from 7075 aluminum, will show wear relatively quickly.

Obviously, it would be foolish to over-simplify this matter, there are also other factors in play, such a the weight of the climber, the type of climbing he or she does, the sort of surroundings the harness is being used in, environments with lots of sand or dirt will obviously cause more rapid wear.

In the end it all boils down to the necessity to inspect Personal Protective Equipment on a regular basis, to catch wear before it becomes a problem and to replace it. If you are unsure about the wear on a piece of equipment, I would suggest to discuss it with the person responsible for work safety in your company, the dealer you bought the equipment from and/ or the manufacturer.

En route to NZ

Not a good idea, just worked out that I have 48 hours worth of flying and travel ahead of me.

Still, I was just reading about how long it used to make the London to Singapore run eighty years ago: one week. The plane left London, the airport was in Croydon then, and arrived in Singapore on Sunday a week later. Quite a haul…

So, maybe I am not so badly off after all, also worked out which films I am going to watch, excited about finally getting round to Godzilla, on a less positive note, no Lucy… but I suppose you can’t always win.

I was just going to write that in-flight entertainment today probably beats that in the days of Imperial Airlines, but then again…

Yes, well, I suppose I might actually not be quite so adverse to a week’s worth of travel in those conditions.

Unless it is the Maxim Gorky you are flying in.