Getting comfortable in bigger trees?

climbingmonkey24

Active Member
So today I had one of those wtf moments.

Real easy job. Dead spar that was standing that needed to come down. Real rotted on the outside. Figured the whole thing was about to go by the looks of it. Nice solid oak to tie in right behind it so not too worried. Climb up and make my notch, start my back cut, then put a wedge in. Cut some more. At this point I see the top swaying. And I was taking a pretty large piece above me.

I was nervous about cutting it while I was tied into it because this thing looked so dead I didn’t know if it would go once the top blows over. So I unhook and swing over to the oak and get down. Shoot a throw line over the top where there was one branch growing out, just the one. Attempted to pull my rigging line over but it kept getting hung up. Couldn’t get it over. Wtf?

Meanwhile the homeowner is watching. So I take a gamble and tie the throw line and rigging line together and will just pull that way. It’s in the woods so it’s not like it’s near a house or anything.

This f’ing thing won’t go. But it looks like it’s hanging on by a thread.

So now I use a come along and this thing still won’t go. I feel like an idiot with the homeowner watching me. So back up this piece of shit spar I go to cut some more until it breaks free.

Well once it breaks free I look at the inside and wood is solid. No wonder why I couldn’t pull it over.

I felt like an idiot. Had I just stayed up there and finished cutting versus trying to pull it over it would’ve been a simple job. But because it looked so rotted from the outside, and based on how it felt with my spikes going in it was real rotted, I didn’t want to be tied into it when the top went. It was one of those that looking at it you’d think it was gonna fall any moment.

Just one of those f’ing days where it’s one thing after the other. All because of my mindset.
 

rico

Well-Known Member
Can happen many times on conifers. Bark fallen off, punky wood on the outside, and solid as a rock on the inside.
 

southsoundtree

Well-Known Member
Easy to find out rather than guess.

An battery-powered drill and 12" x 1/4" drill bit will tell you tons.

Boring-in, saw-upright, from back-cut toward intended fall zone, will also tell you lots without compromising the top's hinge.

Boring at the base of the tree before starting only makes sense before leaving the ground.


Stuff to do at the bid.
 

climbingmonkey24

Active Member
Gotta just keep pushing outside the comfort zone while staying safe too obviously. Only way to become a better climber. I've kept myself in my comfort zone too much I think.
 

rope-a-dope

Well-Known Member
Rotten wood is too easy to cut through, the feeling is different. The outside rots first usually because the vascular channels transmit decomposers faster.
Looking into your notch is a good indicator of what the wood composing your hinge would look like.
All these little lessons add up over time, you are becoming more experienced, feeling dumb or scared is just a side effect of becoming awesome.
 

Alcoley

New Member
I'm actually the opposite. I'd rather climb big wood. The smaller ones trip me out. I'm a new climber. Only1 112 years. Know your limits and you'll stay alive. Take care my friend
 

W^3

New Member
Remember that nobody starts out wreaking 200 foot trees. You've got to pay your dues, and earn that shit. The fear you are feeling is natural, so embrace it, and work through it. Proceed at a pace that you are comfortable with, improving your skills along the way. Before you know it you will be working in trees that would have scared you in the past. Enjoy the voyage brother!
Yeah man, props for always being supportive of the new guys!!!!

To answer your question, Stop, take it in, make sure you did your checks on the way up looking/listening for anything that you can't see from the ground, and remember how lucky you are to be there doing something you love. Then, climb higher.
 

dsptech

Well-Known Member
First tree I ever climbed was the first tree I ever cut down.
Norway Maple, a tall one.
Bought a 80' length of Samson Blue Streak, an old used pair of pole spurs (ma bell issued), a buck lanyard, and a full fall protection harness with a batten seat.
Thought I was doing this the smart and safe way.

On the way up I spurred out several times enough to pull my groin pretty good.
Getting over big knotted bulges and leaning sections was tough and scary as hell.
I climbed that whole tree to the top without limbing on the way up so I had to navigate over clusters of limbs and branches while trembling the whole time while unhooking and advancing and adjusting that pain in the ass buck lanyard.
I climbed up and down without ever putting my weight on my rope.
I considered the rope as a safety backup in case I fell not as a climbing aid.
My boots were plain old steel toes and the spur hooks where pressing so hard under foot and was killing me.

The whole time, and it took forever (hours) my buddy's on the ground yelling at me to hurry up.
Every time he yelled at me he startled me and scared the crap out of me.
I was so deep in thought planning my next few moves that any loud noise freaked me out.
Every time I was startled or had to work my way over a difficult area I would literally start hyperventilating.
Each time that happened I'd stop for lengths of time until I caught my breath and calmed down enough to push myself higher.

