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.

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.

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…