It is not THAT hard to sort your shit out

?… as I was writing that title I was about to put stars into shit, but then I realized that, hey, it’s our blog so I can write whatever I want!

Wheee, the perks of having your own blog…

I have finally got round to doing something I have been meaning to do for ages: sorting out all the baumpartner‘s rigging gear. As is so often the case, once you have put a certain thing off for long enough, the hurdle it represents grows ever larger in your head – until you actually get round to doing something about it and realize it was really not such a big deal.

I have switched all rigging lines to Teufelberger’s Sirius Bull Rope, all rigging slings are now tREX. This has the advantage that you can work with colour coding and things become more uniform, this creates greater clarity as opposed to before where the rigging equipment was an assortment of lines from different manufacturers.

Great having rigging lines all the way up to 20mm now and dead eye slings that are specced accordingly higher – this way you know that if anything really beefy comes along, you can handle it well within the WLL, without having to compromise on your safety margin.

I finished it all off yesterday by adding printed labels specifying manufacturer, MBS, date of first use, diameter and length. I sealed this with heavy-duty shrink wrap with an adhesive on it. As the shrink wrap is used on the end of the lines there is not concern as to any adverse effect it might have on the fibers.

Gear that is well sorted and looked-after is more fun and easier to work with. Also, I believe it encourages correct use as it allows the climber to focus on the task at hand, rather than having to improvise with makeshift or jury-rigged equipment.

Wear and tear

Like all matter, our bodies are exposed to entropic degradation, are subject to wear and tear – and so we slowly go to pieces.

In the past years at industry events there has been much talk about the effect that tree work has on our bodies, what damage we sustain – repetitive strain injuries, musculoskeletal disorder – and how to counter it. Likewise for discussions on stretching, exercises or remedial therapy. This is all good stuff, as far as I am concerned only good can come out of awareness.

These ailments have the “advantage” that quite often we can do something to mitigate them, as there comes that point where one can no longer ignore them and is forced to take action.

UV damage to the skin is more perfidious in the sense that it can go unnoticed for a long time, consequently, I suppose, there seems to be less discussion about it – maybe because protection is taken for granted, as a no-brainer? Or rather is it viewed as something fairly minor? Not true, says the UK HSE or German SVLFG data: melanoma are right up at the top of charts of nastiness afflicting people working outdoors – the baseline is that this is a really serious condition that can potentially kill you.

The difference between attitudes in Australia or New Zealand and norther hemisphere countries is striking. It struck me that sun blockers are very much a topic in the souther hemisphere, yet here they remain a bit off to one side.

Last week at Arbor Berlin, I received as a give away a credit card-size piece of cardboard with a UV sensitive spot on it that indicates UV levels. I was quite surprised by the fact that even in conditions where I would have thought sun screen to be unnecessary, UV remained relatively high.

There is a salutary lesson here: there is a rationale in cultivating awareness for damage we can avoid, mitigate or prevent, not merely for conditions we can perceive immediately, but also for those that may only affect us many years down the road.


Yet more dinosaurs?!

The teeny crow hatchling reminded me of last year’s Ig Nobel prize for biology.

This award went to Jose Iriarte-Diaz at UIC for research he did on dinosaur’s gait. The closest you can get to dinosaurs today are birds, so consequently Jose used domestic chickens for his studies. Normally when birds walk, the thighbone is more or less horizontal, with the knees doing most of the work.

Jose made a dinosaur tail out of modeling clay and a wooden stick that he then attached to the rear ends of his chickens two days after they hatched, increasing the weight as they grew. Effectively, this created a counter-balance, causing the birds to walk in a much more upright fashion, more like humans, with a more upright stance and most of the movement happening in the hips.

The thought of Daffy Duck being crossbred with a T Rex really tickled me. And imagine what a let-down it must have been when Jose removed that fake tail, not to mention that as the chicken concerned, you would end up flat on your face… beak – whatever!

Still, doing science nowadays is tough and I certainly do not begrudge anyone the funding they manage to wrangle out of increasingly tight budgets.

So good on ya, Jose.

Granular vs. global

Teaching or presenting often leaves me with a niggling feeling of uncertainty.

I know the content I meant to convey, but what exactly was the message received by the participants or the audience – or rather the individuals that make these up, as the process of absorption of information is highly subjective and will vary from person to person.