I finally got to the top, about forty plus feet up and was spurred into a 4" diameter stem.
Barley enough room for them tiny spikes to sink in with my heels touching and my 12" boots sticking way out in front.
That's when the wind started gusting and I literately watched them stem twist in front of me like a torsion bar.
Man I hung on for dear life till the wind calmed down, then make a cut, then hang on again all the way down.

Four feet from the ground I put my weight in the seat and went for a swing.
Had to know that if I fell that this skinny little rope would hold me especially this prusik thingamabob.
My feet were so happy to be on firm ground again.
I was so glad it was over.

Weeks later I found this forum and starting learning about the proper gear I should have been using and climbing techniques.
Having so many "Oh DUH!" moments and wished I knew 2% of this new knowledge before I took that tree.

I know that's a long story but the point is trust your gear.
It's ok to be scared, we all have those sketchy moments every now and then but just got to tell yourself to keep going so you can get paid and move onto the next one.
Just got to push through but do so intelligently.
Analise and test on the way up like knocking on the section of tree or limb ahead of you for hollow areas before advancing.
Look at the tree and consider a few ways to skin that cat.
Tie in points, adjacent trees that could be used, different possibilities to rig down, etc.
Plan from the ground and be prepared for you perspective to change once your up top.

In your case I would find a really big tree somewhere that you can climb at your own pace and without any outside pressure or distractions.
Take it a section at a time.
When I'm on a sketchy or section of a tree that has me little nervous I look five to ten feet ahead for a good spot to get my lanyard over where I'll feel safe once it is. Could be a branch, a stub, or a small nub that would hold my lanyard up without slipping.
Once I get there I relax in my harness, take a breath, look up the tree and plan the next section.
One little challenge at a time keeps you focused on the small task ahead of you instead of being overwhelmed by the whole tree.
Once you climb a few big trees you'll become more comfortable being up at height and have way fewer panic sessions.

Long winded but I hope that helps you and others guys starting out.
 

TallTreeClimber

Well-Known Member
I rope climbed my first tree a few months ago. I'm 43. When I got just 20' up it, I couldn't believe how scary it was to me. I was near petrified of going back down. I had just assumed that it would be easy peasy because when I was 20ish, me and a friend threw rope down a 100' pit and used prusik knots and munter hitches to go up and down-without any training or practice or experience rapelling-of any kind!

The rappelling experience was literally the hardest physical thing I've ever done in my life. It was a painful experience too, as we used harnesses that we'd fashioned from hardware store rope. The rope dug into my body so painfully, and it took so long to get up the rope, I'd never been on a rope since that time.

Now I don't have any problem going up and down trees up to 60' or so, but it's still very scary at times.
 

samsquatch

Active Member
I am also intimidated with the bigger trees but I already know why: they require more balance. In smaller trees - or more accurately - trees with thick sub-canopy brush, I find myself much more comfortable. There's more stuff to grab onto when moving around. There's more stuff in the way should I take a swing toward the trunk. The branches curvy up & down and most of the time are graspable by one hand. In summary, the "claustrophobia" makes things more cozy.

Bigger stuff, the agoraphobia kicks in. I look at the bigger wood, like my parents huge, sprawling cottonwood and think - the only way I can limb walk that is by CAREFULLY balancing my ass all the way out a 40ft limb walk -- nothing to grab onto the whole way, and the branches are larger than my torso so no hope of grasping with one hand.
I've since figured out how to position my TIP so that I can use my rope tension and gravity to my advantage, rather than balancing precariously, on those larger/longer/sparser limb walks.

In short: experience is the only queller, and trusting your knowledge and your gear is the only way you'll get that experience.
 

Burrapeg

Well-Known Member
Height by itself does not seem to bother me as long as I have lots of branches around and below me as I ascend. But to go up a tall tree with no branches on the way up, that is still rather frightening even after staying at this steadily for a year and a half now. Ditto for limb walking, piece of cake if I am surrounded by canopy and below me too. But with nothing but air between me and the ground, it still gets quite scary when I get above about 40 to 60 feet. But at the same time, there is a thrill to it that is hard to resist. And it is getting a little better each time I push myself. It has really helped as I get more comfortable with the gear and rope, learning to trust it and trusting myself using it, getting it all down better and better so that it is more automatic. And the advice and knowledge from everyone on here has been a HUGE help in building confidence and learning the equipment. My sincere thanks to all my fellow Buzzers!
 

