Only 44 hours left in our kickstarter!

New rewards and stretch goals. CLICK HERE!



  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic

Which gear is better/safer for climbing tall trees?  RSS feed

 
Fredy Perlman
Posts: 64
Location: Mason Cty, WA
2
bike books fungi
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Occasionally peeps on here will mention climbing trees (Dale Hodgins and Henry Jabel came up on a search) but I haven't seen mention of how.

I have quite a few trees with dead tops waiting to fall off, or forked sickly trunks, or just high dead branches that need limbing. Though I have a pole pruner, it's of no use above 16'.

I have a climbing harness but it seems I need spurs to get up the trunk. These 3 basic configurations seem most common, but only one is modern. I would love some opinions on these designs as to efficacy and safety as well as likelihood to injure the tree, or what you use. I don't know if there's been a lot of innovation in spur design and two of these are pretty old. There are plenty of old systems around for a good price, just clean up the metal and rig in new straps.








 
Todd Parr
Posts: 897
Location: Wisconsin, zone 4
20
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
You're a braver man than I am if you're going to climb 16+ ft up a tree with one of those contraptions
 
Travis Johnson
pollinator
Posts: 1025
95
books cat chicken duck rabbit transportation trees woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I have a pair of spurs (second photo) kicking around here somewhere. It s not as bad as it looks. They have to be sharp, and easier on some trees than others, and at certain times of the year. The latter two issues have to do with bark, and how easily they come off in the spring of the year. But honestly its all technique...and trust in your spurs and lanyard. I say that because if you snuggle up next to the tree, you'll slip. You have to lean back against the rope so you get a good 3 point contact.

In a Homesteader/Permiculture venue, I honestly don't see them being of much use. Its nice to put a winch line up high so that with better leverage you can drop a tree away from a powerline, but lets be honest, you can obtain the same leverage using a plastic wedge in the back cut as you fell the tree. A half inch of lift on the bottom "throws" the tree a heck of a ways out of plumb 60 feet up, and that is enough to get the weight transfer over so it falls on its own. It is faster and safer to do that from the ground. And forestry wise, your butt cut logs are the most valuable, and most logs are 16 feet and under which is why they make pruning saws that length. About the only time I need to go higher then 16 feet is around the outside of my fields. Because tree branches love the light, they sweep their branches way out in the field. This causes me to stay clear of them so it does not bust the windows out of the cab, which causes my forest to encroach on my fields. It would be too much though to climb every tree to rid the branches growing out in the field so I just bat them down with an excavator when I have one on the farm. They will reach up 30 feet or so, and that is high enough for me.

 
Fredy Perlman
Posts: 64
Location: Mason Cty, WA
2
bike books fungi
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
@Todd I'm not that brave, that's why I'm asking on a forum first I do not understand how people talk about being up in trees (chainsawing up in trees?? wot??!) without any mention of how they got there.

But @Travis, thanks for dismissing the merit of such gear in a permaculture homestead. I might otherwise have spent a few hundred on gear and wasted a lot of effort for inefficient improvement when something else could have been done (though I'm still not sure what that "something else" is). Now I'm wondering if a treestand would be the safest and cheapest way to do midlevel limb maintenance—out of the fall path of course. Maybe treestand up a nearby tree to do all the pruning on a given one.

I am just seeing, after a few months on raw forested land, how much tree management is involved, and for how many reasons. Various rodents have staged olympiads across my fifth wheel's top every night in winter, and only when I climbed on the trailer (using a plywood platform to spread my weight over the supports) and used the polesaw to clear all the tree limbs up to 16' away did it stop.
 
Peter Ellis
Posts: 1432
Location: Central New Jersey
40
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Is there a reason not to use a ladder and the pole saw?
 
Roberto pokachinni
pollinator
Posts: 1214
Location: Fraser Headwaters, B.C., Zone3, Latitude 53N, Altitude 2750', Boreal/Temperate Rainforest-transition
77
bike books food preservation forest garden fungi hugelkultur solar trees woodworking
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Just for the record and for your safety, Fredy, when you have sick or dying trees, they are inherently much less stable structurally, and thus are much more dangerous to climb to any height.  Most arborists will resort to mechanical lifts (standing in a bucket extended from a large boom crane extended from a truck) to deal with such dangerous trees.  Also, aborists have one handed chainsaws which are much safer and more efficient for working at extreme angles, up above themselves, with arm fully extended and at heights.  

