Caledonian Give It Some Depth

A while back I wrote a post about giving it some depth, reflecting upon the need to beef up opinions with fact it they are to be meaningful. So here we are, in the Highlands, with a load of rigging gear, attempting to do just that.

Arrived on site on Sun and was blown away by the amount of work that Chris has put into this. The site was super-well organized and well set-up, more or less ready to get going on Mon. We had a day of drops yesterday and regardless of what comes out of all of this by the end of the week, just watching rigging systems under high dynamic loads teaches me lots every time: Seeing the impact, hearing the equipment being loaded, and seeing the damage that these kind of forces can cause.

Food for thought indeed. I’ll be very interested to see how the week progresses.

So maybe this is the other side of the coin of what I wrote about the other day, about just going out there and doing some testing yourself if you have questions you want to find more out about.

Testing doesn’t come free.

You have to invest time and effort. The degree of which depends upon how ambitious the scope of the foreseen testing is, so to a degree you can influence that. The aim has to be for the methodology to be sound and for it to be replicable, i.e. the test set-up to be clearly defined.

One of the exciting things about going into a process like this is that you don’t know what’s going to come out the other end… some profound insight, a confirmation of something you already knew (but can now put figures to or can back up) – or profound puzzlement, because the outcome was not at all what you had anticipated. But that’s ok, then it’s really down to discussion to find out where the variables are that influenced the outcome, was it a mistake in set up, were you thinking down the wrong lines… or was is something else that’ll take some more work to understand?

So, big thanks to Chris for making this all happen, with this kind of preparation things go more smoothly, even if unforeseen events occur. As is often the case… especially when chucking big lumps of wood overhead into rigging systems.

Tree climbing competitions

To me, an event like the Climbers’ Forum in Augsburg is an integral part of climbers’ culture.

It’s where we get to spend time together, discuss issues, develop solutions, meet old friends and make new ones. I believe that what we strive to achieve with them, is to empower people, to instill a sense of pride and of being part of a larger culture that reaches beyond merely your company or organization. I love seeing young climbers buzzing with excitement, visibly inspired and bubbling with enthusiasm… that’s what it’s all about!

Another facet of this culture are the tree climbing competitions. This is where a lot of the issues discussed at a theoretical or demonstration level at industry events are put to work: new or refined techniques or equipment may be shown here the fist time, a novel approach to solve a problem or industry best practice showcased in a really proficient manner.

And it’s not just about the competitors. I find working with the volunteers just as fun and rewarding and year for year marvel at the dedication of returning volunteers.

Stihl produced some great video footage of ETCC last year and it seems appropriate to brush the dust of them for the beginning of this year’s competition season.

As a reminder: This year’s ETCC will be hosted by the Polish chapter and will take place on 30-31 August in Swierklaniec Park, Swierklaniec, Poland.

Sounds like a fantastic location…


You can access all the videos in the playlist by clicking on the toggle in the top left hand corner of the Youtube window.

Tower dismantle

On Friday we dismantled the tower and loaded it onto a truck to ship it back to Wales. Perfect fit… great relief all around that this worked so smoothly. Pretty sure though that this first time was probably the one requiring most improvisation and flexibility as we are still unfamiliar with the whole running of the tower — I would expect this to get easier as we acquire greater routine.

Apart from that, what a fantastic piece of kit! Just moving around on it gives you ideas of things you’ve always wanted to find out more about, but never had the means… until now!

Introducing the Drop Tower, Climbers’ Forum day two

On day two we found ourselves skirting round torrential cloudbursts… luckily it cleared just in time for the first outdoor session, in which we introduced the tower.

The thought behind the Drop Tower is to give something back to the industry, to create a platform which offers possibilities to improve our understanding of the ways in which we work and to provide the means to do replicable testing. The concept is for the tower to go to a number of events in Europe, probably  three or four, and that at these, asides from the official program, people will be able to do their own testing. The way this would work is that if you have something you think would be worthwhile testing, you get in touch with us, we define a test set up and run the tests at the event. This would be free of charge, the only condition being that the results shall be published and made available to the public.

At the Climbers’ Forum this time we did some background tests, linking back to testing we had referred to in years past, but for obvious reasons were unable to show on site.