This to me is the challenge and great mystery of teaching – I think the way in which one addresses it changes over time, evolving in step with your experience as a instructor or presenter.

The degree of information you can gain from observing an audience is fairly limited for a number of reasons, especially when dealing with a large group. It is a different matter in a one on one situation, but groups can have a significant impact on an individual’s behaviour.

So it makes sense to deliver a message that is concise and unambiguous. On reflection, if I had to sum up my personal evolution on how I attempt to deliver my content, how I tell my story, it is a transition from  a granular view towards a more global one…

Looking back, when I embarked upon the trip that ultimately ended up where I am today, my view of the topics I was discussing was initially very granular, really going down into minute details, disassembling content down to very fine constituent components – this view can deliver a very specific and technical picture.

Although I think this approach has many merits, today I would differentiate where, when and how I use it: in some contexts this analytical, granular perspective is the perfect tool to gain deeper insight into a topic, but it requires an audience that has a corresponding level of competency, otherwise you are going to lose them en route…

For this reason increasingly I ask myself prior to an event what the absolute essence is of what I am trying to communicate, what is the core of the matter? So for instance, I frequently find myself stripping presentations right down when I dust them down after not having done them in a while. Kill your heroes? Certainly how it feels when you dump that favorite analogy of yours or image out of a presentation – because ultimately it is static cluttering up the airwaves, merely distracting from the key message.

Hell, come to that, using PowerPoint – or Keynote – used to be a standard part of every workshop or presentation I did, as an aid to set the scene and introduce a topic. Today in many ways I prefer a whiteboard or flipchart and whiteboard markers over a projector as they are simply the more flexible tools, allowing you to dive in deeper where necessary – or skip points that are not relevant.

A global view is achieved by stepping back from the topic, considering overarching targets or issues. When discussing rigging, I can choose the granular route, by delving into the constituent parts involved, getting bogged down in pulleys, bollards and friction devices, the technical spec of rigging lines and slings, vector forces or standards. Or I can take that step back and ask myself what the main targets are when rigging? The highest degree of control possible and managing various forms of energy might be one answer to that question.

In my books, a good presenter or teacher is able to switch between granular and global views, depending upon topic, audience and context and will use the two approaches in a differentiated, selective fashion.

I have been guilty of all the above, and in all honesty still struggle today to strike the right balance – but once again, as is often the case, giving something a name can be helpful to approach it in a more mindful fashion, and by doing so ultimately, hopefully, maybe, getting better at what you do.

Rigging Nomenclature 2.0

I was just running a very thorough write up about the rigging workshop in Azumino through Google Translate. I love some of the terminology the Google comes up with going from one language to another, and then back again – a bit like Chinese Whispers – it comes up with some highly creative nomenclature.

Some examples?

Well, for instance a dead eye sling become a dead ice ring… a Cow Hitch turns into a Kowhitchi, a Port-a-Wrap into a Potarappu. I actually think I like these better than the originals…

So, please, pass me up that dead ice ring!

Arbor Berlin – what a great event

Just back from Arbor Berlin, looking back to the past couple of days, as one does.

In some ways, Arbor Berlin was a bit like a trip down memory lane. It felt like events used to be a couple of years ago, informal, friendly, welcoming and slightly fuzzy (in a good way, mind). On the other hand Gregor also assembled a very interesting program with a number of high-profile speakers and presenters. I certainly enjoyed this mixture and also the fact of having some time in hand to have a chat with quite a few people, something I usually simply do not get round to doing as I am normally rushed off my feet doing… stuff.

The venue in Berlin Treptow, Baumschule Späth, Berlin’s oldest tree nursery, dates back to 1720 and extends over a sprawling area that includes an arboretum that was founded in 1879. A really interesting and rather beautiful place, just a stone throw away from the centre of Berlin!

I love initiatives like this and would like to thank Gregor for all the time and effort he has invested in making it happen. The event visibly brought people together, served to spread ideas and to inspire people. It is also an opportunity to break down barriers and get stuck into some face to face communication, which is always a good thing.

Oh, and by the way, should I for any reason have been in two minds about the matter beforehand (I wasn’t): I now officially detest budget airlines – especially on a 7am flight with Bayern München football fans tossed into the mix, on their way home from the DFB cup final after an all-nighter.


Oh and also: SXF, Berlin Schönefeld, has to be the most dysfunctional airport since the Wright brothers first flew the Kitty Hawk. 

Just saying.