climbingmonkey24

Active Member
Height by itself does not seem to bother me as long as I have lots of branches around and below me as I ascend. But to go up a tall tree with no branches on the way up, that is still rather frightening even after staying at this steadily for a year and a half now. Ditto for limb walking, piece of cake if I am surrounded by canopy and below me too. But with nothing but air between me and the ground, it still gets quite scary when I get above about 40 to 60 feet. But at the same time, there is a thrill to it that is hard to resist. And it is getting a little better each time I push myself. It has really helped as I get more comfortable with the gear and rope, learning to trust it and trusting myself using it, getting it all down better and better so that it is more automatic. And the advice and knowledge from everyone on here has been a HUGE help in building confidence and learning the equipment. My sincere thanks to all my fellow Buzzers!
Funny you say that because for me the part that was most nerving doing crane work was riding the ball and not being surrounded by branches, etc. Just hanging there by the crane cable 70-80 ft in the air, but once I got within reaching distance of the tree my nerves calmed down.

Similar with a spar.

I could climb right to the top of the tree but once there is no branches and you start chunking and don't have a solid tie in above you I guess you feel more exposed or whatever so your mind tells you it's more dangerous when in reality you are climbing the same tree and at the same heights.

I will say that I recently forced myself to confront my fear and wrecked some big pines with a crane (probably 90-100ft). knew I had to push myself and stop avoiding it. Confront my fear.
 

rico

Well-Known Member
Man you fellas haven't lived until you have just popped a top, and are standing on a 180 ft spar. Nothing like it!

I ran into a genuine old-school badass at the store the other night, and we had a nice chat . We both agreed that when it comes to climbing, bigger always felt better. Get us 10 ft of the ground in a bucket truck and we turn into a sniveling, quivering mess! Go figure?
 
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swingdude

De' Island Buzzer
Man you fellas haven't lived until you have just popped a top, and are standing on a 180 ft spar. Nothing like it!

I ran into a genuine old-school badass at the store the other night, and we had a nice chat . We both agreed that when it comes to climbing, bigger always felt better. Get us 10 ft of the ground in a bucket truck and we turn into a sniveling, quivering mess! Go figure?
Bucket trucks and lifts give me the creeps. Put me in the damn tree.
 

climbingmonkey24

Active Member
Man you fellas haven't lived until you have just popped a top, and are standing on a 180 ft spar. Nothing like it!

I ran into a genuine old-school badass at the store the other night, and we had a nice chat . We both agreed that when it comes to climbing, bigger always felt better. Get us 10 ft of the ground in a bucket truck and we turn into a sniveling, quivering mess! Go figure?
I agree the few times I went up in a lift / bucket felt awkward. The damn thing shaking with every move you make. I rather be tied into the tree!

Popping a top on a 180 ft spar sounds impressive.
 

CanadianStan

Well-Known Member
Bucket trucks and lifts give me the creeps. Put me in the damn tree.
There’s nothing worse than climbing into a tree from a 75 ft lift, while on spikes ... I’ve been doing it for 5 years and still hate it every time

There’s a lot of information to be gleaned about a tree by the way it feels while you spur up, regarding strength of wood, stability, etc
 

samsquatch

Active Member
Man you fellas haven't lived until you have just popped a top, and are standing on a 180 ft spar. Nothing like it!

I ran into a genuine old-school badass at the store the other night, and we had a nice chat . We both agreed that when it comes to climbing, bigger always felt better. Get us 10 ft of the ground in a bucket truck and we turn into a sniveling, quivering mess! Go figure?
No kidding. But I still prefer being attached to a spar vs limb walking a sprawling tree.
 

JeffGu

Well-Known Member
There's something not quite comforting about standing on a cylindrical object up in the air... especially on a dying limb that's trying to sluff its bark. The worst, for me, is those odd angled ones that you can't quite comfortably walk up, but aren't vertical enough to climb the rope to get up them. So, you have to stop and figure out how you can do this without looking like a complete klutz. Usually, I end up having to use a long lanyard or a second climb line. I now just plan on needing those and have them ready to haul up. Especially these gnarly, old Siberian Elms that we have so many of. Almost never have anything resembling a good TIP or a vertical leader of any kind.
 

RBJtree

Well-Known Member
Being in a bucket never bothered me. Maybe it's foolish, but I trust them. I'm totally comfortable climbing 95%, with the exception of questionable dead trees. But put me on a ladder, no thank you!
 
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