On the first day in Green-Wood I was up a tree, about to switch my pulley saver from one anchor point to another… when I realised that I did not have one of the yellow retrieval cones with me. Arghh! Let me explain…

My approach to retrieval cones, both small and large used to be very much belt and braces for a long time, the thinking being you can never have too many. So I would hang retrieval cones wherever there was space to do so, with multiple ones hanging off my harness, my gear bag, as well as climbing and access line bags. In fact at one point, I even had one on my key ring!

So it felt like more than just a touch of irony to be stranded in Brooklyn, up a tree, with ZERO retrieval cones to hand.

I ended up having to manually de-install my saver. Once on the ground I started wondering about how I was going to manage this situation for the coming days, in view of the fact that there was not a single cone to be found anywhere. Randomly, I had a 5 Norwegian Kroner coin handing off my gear bag. And a roll of duct tape in it. As so often before in my life, duct tape saved the day! (I always wondered why I had that coin hanging on my bag and how it got there – now I know! It was meant to be there for that moment of need in Brooklyn)

A length of throw line through the hole in the coin, build up some width with duct tape… et voilà: a more or less functional retrieval cone! More countries should make coins with holes in them, they can come pretty handy.

Home now – and ordered ten retrieval cones


Climbers Forum 2019

If you are wondering what events to attend next year, let me suggest that you make the trip to the German Tree Care Days and the Climbers Forum in Augsburg, Germany.

This unique event never stops surprising me with its many facets and its engaged, savvy audience… most certainly worth the effort of getting there.

You can thank me later.

The dates for next year are 7 to 9 May 2019.

For more info:

Lucky to be here

Well, there, strictly speaking, as I am back home now.

I had a further opportunity to work in the trees in Green-Wood cemetery in Brooklyn, NY with Phil Kelley.

What can I say? It is a true privilege to be able to work on such a unique collection of trees in a very special setting, starting a climb in a bucolic setting, surrounded by headstones, bird song and trees, to be surprised by the view from the top of the canopy, offering stunning vistas over Brooklyn, Manhattan and the Upper New York Bay.

Impressions I took home with me this time were for instance of a silver maple that retrenched itself, beautiful, impressive and brimming with vitality. I was considering one stem with a large cavity at its base, wondering whether to take some weight off the top, so I gave it good old kick to see how it moved – upon which I heard a strange wheezing sound and a plop, and saw a racoon streaking away below me. Poor thing had obviously been snoozing in the cavity, to be unceremoniously dumped onto the ground. This was another distinctive theme of this visit: racoons galore, they seemed to be everywhere and racoon poop., with trees with literally every limb covered in the stuff. Ho-hum. Then again, who are we humans to complain about other creatures making a mess: we are, after all, hard to top! Masters of disaster.

We also did some work and installation bracing systems on a large beech tree. Due to the number of stems and position of the weak unions we ended up having to place an absolute spider’s web-worth of braces up there!

The main thing I take away every time from these visits is a lesson in being humble.

We may like to think that we are like the Lorax in Dr. Seuss’ books and that we speak for the trees – yet in truth we do not. We do not know better than the trees. These beings have millions years of experience when it comes to survival strategies and how to manage their shape and form. We are but a blink of an eyelid in this story. Time and again I come across trees that every one of us would probably condemn without a moment’s hesitation – yet there they are, still standing, braving wind and weather. It just goes to show how often trees have a much higher degree of resilience than we credit them with and that we tend to remove them much earlier than is strictly speaking necessary. Partly this is understandable if you are operating in a risk-adverse environment, which is probably true of many of us.

All the more I commend Joe Charap and the rest of the team at Green-Wood for going out on a limb for these beautiful, veteran trees – beautiful, damaged and dignified, despite or maybe because of all their faults and defects.