I finally managed to get the ETCC poster done, see below. This tends to be accompanied by a feeling of relief, as well as satisfaction to have got it out of the way. Believe it or not, it is not that straight-forward to find pics that lend themselves well to being used in this way.

Anyway, enough of technicalities…

ETCC is a fantastic event. It is a great representation of our climbers’ culture… dynamic, diverse, interesting, inclusive, sometimes unruly and – almost always – fun! The city of Deventer is easy to get to and has a nice, friendly feel to it. The park is right across the river Issel from the old town, with a beautiful population of mature trees. Camping will be on site. Also, as usual there will be a trade show and a Saturday evening party, as well as a number of other events around the competition.

Oh yes, did I mention the Threemagicbeers are rumoured to be planning a concert in their new line-up?

So… if you have nothing planned around those dates, consider yourself warmly invited to join us in Deventer. Come to that, if you DO have something planned, come regardless!

Who is the climber on the poster? Guesses on a post card. The first correct answer wins a treemagineers limited edition rubber bath duck.



Just a quick heads-up: I just realised that the last two posts were about me forgetting things. Just for the record, in case you were wondering…

I did not forget anything today.

Well, nothing major, at any rate.

There is a first time for eveything

It is funny sometimes how you feel that you are on top of things, when something comes along that really pulls the rug out from under you – and you realise that you are not.

The past weeks have been busy, the day to day worries and niggles of the various projects I am involved in and also entering into the hot planning phase for the Climbers’ Forum in Augsburg, as well as ETCC requiring a push with the on-site visit in Deventer, NL, last weekend. But I felt I had everything pretty much under control.

I came back from Deventer Sunday lunchtime, had the afternoon to turn myself around, to leave early the following morning for a basic level one climbing course. I packed the gear and set off shortly after six, I arrived on site, moved all the gear up into the space we use for the theoretical sessions of the courses and was all set to go – with fifteen minutes to spare, nice.

Ahh, coffee time.

When I happened to glance over to Florim, who was also instructing on the course, and saw his hi-viz jacket.

Damn, I think, I have forgotten my hi-viz jacket. Not to mind, I can manage otherwi…

(You ever get that feeling, when rusty cogwheels are struggling to start to turn, but very gradually start to creak into motion, to the sound of metal torturously grinding on metal, with flakes of rust raining down? Well, that was what my mental gears were doing right at that moment)

… se. Hold on. I don’t have a helmet here. In fact… I HAVE FORGOTTEN ALL MY CLIMBING GEAR!

ARGGGGGGH. Whisky! Tango! Foxtrot!

Yes, arghh indeed. There is a first time for everything, but driving to a climbing course and forgetting to pack your climbing gear takes the biscuit. 😂 In my defence, I think what happened is that somehow I felt I had just come back from an event, ergo my gear is in the vehicle, which normally it would be – yet in this instance it was not, as I did not need any climbing gear for the on-site visit. A mind is a funny thing. Even more so, as when I loaded the demo gear into the back of the vehicle I even thought to myself that there was a lot of space – as there would be if you do not pack half the gear!

So, I let the others run the first session (as planned), legged it back home, grabbed the gear and was back in time for the first coffee break – 150km later.

Whilst the story has a humorous side to it, it does make you realise how overload can be quite insidious, creeping up on you , catching you blissfully unaware. Incidents like this really bother me, as I am usually really diligent to ensure this kind of thing does not happen, and it highlights in a rather inescapable way that your thoughts are elsewhere. My response to yesterday is simply to recognise that I am obviously running at somewhat higher revs, and therefore if in doubt to double-check step by step.

One thing you can be sure of, I will certainly double check this morning before I leave the house that I am not forgetting anything blindingly obvious!

Par exemple.

Think big

Today I realised I had inadvertently pocketed one of the work vehicle keys. It is annoying when this happens, as then should someone else need that vehicle, they have to go looking for the spare key.

So, I decided to do something about it. Why not attach the key to a key fob which would prevent this kind of thing from happening in the future.

But what to use as a fob? Hmmmm…

After a moment’s thought, I realised I have just the thing kicking around the house!

There you go, that should to the trick nicely. I won’t be putting that key in my pocket by mistake anymore, that much is for sure! Problem solved.

Mind you, … now that I think about it, this might make driving a tad tricky.


Fix it

Been a bit quiet on the blog front this week.

The truth of the matter is that I got stuck on a post I was trying to write regarding last week’s crane accident. But… if the momentary political culture, and social media in general, show you one thing quite clearly, it is that just because you can say something, this is a long call from it being necessary or wise to do so. Sometimes a text flows, ideas are easy to express – and other times you get stuck.


