climb scared

skew

Active Member
Hello my name is skew and I am a scared climber. I started my first job climbing at 14 years old in 1979. I used a double d ring harness with no side dees. If I wanted side dees I had to use also a line man's belt and buck strap. Manilla rope with steel non locking snap. Fanno saw about four feet long and twenty pounds-used more like a machete usually. Flash forward almost 40 years(yikes!)- I've climbed thousands of trees and safely returned to the earth.
As I read posts about accidents I shudder thinking about the realities of my chosen profession. We used to be cowboys- reveling in our bravado and close calls. What I observe these days in accident reports; it's usually a newbie or some one like me that has been doing it for years. About 7 years ago I lost my best friend to a chainsaw cut. A fucking chainsaw cut! I always thought if I cut myself it would be messy and inconvenient- not fatal.
These days I do more bucket work than climb but I still am able to accomplish anything thrown my way. But I worry. I started a family at the ripe old age of 49 years and 359 days. That has now grown to two boys. I am an old man with a baby(x2!).
I worry that I will make a mental mistake or that a mechanical failure will happen and I won't make it home to see my wife and boys. I didn't used to think about it so much.
Every day I see other crews out doing stuff that is unsafe and shudder to think what could happen. I've thought about switching careers before or just hiring a climber but it doesn't really fit my business model.
I do ,however, now have an awesome sub climber that I am comfortable working with. He is a guy that understands the consequences of a lapse.
I don't know how long I'll be able to climb. Are there any 65 year olds out there? Our cousin in Hawaii still climbs at 65 - his methods are a bit scary to me.
So anyway as I read through different threads and perceive different attitudes and try to evaluate my own this is what I have determined- that I am a scared climber. My brother claims that I am addicted to the adrenalin- maybe he's right. There is surely a feeling of accomplishment that comes along with conquering your fears and getting through a dicey job safely. Back in the eighties my buddy Otis and I laughingly came up with the motto "climb scared". Kind of funny but honestly maybe if more people did climb scared they would stand a better chance of making it home at the end of the day. And by climb scared I don't mean don't do it correctly. There was a point in my career after I had been climbing for about years and the trees kept getting bigger and more difficult. I was kind of freaking out and thinking about going to lawn care. Instead I ended up breaking it down into what is was that i was scared could happen. And then taking into account each of these things that I could either control or could not. Most things I was scared of were within my control. So there for I could mitigate these factors by making whatever contingency I needed to . Then there is the scary shit like tree failure which although many times can be detected before a climb there have many times when after I got a tree on the ground and looked at it I was like"dang".
So anyhow how ho- I suppose the one wisdom I would impart to anyone bored enough to read this through- Listen to the little voice in your head. Because usually when I have had a close call it was preceded by a little input from my sub conscience. Happy New Years boys and girls- Climb Scared!
 

ATH

Well-Known Member
Great post. I kinda compare it to being attacked by a bear while backpacking. I really enjoy backpacking...but I really don't want to be mauled. How can those 2 work together? Easy: be smart with food. Don't smear myself with peanutbutter. Never even had a close encounter in some bear-heavy areas.

In the tree I ask myself "what is the worst thing that happens if this plan fails?" Also remind myself and employees that this industry kills 3 people a week and we have no interest in contributing to that stat.
 

ATH

Well-Known Member
What I observe these days in accident reports; it's usually a newbie or some one like me that has been doing it for years.
That is pretty standard across industries. Folks are either too green - don't understand what they can and can't do/don't understand the hazards OR they have been doing it so long they "know better than that safety manual" (or sometimes refusing to admit reaction time isn't what it used to be....). A few years of training and experience up to something like 25 years (if I recall correctly) are the lower accident years.
 

treehumper

Well-Known Member
That is pretty standard across industries. Folks are either too green - don't understand what they can and can't do/don't understand the hazards OR they have been doing it so long they "know better than that safety manual" (or sometimes refusing to admit reaction time isn't what it used to be....). A few years of training and experience up to something like 25 years (if I recall correctly) are the lower accident years.
When it’s a newbie that is injured or killed it’s not their failing but that of their employer. It was up to them to properly train, coach, assess and guide them. The incident is a condemnation of their methods at the price of the newbies’ life or health.
 

rico

Well-Known Member
Great post. I kinda compare it to being attacked by a bear while backpacking. I really enjoy backpacking...but I really don't want to be mauled. How can those 2 work together? Easy: be smart with food. Don't smear myself with peanutbutter. Never even had a close encounter in some bear-heavy areas.
Back when I was logging in black bear country in Alaska we would get every other Sunday off. A few of us would pile in some crummies, go to the camps dump, and play tag with the bears. Nothing like a bunch of drunk/stoned loggers chasing bears around in the woods!
 

