No, that is not a butterfly. If you thought it was, you might want to look this link up…

As I have said before, I love street art – and stencils. I originally intended to add a jet pack onto the ALB’s back, but ran out of steam, it’s not a very big stencil, hence rather fiddly.

On top of that, you definitively do not want to go giving these critters bad ideas!


Today we were finishing off a job on some seriously large London plane trees. This group of three trees are a good thirty five meters tall, if not higher, and super-wide. The spec was checking for dead limbs due to infection by the Massaria fungus, pruning back from the buildings and thinning the crown and reducing weight were necessary. These were the trees we got caught on in the wind last week…

I was thinking about what a big influence my mind set has for me on how I am able to perform. Much of this is down to whether I let myself be dominated by my fears and insecurities – or not.

Take these plane trees as an example.

They are biiiig structures, not entirely easy to get around on, also there is plenty of stuff below them you could smash up. So how am I going to go into this day? Am I going to let myself be dominated by insecurities, such as This looks like really hard work, I wonder if I am up to it? or Crumbs, I have a sneaky suspicion I may have badly underpriced this job?

Or do I approach the task in a methodical fashion, in quite certainty that I – and the team – have the competency and experience required to deliver high-quality work?

To be honest, I experience elements of both. A degree of self doubt is probably natural and healthy, like a control mechanism to make sure you are considering a problem from all angles and not getting ahead of yourself. On the other hand, I find it helpful to work through a routine in order to provide the necessary focus: arrive on site, discuss the work to be performed, check the trees out, install an access – and get cracking.

This assurance allows me to focus in a step by step fashion on problems such as work positioning challenges as they crop up. By breaking the mountain down into manageable portions, the overall task becomes manageable.

This brings to mind Aaron Antonovsky‘s key points on how people cope with stressful situations, of which two are comprehensibility  and manageability. Yep, that rings true when you are confronted with a challenging climbing problem or a gnarly take down: if I can get my head round the problem and feel that I have all the necessary compentencies and skills necessary to sort it out, e.g. have confidence in my climbing skills and the tools I am using, trust the other people on the team, am confident regarding the anchor point we have chosen, well, that is probably going to make the job run considerably more smoothly.

A confident and competent mindset also allows you to recognize the point should the above no longer – or not – be the case more accurately and to then bring in help from someone with the necessary expertise.

In a nutshell, the name of the game is not being dominated by fear and insecurity (yes, I suspect that oftentimes the tough guy number serves to camouflage these!), not to be like a hedgehog paralyzed in the lights of the rapidly approaching car, but rather to take charge of the situation and sort it.


If I imagine a checklist hanging next to my bed that is the first thing I look at when I get up in the morning, what would be the main points on it? Sort of like memos to self?

The list would probably start with something down the lines of: try not to mess up the same things you messed up yesterday. Or: try not to be a dummy… and so on – you get the idea.

Because, let’s face it… when all said and done, we stumble through life attempting to at least appear as though we had the roughest of clues where what we are doing and where we are heading, when in actual fact, some things we do are just plain stupid and irrational.


There is this one thing that I do, that I surprise myself with time and again – and promise to myself not to do again, which is loosening tight knots in lines with my teeth. This is really not a good idea. Teeth are great tools for… masticating on food and the like. But rope? Really does not cut the mustard.

So made me think of this? I was assessing a group of level one climbers today, the candidates had just tied the knots we were testing, after the test we were undoing them again, one of them was cinched up a bit tight… but hey, easy, just let me open that up…


Brings to mind a case that Pit Schubert of the DAV-Sicherheitskreises (the safety body of the German alpine association) describes in his book Sicherheit und Risiko in Fels und Eiswhere some unfortunate soul was rock climbing and as they were pulling slack to clip the next anchor were holding the line with their teeth, when they slipped and… well, put it this way, did considerable structural damage to their jaw (Schubert is a good bit more graphic, but I will spare you the gore).

Eeek! Just really not a good idea.

One time, after just having been to the dentist, I was on a job site using a throw line to set an access. You know how it is, you come away from the dentist feeling elated on the one hand, teeth all sorted out and squeaky clean, on the other hand a bit apprehensive, dreading the bill for the treatment… anyway, I wanted to detach the Dyneema throw line from the throw bag, the knot was a bit seized up, so… guess what? Yup, give it a quick tug with the teeth. I managed to take an edge off the filling the dentist had just put in. Duh.

That, in my books, qualifies as mildly stupid. Specially if you do it more than once.

So please, if you see me doing this kind of thing, do not hesitate to mention to me that I might want to stop being silly.

What is the take away lesson from this insight?

I endeavor to recognize where I am being stupid and change that behaviour. Admittedly the learning curve can at times be rather flat, but bear with me, I usually get there in the end.

Slight turbulence

Today we worked in the wind. Quite strong wind.

The perfect day, in fact, to work on a group of very tall London plane trees (we are talking a good 35 meters).


In the course of the morning the wind spun round from south to south west and really picked up – by the end of the morning, if you were not facing the wind side on, but turned to face it, you were being bodily blown all over the place, it was blowing a fair old gale.

Trees in the wind are such stunning structures, watching the limbs dampening the movement, the distance the different parts of the tree travels before swinging back… also quite humbling, seeing these these evolved strategies springing into action in order to handle strong winds.

Be that as it may, I came up with a titbit of wisdom I thought I might share with you.

But first, let me digress… the low rumbling sound of the wind blowing through the trees reminded me of a train coming through – at speed. It brought to my mind a passage in Neuromancer, in which William Gibson wrote …

His eyes were eggs of unstable crystal, vibrating with a frequency whose name was rain and the sound of trains, suddenly sprouting a humming forest of hair-fine glass spines.

(If you have not read Neuromancer, do so. In this seminal 1984 novel, Gibson wrote about the internet waaaaay before its time. The first sentence is The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel – by which, back in the day, Gibson meant a hazy grey fuzziness, yet of course in the age of digital television, a dead channel is… blue. Talk about a sign of the times…. but hold on, I really am way off topic off here).

It also made me think of an old Discord band from DC called Rain Like the Sound of Trains.

So there you go, we finally get round to the point I was trying to make, which is my new rule of thumb, which goes: If the wind in the trees is like the sound of trains, do not attempt to climb them. 

I will put this up next to my other rules of thumb, such as If you have drops dripping off the tip of your nose, it is raining hard. Or that unforgettable Didjism, If you’re going to put your boll#cks on the railway tracks, make sure they ain’t vibrating!