Which got me thinking about niggling things that annoy you on a daily basis, but just not enough to warrant you sorting them. Like the flap of the first aid pouch on the back of my harness. Because I have the spring-loaded retracting whatsisname and the whistle stowed out of the way underneath it, there is not enough contact surface for the two velcro patches to reliably fix the flap. So the whistle falls out and flops around, the flap flaps – this really annoys me.

So I decided to sort it out.

Isn’t it amazing how long it can take to reach a point where enough is enough? A bit like the time it can take before you pump a flat bicycle tire, to then realise how little effort it took – and how much less hard work it is to ride a pumped bike. Same here… first aid pouch? Super quick fix: I simply riveted a loop of shock cord into place to fix the flap by passing it round the back of the pouch.

I used a retrieval cone to make a toggle to release the loop easily. The spring-loaded retracting whatsisname and whistle now stow nicely under the flap. Also, while I was about it, I realised that the compression bandage actually sits really tightly in the first aid pouch, so that in case of an emergency, possible with slippery fingers, this could make it really difficult to extract the bandage. So I simply made up a loop of webbing and have the compression bandage sitting in this loop. So all you need to do to remove the bandage is pull on the loop, job done.

This is really simple stuff, you are switched-on people so you probably do not need me to point out blindingly obvious things like this to you, but what it demonstrated to me was that it is worth sorting such matters out, make it easy to use – work with your gear and not against it. This may seem like a small matter, but ultimately it allows you to focus upon what is going on around you, rather than only your immediate vicinity and the things that are annoying you there.

The good news? This may take no more than a couple of minutes of your time, some thought, a rivet and a piece of shock cord.

But then… what about that crane post?

I will fix that another time.

Project Hero

At this year’s Geneva Motor Show, Jaguar Land Rover’s Special Vehicle Operations branch unveiled a bespoke vehicle designed and made for the Austrian Red Cross.

Watch the video below describing the project…

You may have missed it, but at 1:12 one of DMM’s Vaults makes a cameo appearance.

So here is the deal that Jaguar Land Rover proposes: You buy a Vault – and with it comes a advanced command vehicle. And a drone.

Sounds like a fair deal to me!

Sometimes I ache

Yes, I do. After all these years of almost daily climbing, I would be lying if I denied feeling wear and tear to my body. Yet… it still leaves me a bit nonplussed when people come out with blanket statements like Footlocking killed my knees, Doubled running rope technique is hell for my body and so on. Whilst subjectively this may seem true, my impression is that these statement are far too generic.

I think we need to get more specific in our discussions in what is actually causing the damage. Also, we need to differentiate  pain that dates back to prior, pre-existing damage that has nothing to do with tree care and climbing.

I remember a climber telling me about how constantly climbing with a foot ascender had really mucked up his glutes and lower back. I remember a young climber, maybe twenty three at the time, saying how cutting and chucking branches and bits of wood had done serious damage to his shoulder and elbow. I remember the groundie with the messed up lower back from bad lifting practices. The list goes on and on.

Myself? I have had an on and off issue with pain in my shoulders, neck and base of my skull. I went round and round what was causing it: Stress? Heavy lifting? Unequal loads on my shoulders? Driving long distances? Or climbing? I was really dreading the last one, as the pain is considerable and I was dreading that this might evolve into something that lessens my enjoyment of climbing.

The truth of the matter is, I think, that it is a combination of all the above…

But more importantly over the past few months I have come to understand a key trigger: core vs. upper body strength.

If there is one thing you do not lack as a climber, it is upper body strength. A lot of what we do involves pulling motions, e.g. sawing, ascending, moving around the canopy, lifting brush and wood etc. As such, it is tempting to use mainly this strength when climbing. I realised though, that this was one of the key motions putting load on my shoulders. An easy remedy was to use core strength, stomach and thigh muscles – as well as upper body muscles – when ascending. And guess what? It makes all the difference. Funny how you forget about some things, this type of ascent is, after all, what you learn when you first use a Prusik (Grrrrr! 😡). But when climbing on a short friction hitch, such as a Valdôtain Tresse, you tend slack differently, alternately pulling the line and managing slack, when doing so, you are more prone to be doing this with upper body strength alone.

So I now make a conscious effort to involve other muscle groups, making for a “rounder”, smoother motion, and by doing so, obviously reducing the load on my shoulders.

