Well, maybe it’s time to earn my keep around here, not that I really can. It is a privilege to read and come to know and see the know-how you all are sharing here and I am grateful and humbled to be a part of this community. I’m 62, afraid of heights, no rope experience. At least that was true about three months ago. As a physically fit, home handyman, career engineer and autodidact, I took it up to learn about climbing: to work on my fear, to work on the roof, to do some pruning, to get some exercise, to touch and feel the beautiful technology of rope, knots, and mechanicals. Our modern moment is really amazing. Youtube, this bulletin board, manufacturer sites, and distributor sites are such rich sources of instruction. Many have disclaimers and warnings to the effect of: “You will likely die if you try anything with getting live instruction”. Any way, if you want to, this is a game where you can teach yourself. I am doing. I climb alone. That’s a bit scary, but I keep my cellphone ready and I designed my basal anchor for rescue. (The fire department should know how to lower me?!) Of course I am learning in baby steps, low and slow. I do have a story to tell though. It happened on like my second day out. It’s too embarrassing, but it happened that I became trapped 6 inches off the ground, upside down, no cell phone. I had done apparently a very bad thing by hooking up an ascender with a DMM Revolver and stringing a 3:1 loop. But I also tried out my Pantin on the tail. It was like a Chinese finger trap, the more I struggled, the more I became stretched and vertical, head down! I did escape, after calming down, I was able to touch the ground and de-load my harness biner. If I was a foot higher, I would have died. I still don’t know what really happened. After that, I’ve basically been OK, and gradually going through a self-study curriculum. I’ve read (multiple times): the Petzl Catalog, the Wesspur Catalog, Jepson’s two tree books, Smith and Padgett “On Rope”, most of the Treebuzz threads, all of Nick Bonner’s videos, the Cornell videos, Climbing Arborist videos, the Treestuff website, the Storrick pages, and many other sources. Like anything else of some complexity, you have to hit the same material mutliple times from different angles before it finally sticks and gels into intuition. And you have to go hands-on. There’s no way to describe some of the interactions on the rope, (like getting finger trapped upside down) until you try it. My curriculum is something like this: 1) devices 2) ascending 3) changeovers at height 4) climbing with a lanyard, 5) rappelling 6) more height 7) redirects and moving the TIP higher, 8) limb-walking and return, 9) swinging and jumping 9) handsaw use, 10) chainsaw use. I have some great trees on my property for practice. Each day I construct drills in one or more skills and try to stretch beyond an earlier limit point. I made choices, as everyone does, and I think so far very few mistakes when it comes to equipment. No DdRT. Except for tradition, there is nothing to recommend doubled rope. It is inferior to SRT in the following ways: a) ease of setup/teardown, b) ease of ascending, c) ease of redirecting. The mechanical advantage it offers is good for short ascents and limb-walk returns but RADS is just as good on that score. I should say that its other virtue is that DdRT is fairly simple and standardized on the equipment side of the equation. But more equipment is part of the fun for hotrodders like me. My basic climbing system is based on the HitchHiker. I also looked at Rope Wrench and Unicender. Unicender is a toy and expensive. Between HH and RW, HH is fool-proof and compact in comparison. The RopeWrench successor, RopeRunner may be the Holy Grail, let’s see. The HitchHiker is so close to ideal for its purpose and so far ahead of alternatives that I am perplexed by its failure to dominate. For those who don’t know it, it’s a magic friction hitch, behaving almost exactly like a prusik knot. Prusiks are themselves magical, because they can grab or slide under a variety of stimuli, which no mechanical can truly imitate. It’s easy to design a prusik hitch that grabs on descent and slides on ascent. Cam ascenders do also. But prusiks can release under load and slide down, which cam ascenders cannot. And prusik friction is continuously variable in response to the gentlest finger pressure shifts. You can play a prusik like a violin. Note that prusiks are also at the heart of DdRT systems. But for SRT, a prusik alone doesn’t work. It’s too grabby, or not grabby enough and on rappel it tends to burn up. What the HH is, is a prusik amplifier with positive feedback, a prusik exoskeleton with heat capacity. The HH has two parts: a prusik knot and a heavy steel variable friction channel. When the knot tightens during a down slide, it sends a signal to the steel part that tells it to add friction, a process that greatly amplifies the effect of the knot while allowing it to stay cool and only moderately constricted for the weight that hangs below. In practice, the HH knot system is somewhat sensitive to how it’s tied like any prusik would be, but over a wide range of tying styles, it works, and does so safely. In my system, the HH is connected to my central harness ring. Going up I use a handled ascender with a Yates foot loop, and a Pantin. It works as a ropewalker and works well. In the canopy I use a CE lanyards for positioning and backup, and sometimes add a Revolver and 3-to-1 loop hanging off the ascender. One small complaint. The HH has a fair amount of up-sliding friction. (The ideal would be zero.) The effect of this is when I stand on the foot loop (right side) and the HH tends upward, it pushes a bight of rope between it and the overhead ascender. (Maybe this would not happen if the tail was longer and thus heavier.) On the second motion, when I shift weight to the left foot with Pantin, the Pantin pulls the slack out, but there is lost motion and progress since the first half of the Pantin down stroke is spent on slack tending. Again, this is caused by the HH upward sliding friction, which is too much and undesirable. For descending, The HH is a dreamboat. It stops and starts on a dime, runs at a creep, crawl, or jog, and stops dead-hard all based on subtle finger cues. It immediately becomes part of your muscle memory and allows a “mind-over-matter” feeling. The HH also requires that you pull up on it to keep it with you and catch your progress when ascending. Though this is a basic need, somehow Paul Cox, whose absolute brilliance is evident in the basic design, failed to provide a point of attachment for this tending function. As it is designed any upward force has to be applied to the lower carabiner and not the body of the HH. Various inventors have learned to augment the HH by adding pull straps for tending. Coat-hangers, accessory chords, shackles and, the best, which I use, a polyurethane strap have all been proposed by experimenters. The strap was shown on Buzz Board, and is perfect and should be made standard for sale. I pull with a Torse light weight chest harness. I am a novice, so what I am about to say may be wrong, but it is my opinion. The HH provides the single best core element for climbing. It offers the same or higher mobility than any other system in the market. It’s fairly priced, won’t wear out, and extremely bombproof safe. Why doesn’t everyone use it? For saddles I went Sequoia SRT. Why not? It’s well made and comfortable and the leg strap couplers are sexy. So are those lovely gold coupling toroids that hold the bridge. I installed a rigging plate on the bridge, used as follows: 1) the HH, 2) backup tether to the handled ascender, 3) open for positioning with CE lanyard. Helmets? I went with Super Plasma. I just thought black was the “cool” color and they are clearly well-made, though not crazy-expensive like Protos. I was using a bike helmet before. I think the bike helmet was functional but nerdy. Ropes? They are all the same, for the most part, and all beautiful. As an object, I find rope to be sensual. Handling rope is, well, pleasurable. I am using Kernmaster (beautiful), Tachyon (more beautiful) , Singing Rock R44 (black and sexy) and so on. Not only is rope pretty, but it’s strong and loyal. You can trust your life to it. Soon I will write about handsaws. I just ordered my first. Treestuff is the place by the way. Super service. Quick delivery. Again, it’s an honor to be here.