For the purpose of the boom truck, you can stand in the bucket of a tractor (which are cheaper or often free to get from neighbors) extended upwards, and use your pole saw, or a chainsaw. 

For your purposes, if you have sick or dying trees, it is probably better to drop the whole tree, then to try to prune the unproductive, diseased, or damaged limbs, unless the tree is of very high value to you.   Even then, a diseased large branch or top almost always indicates central rot, which makes falling it potentially dangerous. 

If you are going to do some falling, make sure you have clear escape routes, cutting all close underbrush so that you can not trip when clearing yourself from the falling tree, and have someone nearby to help if things go sideways on you.  A rotten tree might not appear rotten on the exterior at the base, but when cut into could split or shatter as the force of gravity begins tipping it over and break into the compromised tissues.  Many fallers have been killed because of this.  Even healthy trees have a small percentage that will split or shatter as they fall.  Usually this latter is as the result of hidden defects (old scars that are buried in healed woody tissue), or spiral grain that opposes the force of the fall direction.

Sometimes making friends with an experienced faller and inviting them to come over and do some work in exchange for meals or beer or perhaps a skills or veggie exchange is a far better option then tackling a new skill, unless you place high value on attaining this skill.

There are likely lots of youtube videos pertaining to falling tips that you can search.     
 
Michael Newby
gardener
Posts: 697
Location: Mount Shasta, CA Zone 8a Mediterranean climate
134
books chicken duck forest garden greening the desert hugelkultur trees woodworking
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi Travis, good to see your paying attention to your trees.

Far as little background, I'm a certified arborist whose been climbing trees professionally for 11 years, so feel pretty qualified to answer some questions about safely getting into and working in trees.

Those spikes in the second picture are similar to what we currently use when removing a tree but those are short power pole spikes and we tend to use longer ones to penetrate the bark better.  Couple thone with a a proper harness, flip line (8 to 25 foot adjustable rope that attaches at the hips and goes around the whole tree), and secondary safety line and you have a basic tree removal setup.  For just pruning a tree we don't use spikes (or gaffes as they're also known) because they cause a bunch of unwanted little wounds and stresses the tree.  Instead we use a lightweight throw line attached to a lead weight bag that gets tossed over a limb.  The weight is heavy enough that it will pull the throw line back to the ground where we tie our main heavy safety rope to the throw line.  This let's us pull the rope up and over the branch and back down to the ground. At this point there are different methods for actually attaching your harness to the rope depending on gear but basically you hang from the rope in some way that allows you to move up and down the rope.  You'll also have a flipline which provides stability and a backup attachment point. 

With the proper use of those tools and the training to identify specific hazards you can begin to safely work in a large tree.  There is a lot involved and I read multiple fatality reports in my trade magazine so don't take it lightly -  professional tree care is consistently in the top 3 deadliest jobs.
 
Wyatt Barnes
Posts: 312
7
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I use to climb hydro poles, which are easier to climb than trees, and I have pruned from the ground and from a ladder and my advice is use a long ladder tied off at shoulder height and then at the top first time up if you have to prune. Having been around dying and iffy trees though my preference is to drop the whole thing and even then many safety precautions are needed. Any chance you could trade off a personal skill for an foresters time? Technically you don't even need a forester, just a feller, and no that is not a typo.
 
Raymond St-Denis
Posts: 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Fredy Perlman wrote:Occasionally peeps on here will mention climbing trees (Dale Hodgins and Henry Jabel came up on a search) but I haven't seen mention of how.

I have quite a few trees with dead tops waiting to fall off, or forked sickly trunks, or just high dead branches that need limbing. Though I have a pole pruner, it's of no use above 16'.

I have a climbing harness but it seems I need spurs to get up the trunk. These 3 basic configurations seem most common, but only one is modern. I would love some opinions on these designs as to efficacy and safety as well as likelihood to injure the tree, or what you use. I don't know if there's been a lot of innovation in spur design and two of these are pretty old. There are plenty of old systems around for a good price, just clean up the metal and rig in new straps.








