Second day of Climbers Forum 2018 in Augsburg

The second days themes were a mix of climbing- and rigging-related topics in the morning and women in tree care in the afternoon.

Max Broekmann kicked off the day with an interesting discussion regarding off-label use of equipment and how this ties in with legislation. Rather than this being a grey area, in my mind that there is a clear and unambiguous route towards making such decisions: The manufacturer provides suitable and sufficient information for you to decided whether the use you are proposing to put the tool to is appropriate. If in doubt, you use your risk assessment. If the conclusion of this process is that risk is being mitigated to an acceptable degree, you press on, if not, you reconsider options.

Then I presented the results of a series of tests performed by treepartner, teufelberger and treemagineers on a wide range of friction hitch combinations. I will write a separate post on this in the days to come…

Then Manuel Schuster did a practical sessions on ascent systems. This was really interesting, as he covered some quite basic topics, as well as advanced techniques. None the less, I thought that the build was logical and coherent – and it is important not to neglect basic stuff. We are all in such a rush to go one better, newer, shinier, faster, that I think we risk forgetting the basics of what we are actually trying to achieve. So a presentation like this, not shying away from building from the basics felt like a breath of fresh air…

When thinking about this year’s program, and in view of the fact that this was the twentieth anniversary of Climbers Forum, I was considering what big changes there had been in that period. The increasing number of women actively involved in tree care was one of the obvious points. Having said that, the fact that the balance is still very much skewed  towards men is a source of considerable frustration to me, therefore I felt this merited half a days discussing, not in the illusion that this would sort it, but you have to start somewhere!

Anja Erni and her team did a great job of kicking off the afternoon with various characters illustrating a number of mechanisms in play. The presentation revolved around a fictional film, Vicki Without Y, of which a number of scenes were played. These were commented by the director of the film, a female tree climber and a scientist – all played by Anja. This made for a very lively and dynamic session, whilst not losing a evidence-based foundation for what was being shown out of sight.

Marika Pylkkänen did a talk on women in tree care in Finland. As I have written about in the past, this is unique environment in regards to gender balance, so I was looking forwards to hearing Marika’s take on it. Interestingly she spoke at length about the structure and evolution of tree care in Finland – yet she did not say much about the reasons for the unique balance between the sexes. In hindsight I realised that maybe this is a bit like asking a fish to describe water, when discussing it with Marika later, she said that they themselves are not clear for the reasons.

Florim Ajda presented his interview-based film on women in tree care. For this he travelled to a number of places to interview female arborists – resulting in a very profound, moving film, with beautiful imagery as well as insightful interviews.

The final point on the program was a discussion panel titled Women in Tree Care, Opportunity or Minefield. Admittedly that could be taken as a bit of a provocation, but that was not the spirit it was meant in. The question was less whether women represent an opportunity or a minefield, but rather how men view this change. The discussion started up slow, but picked up pace rapidly, with a dizzyingly wide range of points being raised. In the end I cut off the discussion as it felt that otherwise we could have spent the whole evening there.

What I took away from the afternoon was that this is a topic where there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Gender is but one facet which makes you who you are, rather than getting tripped up by the issue of sex, it makes much more sense to see beyond it and recognise the individual with his or her strengths and weaknesses. After all, people are so diverse, tall, short, fat, thin, beautiful, ugly, agile, stocky… there is not such thing as a typical man or typical woman. Get over it – and let’s celebrate diversity together!

First day of Climbers Forum 2018 in Augsburg

The two half-day topics of the first day of the Climbers Forum in Augsburg were the evolution of harness design in arboriculture over the past half century and one-handed use of chainsaws.

I greatly enjoyed the harness evolution talks. They kicked off with Don Blair walking onto stage fully togged up in 1930’s arborist garb, accompanied by kilted bagpiper playing the theme tune of Star Wars. I was so engrossed I forgot to film it! Suffice to say that I was very entertained. For the show we assembled and exhibited a collection of 40 harnesses spanning the past 50 years, this is truly unique, I had never seen anything comparable before. I will try very hard to take some photos and to post them on this blog in the coming days. The overview of harnesses offers an unique opportunity to trace lineages of harness designs as well as identify innovative and/ or new features. It also documents designs that were tried but for one reason or another fell by the wayside, to not be incorporated into the following generation of harnesses.

Both Don Blair, as well as the following speaker, de Gourét Litchfield from Sweden offered fascinating insights from a pioneer’s perspective into how arborists’ harnesses were used in the past and how they have evolved to what we are familiar with today.

This was followed by a sofa session, where I sat down with Don, Peter Styrnol and Ulli Pfefferer to have a chat about the step change in harness design over the past decades. I really enjoy these informal conversations, as they offer genuine insight into how another person experienced an event or a period.

The afternoon was dedicated to the topic of one-handed use of chainsaws. After the presentation of the 2016 accident statistics by Carsten Beinhoff of the German Health and Safety, theses sessions continued Martin Götz of the H-team running through the design considerations of Husqvarna regarding top handle chainsaws, especially battery-powered ones. Martin, as well as Eric Hermansson, a product manager at Husqvarna, made very clear, unambiguous statements regarding what they consider to be safe use of this tool and resulting out of that their position as a manufacturer: two hands shall be used at all times. Husqvarna have modified their position in this matter. Where in the past they defined certain positions in which they said that one-handed use might be considered acceptable, the new user manuals no longer refer to these.

