In memory of Brigitte Comin

It is with great sadness that we inform you of the passing of Brigitte.

Brigitte was a remarkable woman, even when she was clearly struggling with her condition, she remained a warm and positive person, her courage and unbroken spirit were truly an inspiration.

For many years she and her family have been part of the ETCC family, volunteering their time and with Brigitte selling her arborist-themed t-shirts.

She will be sorely missed.

Our thoughts and heart-felt condolences go out to Renè and their sons during this difficult period.

Travel accessories

I have been biting my virtual tongue for weeks, but finally have to give in to this impulse: Let it be known that I vow henceforth never again travel without a whole bunch of pencils. 😂


I won’t tax your mind with an explanation – so bear with me, normal services will resume tomorrow.


Jason Diehl wrote an interesting piece for Climbers’ Corner in this month’s Arborist News about assessing splices and stitched terminations. Whilst he gives some valid pointers as to what to look out for when deciding whether a termination is fit for purpose or not (Is the stitching protected? Is the stitching centered on the cordage? Is the stitching perpendicular to the line?), the un-written part of the article highlighted some uncomfortable questions we need to get a better handle on as an industry.

Take the two terminations below, superficially they are similar, …

… yet of course they differ in one important detail: one is labelled, the other is not.

Do not get me wrong, the aim of this post is not to promote one manufacturer over another, rather it is about transparency: the point being that as an end user in the example on the left I am being provided with important information via the label (manufacturer, year of manufacture, model, certification, standard, serial number), whilst on the right hand side, no such information is provided.

Now, of course I could say that I bought the eye to eye on the right from a company I trust, which has a good reputation and track record for safety. Yet, what if the person buying and the end user are not the same person? Or if I am checking gear for somebody else and am not sure of the provenance of this piece of kit?

Jason makes a fair point, there are indeed some things you can look out for, but the fact remains that traceability is out of the window – or at least much harder to establish – when products are not labelled with the relevant information. Also, the indicators he highlights are the points that are comparatively easy to spot. But there are other issues which are harder to assess, such as: How do I assess whether the stitch length is long enough? Whether the thread used is strong enough? Whether the tension on the thread is sufficient? Come to that: what is the breaking strain of the unmarked product? One would assume 5’000 lbs, maybe – but is this pulled eye to eye? Or in a basket configuration?

So many questions.

For these reasons I am not able or willing make a call on unmarked stitched terminations, because in all honesty, it would pretty much be a stab in the dark as I have not been provided with sufficient information to base a decision upon. Without a doubt, out there in the wild and whacky world of social media you will certainly find experts who will tell you that all is good, that is fine to use – which really puzzles me, as I cannot understand upon what they base this opinion (yes, because it is indeed no more than that: an opinion – not to be confused with a fact)? Maybe ESP?

Further, I would strongly encourage you to bear in mind that depending upon the function you are fulfilling at a given point in time, an opinion you offer or a call you make could well be construed as an expert opinion, with real-life, legal implications should something fail.

What about splices then, you ask?

Well, I am reasonably comfortable to make a call on splices which are made on industry-standard lines (sixteen strand and double braid construction) by using some of the pointers which Jason describes in his article, but anything beyond that? I would refer the question onwards to an expert. And/ or ask the climber to provide extra information.

Labelling is a very easy way to facilitate communication, to create traceability and clarity between the manufacturer of a piece of equipment and the end user. It is important to understand that in the absence of labelling a cautionary approach is a reasonable line to take. If in doubt, check back with the person who provided or sold it to you, if you are unable to qualify the properties of the termination further, do not rely upon the sole fact that it looks good, in such an instance I would strongly advise against using it.

After all, do you want to literally put your life on a line based upon a hunch?


No comment

Why are comments not enabled on the treemagineers blog?

Well, it is certainly not because I am not interested in what you think – on the contrary, rather it is down to the form of how we discuss issues. In a day and age when everybody seems to be communicating in a breathless and instantaneous fashion (how often does it occur that a client will send you an e-mail in the morning and call in the afternoon all grumpy that you have not sent him a quote yet. Like, seriously?! Client: I sent you an e-mail five hours ago! You: Errr, right), we made the conscious decision that we did not want to have to monitor the comments on the blog permanently in order to filter out the really weird stuff.

Our aim was to create a platform to share with you ideas and concepts, to present exciting developments or to outline interesting projects, to point out things we find upsetting, dangerous or funny – hopefully the blog has achieved some of this and has offered the one or other impulse for you over the years.

So rather than opt for fast-twitch, instantaneous communication where the main aim is to be seen to respond as fast as possible, we chose to go for the long, drawn out conversation, preferring quality over quantity or speed of delivery.

I love coming to an event, meeting up with someone I have not seen in a while or have maybe only just met, and the person mentions something I wrote about half a year ago and we will have a conversation about a matter we have both given thought to – not just for a mere thirty seconds, but over a longer period of time, allowing us to really mull it over and consider its various aspects.