Suggestion.  I have the same problem.  I am thinking of getting a small drone and attach a fish line to it and then fly above the branch to cut and then fly down so that I can pull on the fish line.  A bigger cable would be attached to the fish line . One of those cutting metal wire could be brought to the branch with the cable and with a back and forth movement, the branch could be cut.  the only problem, I think it would need two  guy to do the push pull motion to cut with that type of cutting wire.
 
Lee Kochel
Posts: 21
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I have used the middle-pictured pair of climbing hooks over several summers on power poles.  They are very reliable and effective.
 
Andrew Schreiber
Posts: 216
Location: Zone 6a, Wahkiacus, WA
21
forest garden goat hugelkultur toxin-ectomy trees woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
One thing to assess is where it is really worth it  

Are the dead tops going to damage something if they fall?   dead tree matter provides several important ecosystem functions that are worth leaving if there is not a danger of infrastructure damage. Wood peckers love them, and create niches for cavity nesting birds, which in turn eat loads of insects.

Do the high dead branches need to be limbed?   I use a pole pruner to limb pines and firs up to 16-18 feet.  For forest fire purposes, this is regarded as adequate so long as the treestand is also thinned out.  Dead branches are part of the ecosystem just like the dead tops, they provide structure for lichens and moss as well as some degree of insect habitat.


My policy is to do as little work as possible, and to minimize dangerous work.  I put climbing trees to cut off there tops in this category. Ecosystems tend to take care of themselves just fine.


 
Bryant RedHawk
gardener
Posts: 2286
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
183
chicken dog forest garden hugelkultur hunting toxin-ectomy
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Like Michael Says, you should get "arborists" equipment to be as safe as possible, Most chainsaw companies make both a Pole saw type chainsaw and "in tree" saws which are lighter than "on ground" saws, and meant for one handed use.

I use Mountain climbing ropes in 11 mm with Jumar accenders from my mountaineering days, this site has new models (tree climbing equipment).

You may find that your best / safest way to deal with those is to hire it done by an arborist, at least for the first time around, so you can observer how to do it right.
 
Michael Newby
gardener
Posts: 697
Location: Mount Shasta, CA Zone 8a Mediterranean climate
134
books chicken duck forest garden greening the desert hugelkultur trees woodworking
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Another good site to check out arborist gear is Sherrill Tree.

They also have a great Learning Center that has all kinds of information related to tree care. 

I also strongly encourage you to look up "arborist accidents" on youtube and watch a few of the videos to get a healthy respect for all the things that can go wrong doing tree care.  I'm not trying in any way to insinuate that you aren't up to the task, I just want to make sure that people know how risky "just a little tree trimming" can be.
 
Fredy Perlman
Posts: 64
Location: Mason Cty, WA
2
bike books fungi
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
@Peter: when you are at the joint of a 25' ladder and a 16' polesaw, the physics are pretty nutty. Even with a harness to support the saw, the leverage is brutal, and if it levers on you hard enough the ladder will slip sideways. I have had some scary moments working on both straight and A-ladders, I'd rather not do that again.

@Roberto: I've felled about 2 dozen trees since I got here, cautiously for the most part. It's true that some were rotten at the top and fell unpredictably, and sometimes I've noticed when chopping up trees that if they fell oddly, it was in fact due to some mass of scar tissue...like one Doug fir that had grown for maybe 40 years, banging against an adjacent Doug the whole time. It had five wounds from different growth points, one almost halfway through the heartwood. For trimming purposes I like the tractor bucket idea.

@Michael: That sounds almost like rock climbing but in a tree. It sounds the most like what I need to do but I still need training and gear.
I will check out Sherrill's site because I've been looking for good books or info sources on this topic and have only found tree maintenance for lumber-oriented perspectives, not my bag at all. And I will definitely watch some arborist accidents. It's research, not rubbernecking.

@Wyatt: I need to find a local forester first, but these replies have all but convinced me to do that.

@Raymond: I used to throw those jointed saws over 2-3" tree limbs to remove them, and a drone would work well for anything of that size. The cable or "survival" saws never cut well enough to do much for me but there are saws you could lift to any height with a drone assist and then pull them from on the ground, hmm...

@Lee: yes, but as other posters noted, bark slip on an actual tree is a real worry. I've been put off using any of these spurs now.

@Andrew: in the Pacific Northwest these low branches get covered with mosses, lichens and even mushrooms, sometimes all three. I'm sure these contribute to our famously sweet and clean air. So I don't gratuitously cut them, only where they interfere with a thoroughfare or create one, say for rodents to get onto a building.

