Working on Spurs Compendium


Reads a lot...posts a little
Without hijacking @treesap’s spurs post…

Okay hear me out!
There is scattered info all around and not a specific category for strictly Spur, Gaff, Spikes talk.

Many of you have been working for years as well and I thought maybe some kind of group ideas, tips, tricks, methods and techniques post all together is warranted.Heres me two cents:

My experience is very limited in thick bark trees and mostly use pole gaffs in what we have here. Some have mentioned the tree squeeze and I personally use it a lot as well as a wire core setup with thimble prussic and a big Ring as a wire core friction saver. Nice part is I can flip both my wire core and wire core friction save together. Zigzag on lower D's. Catches on a full gaff out and also allows a bail out in case of emergency like bees, wasps unseen from the ground. Depends a lot on the type of tree structure but it works great for passing branches (like a second lanyard).

Caveat: This is aimed at newer climbers, call it a lessons learned, tips picked up, ideas and method of work picked up over the years.

(If you’re an experienced climber you’ve probably figured out most of this through experience and or training) This is in no way a comprehensive “how to” and I’m not by any means an expert or telling you how it it’s done, this is stuff I’ve learned, use, works and comfortable with. Only dealing with climbing on spurs and work positioning, basic cutting and dropping in easy dropzone (I call it gravity rigging). Rigging is a whole other thing. As it is intended for newer climbers this is mainly for work in trees around 20-60ft, fairly medium sized trees. If you’re doing big, complex removals you’d better know what you’re doing already. Take away from it what you will.

-Protect and keep your spikes in good shape, they will bite with your weight (most of the time) A good firm, confident plant should do.

—A near vertical Conifer or leader with a slight lean:

Smooth trunk, Euc or similar-Suggest a high TIP as a belay and or a cinching lanyard(tree squeeze, prussic and connector across lanyard.) keeping your lanyard/flip line at or above your hips, 2-3 steps ((kind of a step, step, match)(one step, second step and match the height of 3rd step with second)), keep legs/knees relatively straight(bending knees will rotate your spikes to pointing downward more than inward) keeping back relatively in line with you legs (don’t bend too far forward at the waist)

Lanyard adjusted length should allow you to keep both your hands on the the trunk directly in front of you with a little elbow bend.

Pulling yourself towards the tree with both hands on your lanyard (pivoting on you spikes)give your lanyard a good upward flip and for a brief second the only thing touching the tree will be your spikes. Too high or aggressive of a flip and lanyard can roll/slide down a bit.

The rearward hip pressure on lanyard/ body position/ legs basically wedge your spikes into a good holding position

(Leaning too far forward, too low or way too high lanyard puts all your weight on only those two gaff points, bent knees rotate the points to a less than ideal angle).

Moving around the tree shouldn’t be too much of an issue, a step around or over and hip shift will rotate you around the tree.

If you can cinch(SRT) or friction saver climb line well above branch to be cut or second lanyard on branch above, you will have a more comfortable/ easier position to cut.
(Much easier/safer to climb a wee bit higher step back down rather than cutting really close to your lanyard)
When cutting! Look where you feet are! If you cut, is it gonna sweep your foot? Long heavy branch? Maybe a cut 12-18” out and a second cut for the stub.

Also, also, depending in the species and size of branches, “pealers” can occur, a quick rolling undercut (making a smiley) can prevent a peal from yanking your lanyard (another reason for higher 2nd lanyard or TIP). Bigger branch, give it a decent underside notch.

—Leaner to around 15-30 degrees—
Here’s where balance and positioning get harder and it takes more comfort in spike and practice as you will realize a gaff will probably result in a swing. It will feel awkward.

Not great spike placement- It will feel weird and fear of slips and rolling to the underside is very real and could be dynamic. Smaller steps and movement, a more upright position where you the trunk will be out of reach. Getting lanyard positioning can be tricky.

A lanyard double wrapped can help position but is often difficult to advance.

Weighting or keeping your hips into the lanyard may seem counterintuitive. (If you lean against (weight) lanyard, the friction on the backside acts to hold you in position). Keys to advancing: Get balanced, flip lanyard, get balanced, step, step.
Topside- try to maintain position on the topside of the lean, a cinching lanyard or carabiner across can help keep lanyard in contact with the trunk. Your body position will be farther from the tree so your lanyard will be a bit longer. Plan your cuts, cut weak side first so you’ll be in a more comfortable position for strong side cut. If you have a topside branch, leaving it for the last in a group give you a spot for lanyard, leaning or bracing against.
A high TIP- Possible from a second tree even if not directly overhead, it’s another point of contact/balance point.
A second climb line, long lanyard or Captain Hook can be used as balance point. In a spreading tree, cutting your leaning limb first, saving your most vertical as TIP.
All situation dependent.
A cinched butterfly or running bowline slightly above you with the cinch on the top side can help to keep you from rolling off one side of a single spar.

—Heavy leaners/ limbs—
All the things in the above also apply.
Probably the hardest to deal with especially if no higher TIP.
Having balance like a cat/surfer/ninja/monkey helps.
May end up in very awkward position.
Likelihood of ending up on the “underside” on the lean is high. Once rolled over I will be very taxing to stay like that. Like your doing a full body core workout.
Cutting in this position is risky because gravity can bring the cut piece down on you.
May have to sit on or straddle stem, sometime the most comfortable position.

Different Gaffs, brand, size, model, pads, straps all feel a bit different. It will feel awkward and unnatural. Try different ones, get a feel for what feels comfortable and “more normal” for you.

I’ve had Buckinghams, Climbright, aluminum and steel Geckos, Distels, tried the carbon fiber ones and a few others. They all feel a bit different and even different boots feel different with them.

Any of you crusty climbers got anything further please feel free to add, debate, whine, make fun of or otherwise contribute.
Climb safe!


Been here a while
Heavy reading there man, I appreciate the time and thought you put into writing that post.

I’m a loony about cool new gear. SRT devices, ascenders and descenders, rope grabs, saddles, blocks and pulleys etc. This gear addiction has never moved into spurs territory because I don’t see how mine can be much improved. Bashlin aluminum tree gaffs with caddy pads. I do have a set of Buck Titanium pole gaffs because they were 60$ on eBay. I used them once. Tree gaffs serve me well, thick or thin bark, hard or soft wood, whatever. I’ve never been in a position where I wished I had shorter gaffs, even on actual utility poles.
That’s just me though, what works for me might not be so well for others.

Generally I don’t take many precautions to prevent gaffing out anymore, because it just doesn’t happen. I’m always tied in at least one way, be it lanyard or climbing line set overhead. Both if I’m cut. I’ll take a 540 degree wrap with my lanyard if I think I’m going to get bounced around from a poorly trained or inexperienced ground worker when negative rigging a top.

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