So, you are very welcome to give us feedback on a topic, you can reach us via the contact form on the website – or let’s make a point of having a chat about… stuff at an event next year.

Hooked reloaded

Ray and Taylor recently put together a rather nice video, filmed in sunny north Wales, giving an overview of the features of the self-orientating positioning aid, Captain Hook.

Captain self-orientating positioning aid

Taylor Hamel outlines the features of the Captain: a self-orientating, high strength hook that is designed for technical jobs. More details on the website –>

Posted by DMM Professional on Friday, 23 December 2016

The Captain is another one of those tools I love. If I had to strip down my climbing kit to the bare essentials, I reckon this one would still be in there… it does require diligence and a bit of practice to use and set it correctly, but in many situations it significantly expands the range of possibilities on offer when planning a climb through a canopy – or when moving from one tree to the next.

Some advice on use of the Captain?

Well, Taylor covers a number of the key points in the video above.

Apart from that I would suggest that you set your aim on a realistic goal. Make sure you are in a good and stable position prior to throwing (this greatly improves your aim), aim for a limb that is well visible and defect free. When throwing, use the actual amount of line you need to reach the target (more line adds unnecessary weight and will tire you).

Define a number the number of throws you are going to allow yourself before you consider alternatives. This prevents getting fixed on a target and maybe ending up settling for a dubious compromise which is almost there.

Avoid loose stuff flapping around, have the line well cinched up against the shackle and hold the lower part of the Captain, this again improves your aim and will allow the Captain to fly true.

Aim for the empty space above the target. Get the Captain right up against that base of the limb or hooked on a limb below, rerouted around the target limb, as in this instance the Captain cannot rotate out during the traverse.

If you are using an extra piece of line attached to the Captain (i.e. not your climbing line), make sure this attached to you – there is nothing more frustrating than seeing the Captain nicely set on the target limb with the line dangling ineffectually below it, out of reach.

So there you go, not rocket science.

But as with any tool, the Captain also needs to be treated with respect, be aware not only of its qualities but also of its limitations: The Captain is not a primary suspension point, whilst it may be rated, it is essential that you remain attached to your primary anchor point at all times while using the Captain. Consider the consequence of a failure of the point you have snagged with the Captain – if in doubt, do not use it and re-throw.


Christmas – again?!

Wow, did I blink?! Where did 2016 go? The year seems to have passed by in a blur, serving up a number of… well, let’s call them surprises. It will be interesting to see what 2017 holds in store for us.

But before we go there, we would like to wish a time of peace and reflection over Christmas and New Year to you, your families and loved ones.

Also, we would like to thank all people out there who supported us by inviting us to an event, spreading ideas, giving feedback and suggestions, buying one of the products in whose development we were involved in. As in so many things in life, having a good idea is one thing, but it takes people around you buying into it to validate it, allowing it to fly.

We have envisaged a number of projects we plan to move forwards with in the coming year, stay tuned for more on this in due course.

For now, comatose immobility on a sofa, Christmas crackers, copious amounts of food and drink and getting stuck into a good book seem like the way to go…

Compact swivel range

Below is a video which DMM produced to give an overview of the capabilities of the compact swivel range. The Mini Swivel, Nexus and Focus allow for all sorts of solutions when managing torsion in connections, when low installation height is required or when linking various metal or textile components together.

I am loving incorporating these elements into my climbing systems, as they allow me to do things that were simply not possible before – or demanded a work-around solution.

Spot the cameo appearance of the treemagineers drop tower in the video 😉

Heavy lifter

Finally, after a good seventeen years of heavy use, our GRCS has grown weary to a degree that I decided to replace it and ordered a new one. Well, actually, when I say replace… I actually mean that we will still be using it as a second lowering device when and where necessary.

I am really impressed by the pounding these devices stand up to. After all this time, yes, the device is starting to look a bit worse for the wear, but apart from a couple of bent bits, the winch is actually perfectly serviceable.

The other point that struck me is how Greg’s strategy of keeping the product the same, apart from a couple of fairly minor tweaks makes a lot of sense. It makes for a consistent product, a device you are deeply familiar with and could handle in your sleep (no, I am not suggesting you rig whilst sleeping, this is not advisable).

So why the GRCS? Since Greg introduced his device, a number of other people have developed lowering devices – Reg Coates, Steven Iblings, Andrea Trentini, to mention but a few – which you see widely used in the industry today. All of these devices have their justifications and uses, it is really up to every team to assess which one suits their needs best. Put it this way, the market has definitively become more complex than the decision which lowering device to buy back in 2000, which was essentially choosing between the Hobbs and the GRCS. Back to today,  GRCS happens to suit our needs, based upon the type of rigging we do, well.

Is this kind of device indispensable?