@Bryant: that's some interesting climbing kit. Someone on permies was reviewing an electric in tree saw, but I don't think I'd be using such a thing for a while, now. Not until I've spent some time with an arborist.

Thanks for the great responses and I hope this thread is helpful to others of a similar mind
 
s. ayalp
Posts: 16
Location: istanbul - turkey
2
dog greening the desert hugelkultur
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi,
I came across to Stepp ladder couple of years ago. It seems very easy to use, mobile and safe. But then it was discontinued. I thought it should be pretty easy project to do, but haven't had a chance yet. While searching for the youtube video I came across to  another company that started to produce it again. So I am just gonna leave the links here.
original product and video:

how to video:

and someone using it


and the website that sells it
wildedgeinc product page
 
Travis Johnson
pollinator
Posts: 1025
95
books cat chicken duck rabbit transportation trees woodworking
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Just a question here; do you need a forester or an arborist? The two are vastly different. Now don't get me wrong, I work with my share of foresters as I have to, my farm is certified under the American Tree Farm System and Forest Stewardship Council, but it almost sounds like you need an arborist. A private forester really is more for commercial harvesting, where as a arborist is more for identifying diseased trees and removing dangerous ones.

I say dangerous ones because just because a tree is diseased does not mean it should be removed. It depends. On my farm, where I have a lot of land and want to maximize commercial forestry, I employee foresters and have forestry plans upgraded every 10 years. I also have spreadsheets deriving how much wood is growing, windthrown, and harvested. But while I want to limit my amount of dead trees, under my certifications I MUST keep some dead trees as "wildlife trees"; usually a couple per acre. If your trees are not directly over your dwelling, proposed dwelling, outbuildings, proposed outbuildings, or fences or proposed fences...and you do not plan on doing commercial forestry...then I would leave them.

Here in Maine anyway, the State Regional Foresters are too busy doing other things to develop plans; that is something the landowner must pay for, but the Regional Forester LOVES to walk around an advice landowners of their options. Here that is their primary job. And they love it. I am not sure how many acres you have but I would say less then 5 get an arborist, and if more than that get a forester, but that is just me. I have had the Regional Forester out here several times just discussing where I should expand farming. I love forestry, am a certified logger and derive a lot of money off logging, but I want to expand my sheep operation where it makes sense; good soil, topography, convenience and maturity of the forest. Its silly not to get professional advice on that stuff.

Now that being said, I do cut a lot of wood, between 100-200 cord per month. I have cut wood since I was 15 commercially and am now 42; even now dead trees scare me. You just never know what is going to happen. I would say 9 out of 10 times I have had a serious logging mishap, it was being struck by dead trees or limbs.
 
Bryant RedHawk
gardener
Posts: 2286
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
183
chicken dog forest garden hugelkultur hunting toxin-ectomy
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Great Information there Travis, thank you for putting up the dangers of dead trees.
Having been a logging sawyer way back in my younger days I have seen good sawyers killed by both dead and living trees.
The dangers are very real, and the best thing to do is inspect the tree as well as you can (I even use binoculars some times for a closer look).
Things that should raise red flags to the sawyer are; heavy lichen growth accompanied by fungi, a series of fungi fruits either spread out or clumped. Both of these indicate rotten wood that will separate and come down while the cuts are being made.
Throw lines and good ropes along with turning blocks are necessary items when you are dealing with dead trees.

This last year I have been removing many widow makers and hung trees (blowdowns that hang up in live trees). In our area, I must be the only sawyer that will tackle these dangerous situations, because I do a lot of them.
These scenarios are best handled by someone with a lot of skill and knowledge, the sawyer that taught me (In California) actually killed himself while we were working together, his top cut went wild and instead of pulling out and restarting he thought it would work out, it didn't.
He created a Dutchman and those almost never work out on the good side, especially when it is 90 inch ponderosa pine trees you are felling
It was an accident that didn't need to have happened, I chalked that nightmare up to his impatience, exactly the opposite of what he taught me to do. But in the logging business time is money and that will create bad decisions if you let them.

All my neighbors are fair chainsaw handlers, but when they see a tree they need down and it looks scary to them, they come to me to take it down for them.
It is something I am glad they do, none of them have chaps, hardhats with shield and muffs, which is gear you really should have, along with a good, tall, steel toed pair of boots and good gloves.