Another example? When I am climbing and want to take a breather, whilst holding onto a line, I will keep my arm fully extended, like in rock climbing, as this requires no muscular strength. Yet I have come to realise that my elbow joints overextend and cause Golfer’s elbow, a condition that causes pain where the tendons of your forearm muscles attach to the bony bump on the inside of your elbow. The pain can spread into your forearm and wrist. So what I do now is to extend my arm, but keep it slightly bent, consciously taking care not to overextend. This again makes a noticeable difference.

All of these issues are totally subjective, we all need to discover how our respective bodies ticks and what their specific strengths and weaknesses are, where predispositions for certain conditions may lurk and how to avoid them.

Sometimes we ache, yes, but instead of making superficial, generic statements, I believe the key is to listen to your body, analyse your work processes, avoid asymmetric, repetitive, excessive loading and understand what the root cause of the pain is – to then in a next step be able to identify suitable remedial actions.

Not rocket science – and certainly worth doing.

Tipping point

Another tipped mobile crane today. This time over in eastern Switzerland, exactly the same model as we have frequently used these past years – as was the case in the jobs I posted about recently.

Ok, I will be the first person to admit that it can be hard to get your load estimates spot on, depending upon the condition of the tree and the time of year. As I was writing about in that post I linked to above, sometimes you get it wrong. But even then, there is usually still margin for error, not that I am advocating to bank upon the fact, mind you, the aim has to be to get it right.

But this accident is way beyond anything like that… the crane was parked up on a terrace above the forested area they were removing trees out of. In the images you can see the way they were working their way backwards, which makes sense, as you are successively clearing work space for the next pick as you go, so far so good.

It is hard to tell from the images, but if I had to make a guess the tree covered in ivy in the right hand image went the wrong way, was hung below the centre of gravity, so that it tipped away from the crane, not only overloading it, but tipping it over the ledge and down into the gulley.

Incredibly, no one was hurt, there were forestry workers to either side of where the boom impacted, the driver was operating the crane with the remote… this could have ended a lot worse! Having said that, the material damage is quite considerable, the crane leaked oil into a stream, so an oil barrier had to be erected, and also – needless to say – the crane is totalled. This is not the kind of damage you are going to pay for with your pocket money.

I am not writing this in a gleeful or gloating spirit, on the contrary, I am very glad to hear that no one was hurt, and alway feel for the crew on site when something goes this badly wrong. Having said that, you cannot help but wonder what exactly did go wrong here. First and foremost, the load attached was obviously too heavy. At the risk of boring you, I cannot emphasise enough the need to document picks! Document the estimated and actual load. In writing. How else is one supposed to have a learning effect? One could well imagine how in the case above, the forestry crew were oblivious to the fact that as they were moving away from the crane they were successively chewing into its load capacity, but as the loads were not explicitly being called out and noted, this point was missed. All you need then is a tree which is heavier than the rest, not clear line of sight to the crane operator and hey presto! One tipped crane.

This is all admittedly highly speculative. The facts will certainly emerge as time goes by, but cranes do not tip by their own accord, there is almost always operator/ human error involved – a bad call, target fixation, lack of experience or somebody in a rush to get the job done. The good news is though that there are relatively easy checks and balances to put in place to decrease the likelihood of this kind of accident from happening: site briefings involving all persons on site before work starts, clear communication channels, clear designation of roles, documentation and evaluation of picks, correctly slinging the pieces – and factoring in a margin of error.

Expect the unexpected. And remember: every day you do not tip a crane is a good day.

On the map!

Time and again it is surprising what you find on Google Maps. Yesterday I looked up Messe Augsburg, the convention centre in Augsburg where the German Tree Care Days and Climbers’ Forum take place, when to my surprise, who should I bump into there but the treemagineers drop tower! 😁

This must have been take in 2014 or 15 during the set-up of the event. Just goes to show how you can never be sure of who is watching you!

Apart from that, as we start to gear up for this year’s event season, with Climbers’ Forum kicking things off end of April, I am starting to get rather excited about what the various events are going to bring with them in terms of meetings and interactions with people, insights and surprises.

If you have nothing planned for end of April, why not come and join us in Augsburg?

PPE in a Globalised World

Below is a video of a talk on the topic of some of the effects which globalisation has had on the production of PPE. One of the events it was delivered at was the Lyon Technical Symposium at the Rheged Discovery Centre in Penrith, Cumbria in 2012.

Whilst there have been some developments since, a lot of what we were saying then still holds true today. There is no such thing as a free lunch, everything has its price, moving production off-shore was never going to be free – a fact which is becoming increasingly apparent.

True social and environmental accountability are not a luxury but something that we should demand of manufacturers, regardless of where they produce – not just as a green-washed label in order to sell more products but rather as part of an on-going commitment to push back against some of the more grotesque manifestations of a globalised economy.