Hey, colb! Welcome to the TreeBuzz forum. There's a lot of really helpful folks here. (I just noticed you've been a member for awhile; nice to see you posting here lately.)So, just browsed to this stickied thread... Like TimBr, I'm a little isolated and picked up a few critical tips from this thread, among things I've found in other threads, or by trial and error. For entertainment and perhaps incidental usefulness, my entry experience to hitch climbing:
I incidentally crossed over to tree climbing in January of 2014 from a childhood of rock climbing (and a bit of technical caving) out west. While incorporating my ecological services business, I happened to be able to certify through the ISA (education plus working with two non-climbing arborists). Someone asked me what type of arboriculture I did and I said "pretty much everything" and they said "Good, because I've got this 18" oak limb over my roof." I needed money to stay out of jail and keep parenting my son and I was decent with ropes, so why not, right?
One of the experienced climbers has noted that most climbers are a bit lucky to get through their first six months. Being green, I surfed youtube, masterblaster, arboristsite, and treebuzz to get my virtual degree in climbing, getting lucky once on a 4" oak limb that peeled in half inside my lanyard. After that, I surfed for the top 10 ways to kill oneself in a tree, which was an excellent education. Point being, not all of us have access to proper training and what you guys post is critical for speculative newbs like me.
I superficially surfed the arborist forums to buy my climbing gear and bought a rope wrench on pure faith that y'all weren't bullsh*ting - I had very little idea of what it was supposed to do and had no reference point for the ddrt/srt distinction (I defaulted to fixed rope without realizing anything else existed). Because I spent my wad on an Onyx harness, lanyard, pole saw, 600 lbs. rated bicycle trailer, etc., I took a 10-year-old 10.2/10.5ishmm dynamic rock climbing line and stuck an 8mm sterling RIT on it in with a vt hitch. In retrospect, easy to say that the bounce in the climbing line ate my ascent, I had no technique, and it was a complete chore to climb on that system. The climbing line deformed more than a proper arborist line, and the narrow cord acted more knife-like, which made things intollerably pinchy.
I switched to a free-to-me top-rope line with near-zero elongation - I think it was 11.2mm bluewater rap line. This was very climbable, but deformed into kinked sections with each step up I took on my foot ascender. Felt sketchy.
I looked at the arborist forums again and bought cougar blue line and 10mm oceans hitch. Things are fuzzy as to the type of hitch - I went from vt to distel to michoacan over my total career thus far, in that order, but I can't remember when I switched relative to the rope I was using. My first experience with the cougar blue was great, but I had a mishap exiting a tree 10 minutes into a light drizzle of rain - my hitch bound up and I had to muscle my way down the last twenty feet by sheer will power. It took me several months to fully recover and I ended up getting a cortical steroid injection in my right wrist to (sucessfully) reset my forearm. I was also bicycling to half the county with 200lbs+ loads which was giving me carpel tunnel in my wrists. As issues go, there are definitely worse, but those twenty feet felt like the end of my climbing career and may have been if I hadn't gotten an injection and a mini skid steer. I may have been using oceans 10mm with a distel hitch. While in the drizzle, I felt as though the hitch would either bind, or drop me without warning. I've avoided that level of precipitation since, but I think I could handle it now, especially with some of the information shared here. I would really be interested to know everyone's comfort level with precipitation of various temperature and intensities.
Nowadays, I'm climbing happily on cougar blue with a 10mm oceans 30cm hitch cord tied in a 5(?) wrap michoacan. It's hard to fit all the wraps with 30cm, especially with a new cord. Prior to weighting my hitch, I like to jog the rope wrench generously up the line and tilt it upwards. The rw gets weighted first.
Incidentally, I've had tachyon in hand and found it to be lighter and more pinchable than my cougar blue. I haven't climbed on the tachyon. I feel like a more solid line is better for running a hitch cord on.
I invited a friend and trained caving instructor to take down an 18" diameter water oak and was reminded about the variability in safety that those who use ropes (rock climbers/cavers/tree climbers) will tolerate. Rock climbers and cavers travel in a single direction without reversing direction to any significant degree. This is a mindset of theirs, as well. A safe device, for them, has the potential to go only in one direction. My caving instructor friend dutifully strapped on spikes, d-rings, lanyard, and rw, and climbed up, low and slow. It was clear that with her background she felt that the rw was intrinsically unsafe because it lets a person go both up and down. Tree climbers have a unique view of what is safe that is driven by the working need to switch between going up and down at will without changeover. I'm not putting any value judgement on that last statement - just noting that our standard is not really acceptable in caving and sport/trad rock climbing. I wonder how aid climbers and rescuers roll, as a matter of curiousity. Obviously, we're doing our thing with a high degree of success and the very rare uncontrolled tumble mixed in...
My main issues at this point are:
1. My hitch is hard to reach while limb walking. Seems like two oval dmm biners and a standard dmm pulley look longish and I keep thinking about a shorter tether and some kind of shackle system. Then I just want to forget it and get an rr or akimbo. I see many different configs on the rw, and lots of cheering from the galleries, but the reason for them is not always apparent to me. Is compaction of the system the primary goal? It sure is mine.
2. I don't know when my hitch cord is "worn out". I'm on my 4th oceans 10mm in two years, but feel like I'm sort of guessing. I'm not at production level frequency yet - just climbing an average of 2 days per week.
3. Keeping my atlas smurf gloves out of my hitch, which may not be a problem if I start gripping the whole hitch instead of just the top wrap, on decent.
Pictures of my rw setup are attached.
Any thoughts are appreciated.
Thanks for the thorough introduction to yourself.
I'll probably have to re-read your post before I come up with any additional comments, but the one thing that stood out to me about your setup as being possibly problematic is your use of a 2nd biner for your Rope Wrench stiff tether.
@countryboypa31 is a world class climber, and he produced this youtube video that tries to explain why he thinks your configuration might be a mistake, and how to do it differently. Here's the link to his video.
I hope this helps.
Also, you should read this thread, and then go watch all of the rest of Tony Knight's videos.
That's all for now.