We looked at the effect that the angle at the anchor point has on anchor point loading in a single, stationary line configuration. The we compared the peak forces generated when dropping the 100kg test mass into a doubled running line vs. a single, stationary line set up. Next we compared energy absorption of systems by varying a stitched semi-static and a knotted dynamic lanyard between the test mass and the load cell and finally compared the performance  of a couple of mechanical devices.

It was great to have Andreas Detter from Brudi Partner supporting us during the talk, as some of this stuff is not entirely intuitive and he’s just an good person to run a presentation with. Some of the results we were still discussing the following day, trying to make sense of the one or the other figure. Over all a very interesting session, interesting results and the tower was great! So easy and fast to reset the mass, offering loads of attachment options…

What were the results? Well, you should have been there if you want to know 😉

We will be writing these topics up in due course and some of the test need to be re-run to clarify what the variables are… topics for years to come!

Thanks to Knut Foppe for the photographs.


Work Positioning Off Crane Hooks demo, Climbers’ Forum first day

This demo that Florim and I prepared together discussed how we attach into the hooks of mobile cranes, i.e. cranes with multi-sheave hook blocks with running cables – as opposed to a single, standing cable  – when positioning slings or chains on trees during dismantling operations. To do so we mocked up two hooks out of wood and rigged them onto the drop tower. The motivation for this talk was really reflecting myself… you know how it goes, crane turns up on site in the morning, everything is hectic anyway, you’re trying to organize the ground crew, the traffic management, placement of the grapple truck and chipper, a site briefing – and when it comes to installing onto the hook, you just attach in in any old way. Well, maybe not quite, but the criteria and the legal situation are were not quite clear to me.

Setting the slings, pic: Flo Nidecker
Setting the slings, pic by Flo Nidecker

That ambiguity remains: In Europe cranes conform to the machinery directive, so are not PPE. However, with suitable means, a lifting operation can mean lifting people, e.g. with a basket. The Gardeners’ health and safety organisation in Germany, the Gartenbau BG, for instance argue that a harness can also be viewed as a suitable means and by doing so managed to legalize attaching to the hook. In Switzerland you apply for a exceptional permit from SUVA, the Swiss health and safety body, to ride the hook, this will be granted on a case to case basis. In this way, the exact interpretation of the legality of tying into the hook varies from country to country.

Next, Florim and I went to speak to a number of crane companies, which was very interesting. For instance I was unclear about how hooks get specced to cranes. Does this depend upon model or size of the crane? What arguments are there for single vs. double hook, who makes the hooks, how much variability is there in the different models of hooks? Again, this is one of these topics that superficially seems really straight-forward, in truth thug, you can spend a while talking about it. The hooks are specced by the customer based on their needs, the manufacturer of the crane buys them from a hook manufacturers, of which there are three or four world wide and then certifies the crane and hook according to the machinery directive.

Next we started discussing attachment options: What scenarios could we envisage attaching to cranes in? We decided there were two generic situations. First, attachment to crane, placement of chains or slings from hook, transfer and anchor climber to tree, cut limb. The other option is in the case of the felling of a tree that is structurally compromised and a transfer of the climber to the tree is no option. In this case the use of two cranes may be a viable alternative, with one crane being used to lift the load and the second to secure the climber.

We discussed various attachment options, directly into the hook, on the neck of the hook above the gate, to the hook block, backed up options, attached to the neck of the hook as well as to the hook block. There are any number of permutations conceivable, however, I strongly feel it to be advisable to keep you PPE and the load separate, i.e. have the attachment outside of the hook, on the neck of the hook and to establish a back up to the block. If the climber is remaining on the crane, as in option two described above, a permanent back up may be worth considering, running a back up device on a secondary line.

Primarily the aim of the workshop was to clarify that there is plenty to discuss in this matter, to ask questions and to establish some generic red threads that people may want to consider when configuring their systems onto the hook.

Thanks to Knut Foppe for the event photographs.

Climbers’ Forum

It’s been a truly busy week. I was thinking about how to sum it up on the drive back home from Augsburg – and realized it’d turn into a monster post! I therefore have decided to split it up into multiple shorter posts.