ETCC 2016 in Prague

Yayyy! Finally finalized the poster for this year’s ETCC in Prague – just in time to send it out before heading off to Berlin later this afternoon.

For more info on this event you can either visit its website or Facebook page. Over the years, ETCC has evolved into a really exciting, dynamic format, with all sorts of things being tried and evolving in an on-going process.

If you really ever needed an excuse to visit Prague (I don’t, that much is for sure), this is the ideal opportunity: a special event in a special city, what more can you ask for?

Arbor Berlin

Coming Friday and Saturday Arbor Berlin will be taking place in the Baumschule Späth in Berlin. This event was initiated by Gregor Hansch, who worked with us for many years and moved to Berlin five years ago and you may have met as a competitor at ITCC or ETCC – or some other tree care event.  Gregor has put a lot of time and effort into bringing this event to Berlin and has put together a very interesting program with speakers presenting and doing demos on a wide range topics.

If you are in the area and have nothing planned, why not stop by?

Speakers include Knut Foppe, Frank Rinn (Rinntech), Bernhard Schütte (Münchner Baumkletterschule), Anja Erni, Lothar Wessoly, Angela Sipos (Teufelberger), Carsten Beinhoff from the German Health and Safety will be there and I will also be doing something… apart from anything else, these events are a great opportunity to meet people and to interact and discuss arb (and non-arb) topics.


One insight I gained on this trip – well, it was not really an insight, but it made me smile regardless – , was how at the end of the day regardless of where what colour our skin may be, which culture or country we live in or what language we speak, some behaviors are inherent to most human beings.

Das passt schon! or That’ll be alright (or for all the Aussies out there, She’ll be alright) are phrases I have used in the past to illustrate that moment when you have identified a potential problem, recognizable by that bad feeling you have in the pit of your stomach or the niggling voice in the back of your head – yet decide to ignore it and go for it.

Observing myself, I would suggest that this is a good point in time to take a moment to review whether you have not become fixed on a target, your plan A may not working as planned, so and now you are resorting to improvised, work-around solutions. Well, I say “you”, but in actual fact this is mechanism I am familiar with from my own experience: I have found declaring those phrases as a red flag that pops up in my mind, indicating a potential problem has helped me identify an issue before it developed into a full-blown, serious problem.

In the workshop in Azumino, with the help of Paul and Takashi, we established that the corresponding phrase in Japanese is  一か八か, or ichi ka bach ka, translating as from zero to infinity. When I used this phrase during the workshop it raised quite a strong response (well, for Japanese standards, at any rate). I am going to remember this one…

This small episode touched me because, as I wrote above, it shows how none of us are above counter-intuitive behavior and target fixation – as that is one of the things that makes us so very human. I suppose viewed through an evolutionary lens, this acceptance of a degree of risk, to chance it, has done us great services – but then again this all depends on what degree of failure or damage is acceptable as a result.

Be that as it may, for the time being I will carry on waving the red flag, 一か八か-stylee!

treemagineers in Japan

After a day’s workshop in Forest Park in Saitama on general climbing techniques and two days on rigging in Azumino in the Nagano prefecture, I once again have a number of people to thank for making this happen: the Niikura family and all at KEM Japan for being well organized and the most gracious and generous hosts conceivable, Takashi Osaka for, once again, bearing with my ramblings and – apparently – tirelessly translating the full three days, Paul Poynter for his support and insights during the workshops – and the people who came from all over Japan to this event, without you this would have been only half as much fun!

I hold the professionalism of Japanese climbing arborists in the highest esteem, once again I was humbled and impressed by the focused and concentrated attitude displayed by the whole group, we had seventy people for the weekend, who were on the ball from the word go right up until the end. I am happy to be able to be able to offer this small contribution towards welcoming this group into the climbing arborist community, as I feel their contribution is meaningful, important and profound.

The lodge we stayed in in Azumino, Teicho Sanso, was stunningly beautiful with a rather lovely couple running it – we were able to do the whole rigging workshop on site. I was super-excited to be able to demo all ten generic A and B rigging scenarios as defined in the Rigging Research over the course of the two days, something I have never done before. This created a very clear structure along which we were able to discuss not only rigging tools and techniques, but also the thought process behind planning and managing such operations – as well as emergency planning.

Off for the day to Tokyo tomorrow, then flying home Tuesday. Ahhhhh, the joys of long-haul flights…