In my opinion a simple lowering bollard is hard to beat for straight-forward rigging in terms of value for money. You cannot help but love them for all their simplicity, ease of set up, intuitive in use – yet step away from simple rigging to anything more complex where you are lifting loads, and yes, a lowering device with an integrated winch becomes indispensable. It certainly changed the way I view rigging. And most of the time, I find that what we use it for most is pre-tensioning lines, eliminating the elongation, allowing you bring pieces around much further on the hinge wood than you would otherwise. But also when using load-transfer systems, drifting or lifting loads, I regard this kind of device as a highly versatile tool.

So there you go… the serial number on our original GRCS was 145, the new one’s is 3140… I wonder how many tons of wood no. 145 handled over the years?!


One of the things that I find exhilarating during a climb is the sense of flow you will sometimes  experience: That moment when you are fully, totally immersed in what you are doing, with one movement logically leading to the next, totally loosing your sense of time, giving yourself over to the exhilaration of the climb, besides which all else pales to insignificance: you are totally focused on the task at hand, on the next leg of the climb, on reaching that part of the canopy, on making that traverse. In my own mind I have always referred to this as an sensation of flow.

You may remember that the other day I was getting all excited about learning more about aspects of a matter I thought I had understood? Well, this one has got me really excited! My brother pointed out Mihály Csíkszentmihályi’s flow theory to me (thanks, Michael, goes to prove that ‘flu is good for something at least, eh?)… what can I say, my mind is pretty much blown!

Csíkszentmihályi is a Hungarian psychologist whose research started out by asking the question what makes people happy. He established that so long as certain basic necessities are guaranteed, increased wealth does not make for a happier person…

One reoccurring theme, when talking to people about when they experienced happiness, Csíkszentmihályi realised, was a sense of flow they described – regardless of whether he was talking to an author, a composer, a musician, an athlete or an artist. He developed the following definition of flow which states that when you are in a state of flow, you experience:

  • an intense and focused concentration on the present moment,
  • a merging of action and awareness,
  • a loss of reflective self-consciousness,
  • a sense of personal control over the situation or activity,
  • a distortion of temporal experience, one’s subjective experience of time is altered,
  • the experience of the activity as intrinsically rewarding,
  • a sense of “immediate feedback”,
  • a feeling that you have the potential to succeed, and
  • feeling so engrossed in the experience, that other needs become negligible.

Many of the points above I can relate to from challenging climbing situations: The sharpened sense of awareness that comes from being at height, the sensation of the open space below you, the buzz from a perfectly landed swing, the buzz of flowing through the tree, the satisfaction of seeing a plan unfold perfectly.

Csíkszentmihályi proposes following model:

The states of mind he distributes in the diagram above – apathy, boredom, worry, anxiety, relaxation, arousal, control and flow – all interact and depend upon the level of challenge and your subjective level of ability or skill. The point where the lines intersect represent a neutral state, from there on outwards, the emotions which an activity evoke depend upon the level of the challenge and the level of skills involved to master it.

Below is another interpretation of the chart above, this time emphasising the flow channel

An evening of browsing YouTube and Facebook?

Low challenge, low ability. OK in moderation, but can lead to a sense of apathy when overdone. Crank up the level of challenge, but keep the level of ability low and you will find yourself respectively feeling worried, or anxious. However, if you increase the level of ability, for example by practice or by training an activity, you may find yourself relaxed, aroused or in control.

By balancing off the two aspects of challenge and skill/ ability against each other, we can find ourselves either feeling relaxed, in control or aroused. Get the balance wrong however, and you may find yourself fearful, worried or scared.

Taking it easy on the job, just plodding along, being relaxed is all very well, yet the flow theory states you cannot experience a sense of flow while doing so.

I found all this a really fascinating insight, as so much of it rings true – and once again, puts words to a diffuse concept.

We often talk about striving for having control over a situation. But according to Csíkszentmihályi, in order to enter into the state of flow (happy and focused), we need to push ourselves beyond our area of relaxation (confident and contented) or control (confident and happy) by increasing the level of challenge. It is important not to confuse this with advocating going beyond what can be controlled, the statement above refers specifically to Csíkszentmihályi’s nomenclature as used in his model, flow by definition contains control with focus added on top.

He also states that effort is required to experience flow. It takes years of practice, diligence and effort in order to become sufficiently proficient and competent in an activity to be able to achieve the levels of challenge and skill necessary to enter into the flow channel.

All the above makes you realise why the experience of flow is not an every-day occurrence, it takes not only the right frame of mind, but also the right activity – yet when it all comes together, it comes with a profound sense of beauty and clarity.

No wonder you can get hooked on it!

Murphy reloaded

Why is it that when working around old steel cable bracing systems, you can be ever so cautious, taping off damaged ends and all, yet somehow seemingly every time your new-ish climbing line manages to find an unravelled end of steel cable to run over and get damaged? Argh!

This would seem to me to be a variation on the theme of Murphy’s law: Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. 

I would therefore like to propose following addendum: Anything sharp or damaging a line can run over, it will run over.