I would like to thank all involved in making this event happen for their support, all at Forum Baumpflege, Dirk Dujesiefken for going along with my blue sky thinking, Irina Kaths-Knigge for being efficient, always friendly and just all-round wonderful, Puk for mucking in, all the speakers for the thought, energy and creativity they invest in the material  they present, there were a number of first-time speakers this year, most of whom have been coming to the show for years – and I just love to see people making that transition… Also I would like to thank all who came and joined us for the conference, I realize this means travel and accommodation costs, as well as loss of income, but as by the end of the show I was buzzing! Seeing all these tree people meet and interact is just fantastic.

Finally I would also like to thank Chris for all the time and effort he has invested in our drop tower over these last months, truly this is his brainchild, the attention to detail and the functionality are just stunning.

Next year’s dates are 5 to 7 May 2015, infos here:

Climbers' Forum Augsburg
Climbers’ Forum Augsburg


Final day in Japan

Finished the final workshop day in Kyoto. My comic highlight of the day was the biker fest going on close by which involved a band playing cover versions of popular songs. On the ground this was not so noticeable, but when I arrived at the top of the access line and cleared the hill between the workshop site and the bikers I was treated to a pretty bumpy, off-tune, but non the less very enthusiastic and raucous rendition of Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana in best Japanglish. Not the best for continued communication with the ground, but not without its humor.

A big thank you to all the folk at KEM for making this possible and to the whole family Niikura for the invitation and for their gracious and incredibly generous hospitality. What a fantastic group of people to work with, a true pleasure and privilege! Also a big thank you to Takashi-san, as I already mentioned in yesterday’s post. Another day of – as far as I could tell – flawless translation. Look forwards to working together again in the future.

And finally I would like to thank all the attendees of the workshop. I hesitate to generalize, as I always feel that it’s a bit stereotypical, but all the same, I can’t help but observe that the Japanese audience is a very easy one to work with, people are very attentive, forgiving of occasional fits of fuzziness on my part (yes, definitively happens!), polite and switched on. I am excited to see how this industry seems to be rapidly evolving in this country and am glad that I have been given the opportunity to make a small contribution towards this.

I will be leaving Japan tomorrow filled with many impressions, and once again intrigued by how superficially some aspects of this society seem quite westernized, yet at the same you get the sense of a proud and very different culture, with a strong sense of identity and a long history. What fascinates me is how it is possible for cutting edge technology and age-old traditions to co-exist side by side, both very much alive and seemingly not in contradiction , but rather complementing each other.

P.S. Good news! Just realized I’m flying with JAL, codeshare with BA… so I won’t have to watch the same films again. Small joys 🙂

Event in Belgium

I will be traveling to Menen in Belgium on the 26.04.2014 for the opening of Condor Safety‘s new training centre.

There is a big event planned with the manufacturers they work with present and a program of presentations. I look forwards to being able to support Patsy and Wouter Verplancke and their team, as they do a cracking job and over the years have been extremely supportive of the Belgian arborist scene.



Workshop Kyoto

Well, I say Kyoto, but it’s actually a fair drive out of Kyoto itself out into the boonies. Beautiful location up in the hills surrounded by Cryptomeria, cherry blossom and forest. Had about eighty people attending, really friendly crowd, again, switched on and interested. There was obviously a fairly wide range in levels of competence, which can make delivering content a little tricky, especially if you are battling not just language, but als cultural barriers. But my feeling tends to be in such cases to allow people sufficient space to interact and discuss between blocks of content. That way you ensure that attendees have the opportunity to ask questions on a one on one basis and also just to discuss what was shown.

Once again, being able to rely on Takashi Osaka’s translating skills was invaluable. I am amazed at how he can spend a whole day translating from English to Japanese – not just English, but me liberally adding in witticisms to boot. But Tashi remains unflappable – even under pressure! Also thanks to Paul Poynter for giving a hand and bailing me out… one more workshop day tomorrow, then I will find out whether British Airways show the same films in both directions on their long-haul flights. I’m afraid I know the answer already.



Workshop in Saitama

First workshop day on this trip to Japan in the beautiful Forest Park in Saitama. Organisation by the KEM Japan team war spot on, crowd was switched on and friendly and apart from a couple of drops of rain mid afternoon the weather played the part, too.

Thanks to Paul and Tash from Kei’s Shop for their support and also Angela from Teufelberger for her presentation of the products. Onwards to Kyoto tomorrow. Taking the Shinkanzen, hopefully Fujiyama will decide to stick its head up out of the haze for us…