Lampyrid

New Member
@ATH; I'm going to have to stop smearing myself with peanut butter; I guess I just didn't realize how dangerous it could be.
Don't be afraid to smear yourself with peanut butter. It's fun if your in the bedroom with your snuggle bear and your snuggle bear likes peanut butter. Just don't try it outside with bears
 

Chaplain242

Well-Known Member
friends of mine who make signs and do vinyl car lettering made up some 8x10 decals in the same font as the No Fear ones. Dave raced cars and karts. This lead to the decal: Some Fear

The same sort of thinking mode that arbos need to have. No Fear will lead to the Monty Python Big Foot Crush because its way too cocky.
I can certainly affirm that the 'No Fear' slogan taken to heart got me in more trouble than can be imagined whilst in my youth. However I have also found the 'some fear' has its own pitfalls as it is its own trailhead to a darker path. 'Healthy respect' is probably a better slogan to live by...
 

rope-a-dope

Well-Known Member
I think i am definately in that phase when climbing has become deceptively comfortable.
Even harder and sketchier trees make me feel no worse than, "im gonna be workin hard up there!"
8 years of climbing experience has done is job, but I think climb scared sounds like a much better approach than climb on overconfident autopilot. I've been witness recently to how easily that gets you in trouble.
I really love learning from other peoples' mistakes!
 

moss

Well-Known Member
I think i am definately in that phase when climbing has become deceptively comfortable.
Even harder and sketchier trees make me feel no worse than, "im gonna be workin hard up there!"
8 years of climbing experience has done is job, but I think climb scared sounds like a much better approach than climb on overconfident autopilot. I've been witness recently to how easily that gets you in trouble.
I really love learning from other peoples' mistakes!
To the original post, and comment about age, I'm 63, climbing and working on the ground feels good, but I didn't start climbing rope and harness until a little under 15 years ago. Probably one bad shoulder or knee away from not being able to do it but just keeping the stretching going and paying attention, especially handling heavier saws not to overextend reach etc., and everything looks sustainable. I can feel the places where ground saws start to break down wrists and shoulders. A day on spurs makes one or the other knee a bit touchy, I try to choose takedown jobs wisely ;-) If I'd started at 16 I'd be done most likely.

As far as climbing scared goes, it's always scared me. Now it's about controlling my mind in the situations where there is obvious reason to experience fear. Those moments when you're moving between cuts or rigs are (I think) a time to feel a bit of relaxed alert to prepare for the next moment of healthy respect (a form of fear) doing something challenging.
-AJ
 

Chaplain242

Well-Known Member
It is probably worthy to refer to the NTSB aircraft safety analysis. When doing pilot training it is incorporated into the training you get (or at least used to be) that pilots typically have incidents/accidents at 1000 hrs, and then at 10,000 hours, being attributed to overconfidence.

After the first it takes nine times as long to get that overconfident again...
 

Bucknut

Well-Known Member
When I was a senior in college I felt like I was just sort of getting by. Passing instead of excelling, existing instead of living. Thank God I had some great roommates who helped wake me up. They basically forced me to go with them 5 days a week to work out and I finally made myself a motivational poster and hung it on the wall in front of my bed, so it was the first thing I saw when I got up:

"Complacency will come to collect!"

Could not be more true in this business. This is one reason I love Treebuzz- reminds me of topics like this that jolt me back into a good mindset for climbing. It's really easy to slip into autopilot as far as work positioning, technique or tree assessment. Good to have a reminder that habits are not infallible. Every tree is different. Habits sometimes blind us to that.

Don't be complacent. Be vigilant. Be alive.
 

KWolt

Member
Great post. I kinda compare it to being attacked by a bear while backpacking. I really enjoy backpacking...but I really don't want to be mauled. How can those 2 work together? Easy: be smart with food. Don't smear myself with peanutbutter. Never even had a close encounter in some bear-heavy areas.

In the tree I ask myself "what is the worst thing that happens if this plan fails?" Also remind myself and employees that this industry kills 3 people a week and we have no interest in contributing to that stat.
ATH is right and this deserves some emphasis. I’ve always said that a lot of accidents happen because people always think of what can go right and not what can go wrong. Any time I am ready to make anything other than a routine cut I think, “What’s the worst case scenario?” In the same vein, big risk can result in big damage, small risk can result in small damage. Taking smaller pieces is usually safer than taking big ones.
To touch on a couple of other subjects that have come up in this thread- I quit climbing last winter at the age of 60 after 40 years in the trees for a lot of different reasons. Part physical, I was sore all the time and my shoulders especially were starting to bother me, tired of running a business, etc. But I was also tired of all the risk. I accepted the risk because it came with the job but it was always there, it never left until I quit. I wasn’t scared, it was more of a sober acceptance.
Once I stopped climbing and doing heavy work the responsibility lifted off my shoulders, I don’t hurt any more and I have my weekends back again. I can still climb but occasional climbing is not the same as having to do it all the time. Physically and psychologically it’s completely different. So I guess the lesson is do it as long as you can but get out while you still have your health. Don’t wait until you’re forced out, go out on top.
 
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