Oh, this is the biggest error I see most every where, failure to have a pre-planned escape route that is 45 degrees from the felling line.
I have taken time to clear undergrowth so I have my route away ready to go, when the crack comes, it is time to get out of the way, and that means far away.

Redhawk
 
Travis Johnson
pollinator
Posts: 1025
95
books cat chicken duck rabbit transportation trees woodworking
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Bryant RedHawk wrote:Oh, this is the biggest error I see most every where, failure to have a pre-planned escape route that is 45 degrees from the felling line.
I have taken time to clear undergrowth so I have my route away ready to go, when the crack comes, it is time to get out of the way, and that means far away. Redhawk


Sadly I have a few bad logging habits, and this one is probably the worst. I guess I have just gotten used to the open-faced notch and having the tree stay connected with the tree, but over the last year or so I have just gotten out of the habit of making my back-cut and as the tree starts to fall, getting out of the way. I just wait for the tree to hit the ground and then start knocking off limbs. What a terrible habit!

Last week I dropped a maple, maybe 18 inches in diameter, and as I made the back-cut I thought, "I should step out of the way". Just as I got 5 feet away, the top of the tree rolled off another, hit the ground, broke the hinge, then bounced the butt of the tree right where I was just standing a second before. The fact that it was small doesn't really matter, I would have been killed.

Another mishap last week was on the deck. I was cutting the trees into truck-length. Sometimes I do this every twitch, but lately I have been dragging my trees through a mud-hole, so instead of dulling my saw, I wait until I get a truckload and then cut the trees into truck length. Anyway I was up pretty high on the pile, cut a fairly big tree, and the whole pile rolled. I beat feet, my saw went flying into the air still running, and logs were rolling on top of me. I am sure it was funny to see, but the logs were faster then this old 42 year old, and it jammed my foot, but thankfully it was a small top and only broke my left big toe. Now I put my dozer blade and hold the logs so they don't roll when I cut the the trees to length.

Another bad habit is not bothering to jump up on my dozer to hook and unhook chokers. I have a hydraulic reverser, so I just stand next to my dozer (that is stand inches away from massive tracks) and drive it forward or back. That's not a great habit to get into either.

The sad part is I do all my work alone around here and I have told my wife a billon times, "you need to check on me." She doesn't. It was getting dark and as I cut my last twitch to truck length, a top rolled and pinned me.  I could not move and I waited, and waited, and waited. Not hurt, but unable to move and yet two hours past dark I was still alone. Finally afraid I was going to freeze to death I managed to get out from under the log and my wife was like, "Oh I heard your bulldozer running so I figured you were still working." Jeeshhh..........
 
Bryant RedHawk
gardener
Posts: 2286
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
183
chicken dog forest garden hugelkultur hunting toxin-ectomy
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Murphy's laws all come into effect when wood cutting. I've almost nicked my leg a few times (safety chaps work folks, and you need a pair, cheep insurance and leg savers).
In the logging business, you can come across all sorts of body part maiming, hands, feet, head are the normal ones like missing fingers, entire part of hand, toes, ears, eyes.
Widow makers can be anywhere, look up all the time, that is where what can kill you or seriously injure you are waiting. I can stand in my own back yard and point out 8 deadly widow makers right now.
I'm still trying to figure out how to get at a few of them others I will have to drag backwards with either a come-along or winch them just so I can make some cuts.

Any one who works as a sawyer has and will make some big errors in judgment, I always hope all of us stay safe and follow the rules of safety, though everyone of us fails at that, on occasion.

I'm really glad you are still with us Travis, walkie talkies are how my wife and I stay in communication on the farm, they work better than our cell phones.

Redhawk
 
Bryant John
Posts: 12
Location: Logan UT
trees woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Oh my Travis to many close calls for comfort! It is dangerous work. I agree that having a back up plan and a back up backup plan is very important it is not good to be taken off guard, yet it is almost impossible to account for every possibility. I like that you trusted your instinct. I think that is one of the biggest mistakes someone can make if your gut tells you something I would follow it. Many times I have ignored it only to be reminded that my intuition knows best.
 
220 hours of permaculture video, freaky cheap! http://kck.st/2q6Ycay.
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
Boost this thread!