I was reading through a tree climbing forum the other day, and one question that kept cropping up was how to set up a tree climbing rope. As a certified Forest Service Employee who holds a tree-climbing certification card, I know that all tree climbers should undergo training and be certified before engaging in any tree-climbing activity.
Thus, if you are desirous of climbing towering trees, it will help if you first get yourself certified to enjoy the benefits of tree climbing. Tree climbing is relaxing and fun, and unless you are like the fabled Tarzan or Edward Cullen of the Twilight Saga, you would need enough patience and training before you could engage in it.
Of course, you can quickly learn tree climbing, for it seems that humans had an arboreal past! Hence, somewhere in our DNA, there are traces of our being arboreal. Thus, tree climbing should be second nature to us and should be one of the safest activities we can engage in.
Moreover, statistics show no injury or fatality incident was ever recorded among climbers who use the TCI system. So, as long as you use the necessary equipment and gear and employ the right techniques in setting up your tree climbing ropes, you are always on the safe side.
2 Basic Rope Setups for Tree Climbing
When climbing a tree, your life and safety hinge on the ropes you use and their setup. Thus, you need to know the different techniques for setting the tree climbing rope. Here are two tree climbing techniques that you can use when setting up your rope:
1) Single Rope Technique
The single rope technique (SRT), also called the static rope system (SRS), is suited for climbing more towering trees up to 300 feet high or more like spruce and firs. SRT includes anchoring the rope to a branch or at the tree base. Then, you climb the rope’s other end using a mechanical device attached to it. This device can be an ascending or descending device, attached to the rope wherein you could climb.
Your legs are well used when you utilize this SRT. Compared to Double-rope Technique, it is less strenuous, though it necessitates the use of more equipment. SRT is perfect for ascending large-diameter hardwoods, conifers, and ornamental trees.
The SRT offers many advantages, such as allowing for a quick and efficient ascent over long distances. It also requires lighter equipment while providing you with easy access to conifers and hardwoods without necessarily isolating the tie-in point around a branch or fork.
The downsides of using SRT include difficulty installing the rope, and finding appropriate anchor points for your rope may be a bit difficult.
2) Double-rope Technique (DbRT)
The Double-rope Technique is a more straightforward way of setting up your rope, and if you are a beginner climber, you should be familiar with this setup, for it is safer than other types of system. The Double-rope Technique involves draping the rope over a branch. You use both rope’s ends in a climbing knot series that lets you climb and descend the tree.
If you are not moving, the modified Blake’s hitch or the main knot holds you safely in place. Whenever you want to take a rest and enjoy your view, then you simply let go.
With the DbRT, You can enjoy pausing in mid-air when you are climbing, and it gives you a certain feeling and thrill while you are secured and safe. You can use this technique for climbing trees up to 100 feet tall like oaks, maples, poplars, and pines.
Tree Climbing Systems Using SRT and DbRT Rope Setups
Whether you are using SRT or DbRT rope setups, it will be useful to familiarize yourself with the different climbing methods to ensure your safety when tree climbing. Here are the various methods that you need to know:
1) Three-Point Climbing
The three-point climbing system makes use of the basic principles employed by tree climbers. While tree climbing, your hand and foot are deemed as potential contacts. Your armpits and knees are also possible points of contact if such part of the body can support your full body weight. Moreover, even the lanyard around a suitable branch secured to the climbing belt or safety harness counts as dual contact points.
As you plan to ascend a tree, you should position the three points firmly in place before you move to another point. Look for a secure and sound surface like live tree limbs, rungs on your ladder, positions on your lanyard or safety line, pole steps, and climbing spurs. Make sure that before you move, you have already secured the three points. Moreover, applying all the tips mentioned above should become second nature to you as a tree climber.
As a caveat, you should not use a dead branch, unsound live branch, or branch stub for support. Besides, it will help if you do not anchor both your feet or hands on a single live branch that is smaller than 3 inches in diameter.
2) Utilizing the Hitch Climber
The hitch climber is the most popular pulley that lets you organize a hitch system. It comes with three holes that streamline the system and allows you additional tie-in options for more advanced usages. You can grab the pulley, the hitch cord, and carabiners all in a single go.
With the hitch climber, you can enjoy something like a rigging plate combined with a pulley. The hitch climber lets you organize carabiners while reducing the instances of poor positioning or cross-loading. You can also attach a second climbing rope to the third hole while climbing.
The pulley under the friction hitch offers the climber the benefit of tending slack by allowing him to take the rope, that comes through the pulley’s bottom to pull it upwards. In turn, the pulley pushes upwards the friction hitch.
The climber can do this using a single hand. Additionally, this setup allows for easy transition from a limb walk. You can use the third hole, likewise, for positioning another system to tidy up your system.
3) Four Inch Tie-in System
The four-inch tie-in involves a self-belayed rope system, employed when working over the four-inch bole tree or climbing. It offers a sturdy and secure anchor point that lets you reach the uppermost tree canopy.
This setup for the rope is similar to that of the long lanyard along with the friction hitch adjuster, though this rope setup is used differently. The four-inch tie-in requires a time-consuming setup and takedown that hinder the climber’s ability to come down quickly in case of an emergency. Moreover, this system requires from you the following:
- You should secure this system below the four-inch bole diameter or to the trunk of the tree.
- Above the four-inch bole diameter, you should install protection or a rigging point every three feet along the trunk to restrict the fall to at least six feet.
- You should use a dynamic rope for this system. The static rope may not be appropriate for this system, for it creates a high impact force on the climber and the anchor points.
- You should test the belay device or friction hitch on the ground to ensure their proper functionality.
- Every component of the system should come with materials that exceed or meet the breaking strength standard of 5,400 pounds.
4) 4-inch Tie-in Method
The rope’s length required for the belay line hinges on several factors like the tree age, the tree species, the growing condition, and the distance the climber must go above the four-inch diameter, and for conifers, the typical length is 30 feet. Nevertheless, if you are going to set up a 4-inch tie-in, you should follow the following steps:
- First, you should ascend the tree to reach a height wherein you can anchor the 4-inch tie-in. The point can be below four inches, depending on the tree types, structure, and your comfort level. It will help to anchor the 4-inch tie-in on a bole with a 4- to 12-inch diameter.
- Then, loop or anchor the lanyard around onto both sides of your harness.
- Afterward, you can wrap the carabiner around the bole. Then, clip back the carabiner into the belay rope. Double-check the carabiner to make sure that it is adequately locked to ensure that the belay rope’s lower end is secured to the tree.
- Clip the carabiner to the center point attachment of the harness from the friction hitch.
- Remove from the tree the lanyard and climb while you slide the friction hitch upward along the belay rope.
- Above the four-inch diameter level, put protection around the tree bole every three feet. Don’t forget to secure yourself using your lanyard every time you pause to position the protection point.
5) Rope Throwing Bundle
The rope throwing bundle is a technique that you can use to install rope above a low limb to enable you to begin a straightforward ascent using your lanyard and rope.
You can clip a carabiner to the rope’s end for extra weight to enable you to get the rope’s end to the ground. You should refrain from engaging in it if the branch where you want to install comes with the tight union, for the carabiner may get stuck into it.
When climbing a tree, you should bear in mind two primary concerns: your safety and the well-being of the tree. Having these two concerns in mind, you should never let yourself off the rope protection while you are aloft. Moreover, it will be useful to utilize proper climbing and safety equipment all the time.
It will help to ensure that you employ some protection systems when climbing a tree. Besides, you should also not climb with spurs, for you may damage or hurt the tree. Lastly, it will be useful to refrain from pruning tree branches without regard to the tree’s well-being.