Busy weekend

Wow, quite a lot going on this weekend:

National tree climbing competitions in Sweden, Germany and Italy. Swedish Masters’ was today, this was won by Anneli Skoglund and Johan Pihl, congratulations to both of them. In Celle the prelims of the German TCC took place yesterday, these were won by James Kilpatrick (NZ), who was competing as a guest climber, also qualified for Masters’ on Sunday are Moritz Theuerkauf, Ronny Epple, Gregor and Michi Hansch. Should be an interesting run, lots of climbers in there with plenty of Masters’ experience! Anette Neumann won the women’s prelims and will be joined in Masters’ by Nathalie Pronk (NL) and Frauke Lenz. Again, congratulations to all competitors.

ETCC 2013 Thun (Photo © M. Ottenwaelter)
ETCC 2013 Thun (Photo © M. Ottenwaelter)

Also today were the finals of the Petzl Rope Trip, that were held in Uppsala in Sweden. One of the Swiss teams was The Aborists, which –  don’t hold your breath – consists of arborists who also do industrial rope access and they did really well, placing 17th in the qualification round and sharing first place in the Tubucket discipline with one of the Russian teams. So congratulations to Fredo and the boys @ The Arborists! The Russians seem to be incredibly strong in these events, the semi finals in Uppsala consisted of four Russian teams. Must be something in the water…

Soooo, we’re into the busy season, with many of the National and regional comps taking place in the next couple of weeks, ITCC in Milwaukee two months off and ETCC in Sweirklaniec in Poland a month after that. If you fancy crossing over from attending theses events as “merely” a spectator and would like to support them as a volunteer, you will certainly find it an entirely different perspective and experience, also as a former climber. To me the climbing, despite all the camaraderie had a competitive element to it – as a person helping to run such an event, you are truly contributing towards a team effort, which I find very enjoyable.

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 Augsburg, set up day

Wow, that was quite a day… exhausted now, sunburnt & buzzing. Which is unfortunate, as tomorrow has already arrived and the point where it’s not really worth sleeping is not so far off. But hey…

Got everything more or less ship-shape today, thanks to all the folk lending a hand to make this happen.

The tower… what can I say, it’s all we ever hoped it would be. Versatile, easy to solve problems on – there are a zillion and one attachment options – and it just looks fantastic. Thanks, Chris, for having thought this all through so carefully, you’ve done yourself proud!

Here are a couple of pics from today…

The tower, she rises!

What a ride! Finally, after years, the treemagineers drop tower is a reality!

After a really gutsy set up day on Friday, with Chris and Puk braving the elements, obstructive crane drivers and knuckle-draggingg foundation drilling blokes, the tower is now a reality!

Final tweaking tomorrow, do some run-throughs and test drops and we should be good to go. I will be very interested to see how it all goes, what the response is, what topics this allows us to delve into in greater depth.

Why go to all this effort?

The investment in this tower as a testbed for replicable testing and to advance industry understanding for the hows and whys of our work methods represents a major investment for us, no question. However in our eyes it is the right thing to do: we see it as a re-investment in the industry and are therefore happy to be able to offer something in return for the faith that people place in the products we have been involved in over the years and by doing so in validating the concepts behind them.

Can’t wait to give it a spin over the next couple of days…

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 🙂