The afternoon was concluded by Philipp Frank, an osteopath from Zürich, Switzerland, explaining why and how eccentric, asymmetric loading, as occurs when one-handing a chainsaw can potentially cause extensive musculoskeletal damage. And finally, Knut Foppe took us on a whirlwind tour d’horizon, discussing risk, risk management – and humans’ propensity to cut corners.

And that was only day one!

Exciting news

We are very excited about the launch of the up-date of the trusty Hitch Climber at the German Tree Care Days!

Hitch Climber Eccentric gives the Hitch Climber platform a total face lift, but of course this is about more than simple cosmetics: with the new eccentric orientation of the attachment holes and the differentiated pushing and fairleading faces it also delivers significantly improved function – independent of which rope configuration you are climbing. The upper pusher plates will advance your climbing hitch earlier and in a more efficient manner, the fully rounded lower face will allow your line to enter smoothly with minimal build-up of friction from all orientations.

For more info see here.

Apart being light and highly functional, the Hitch Climber Eccentric is also quite simply a lovely bit of design!

If you plan to be at the trade show of the German Tree Care Days during the coming three days, make sure to swing by the DMM booth where you will find a couple of these pulleys being demonstrated. If not, you will simply have to be a bit patient. 😊

Augsburg set-up epic

After an epic set-up during the past four days, we are all set to launch into the 2018 edition of Climbers Forum at the German Tree Care Days in Augsburg, Germany (well, Bavaria, strictly speaking, but that is another story).

This year feels special for a number of reasons. Not only is it the twentieth anniversary of this event, but also we have moved the whole proceedings indoors, so all talks, whether formal, screen-based presentation or practical demo take place in hall 3 now, with a spanking-new sectional drop tower and tree stand. Also, no more projection for screen-based content, rather we will be using an LED screen. We had this running at 50% yesterday, and as it was it seemed incredibly bright. 100% would probably give the people in the front row a sunburn!

All this is exciting and relevant because it opens the doors to all sorts of new possibilities for presentations, such as testing with real-time data projection, mixed media formats, combing demos and scree-based content, theatre etc. All of this feels like a significant step forwards for an event that is already exciting and dynamic, giving me all sorts of ideas for years to come…

For this time being, I am simply happy that all went well for set- up. The tower is a precision fit into the sky light of the building and everything came together nicely.

A big thank-you to all who supported us during set-up, Phil, Paul, Kathy, Christian, obviously this would not have been possible without you!

First day kicks off with half a day on harness design, the other half on one-handed use of chainsaws. Stay tuned for more on this…

Far from over!

Dear person reading this blog.

As you may have noticed I have not managed to update the blog as frequently as I would have liked to recently. This is due to a fair amount of turmoil on various fronts of my life, as well as simply having been super busy with various projects. But rest assured: the treemagineers blog project is far from over. In my daily life I keep on bumping into topics I would love to sit down and write a post about – but then run out of hours in the day to do so.

Next week is the Climbers’ Forum at the German Tree Care Days. I am very excited to see our brand new sectional drop tower in action – as well as the new tree stand and the new AV tech we will be using. The tower and tree stand left Wales for Augsburg today, set up starts up on Friday. I will keep you updated with the progress as it happens. Those amongst you who are making the trip will be there for the action as it happens, of course – looking forwards to seeing you all.

Also, of course, for the various industry event in the course of this year we have a number of product launches lined up, which is always exciting and satisfying, as these represent the end of a lengthy process of design, prototyping and validation. It is that moment when we get feedback from the end users as to whether they actually see any validity to our ideas, which is really the ultimate test.

So… lots to look forwards to. And thank you for hanging in here with me, things will pick up again in due course.

And then of course there are days like this. I like spring. Working on a London plane above the river Rhine today…

The positive power of…

A couple of the talks I listened to at the NJ conference the other day were by Amanda and Ed Carpenter. With COR, Amanda expands upon all sorts of health-related themes, tying back to arborist health matters – or how to stay healthy on the job. Certainly a topic which ought to concern us all…

A strong take-away message from Amanda’s talks is how a positive mind-set can play a major role in how your physical body copes with injury and/ or damage, emphasising strongly the power of positive thought.

I agree with this view. Psychologists and therapists after all use this connection between physical form and emotional or mental state when working with patients, to read them or to modify the one or the other aspect. Your physical form is closely linked to your mental state – and vice versa.


I believe one can get carried away with the benefit of constantly viewing the world through positive goggles. It is not a matter of whether the proverbial glass is half full or half empty, rather I encounter instances in my professional life where considering negative outcomes can at times be essential when attempting to anticipate potentially adverse outcomes, for example during a rigging operation or when planning a crane pick. In such instances, I would argue that there is a positive power in negative thinking (I think the only reason I am writing this blog post is so that I could write that phrase 😉).

What I take away from this is that positive and negative views all have their place, and that we should use them discerningly depending upon the situation in which we find ourselves and not let ourselves get blinkered either by overly-negative or by unrealistically optimistic thought.