Finding the Right Tree Climbing Gear for Your Tree Removal Project
As any good arborist knows, part of their job description is monitoring the health of trees and knowing when they need to be cut down. The size and location of the tree often is a determining factor in what type of climbing gear will be needed for the project. Arborists especially focus on individual trees to determine what climbing equipment they will need. The first steps therefore are studying the tree(s) in their current state for breakage, rot and disease. Once the arborist, sometimes known as a tree surgeon, has determined that the tree in question has to be removed; then he/she studies the ecosystem, the surrounding area and notes any obstructions such as utility poles. It is important that he/she makes a determination based on on-site observation and has a detailed plan in place. It is also necessary to observe how sturdy the tree(s) are and plan out where tree limbs will fall when cut. This is for safety reasons.
Tree Removal Safety Equipment to Get Started
Once you have determined how heavy the tree is, you’ll need to both stabilize and make sure your rigging system can take the weight. Rigging systems often use a combination of pulleys, blocks, ropes, cables and hoists to safely bring down trees. Depending on the type of rigging system you use, you still have to determine force and distance factors along with weight factors. A poorly designed rigging system could end up costing you.
Types of tree rigging systems
All tree rigging systems use a combination of ropes, pulleys and fiddle blocks. Some systems also use cable and hoists to bring down tree limbs safely. The determining factors for what type of tree rigging system are: location of the tree, weight of the tree, angle of the tree, obstacles, and clearance. You want to make sure that you have a good estimate of each of these factors before deciding which tree rigging system is right for your project. Determining the pressure points is also an important step to determining the right safety equipment to use.
This system uses additional ropes, pulleys and fiddle blocks to increase your muscle power to pull over trees, add tension to slide lines and lift tree limbs.
Natural Crotch Rigging:
As the name suggests, this system uses the tree’s natural friction to lower tree limbs to the ground using just rigging lines.
This rigging is often used when the tree is not in bad enough shape to be removed. Using various rope tools such as eye slings, whoopies or loopies with arborist blocks or pulleys to cut and lower specific tree branches makes this system easy and creates the least harm to the tree.
This device is primarily used to carry heavy loads safely and efficiently. A tree pulling kit or a fiddle block set work best with this system. The load can be moved laterally in a drift line system or lowered safely to the ground.
Dynamic Spar Rigging:
This rigging system uses dynamic forces to drop pieces into a rigging point below where the wood is being removed. Strong components that can withstand both the force and the weight of the wood are a must with this system. Decelerating equipment that lowers the pieces gradually is suggested to mitigate the impact. Once the pieces have ceased their momentum, a slide or a drift line can be used.
This rigging system is used when you need to lift a tree limb vertically and is typically “tip tied” and lifted using a rigging line and a block or pulley. A lifting/lowering device should be utilized with this system.
This system is mainly used to lower small lighter branches quickly and easily. It uses only a rigging line and should only be used for static loads.
Spider Leg Balancer:
This is a balancing system designed to help maintain the tree’s shape and the limb’s orientation after being cut from the tree. The balancers provide adjustability to manage the load while at the same time maintain balance while the limb is lowered. This lessens the swing and movement of the limb after it is removed.
This system was mentioned in the Port-a-Wrap system, but can also be used in the Mechanical Advantage, the Spider Leg Balance and the Dynamic Spur Rigging systems. It is mainly used when an obstacle prevents the tree from being lowered directly down or it needs to be transferred over an obstacle such as a stone wall.
Like the drift line system above, the slide line system can be used in conjunction with the Mechanical Advantage, and the Spider Leg Balance Rigging systems. It is usually used to transfer wood long distances and is not recommended to be used for dynamic loads.
Once you have determined what rigging system you will use, you can then decide what tree removal equipment you will need for your project.
Tree Climbing Ropes
An essential piece of any tree removal equipment is tree climbing ropes. When you are looking for tree climbing ropes, there are four essential attributes that make tree climbing ropes different than ordinary ropes. These are elasticity, abrasion, tensile strength and durability. An arborist has to have a good understanding of the following factors; weight of the working load and the rope’s breaking point, the rope’s resistance to heat and water, and its resistance to sunlight and chemicals.
Types of climbing ropes
Static ropes are often used as slings and safety straps since they are more resistant to abrasion. They can also be used to haul lines. Static ropes are made of polyolefin, nylon and/or polyester materials with Kemmantle, Laid and Braided construction.
Dynamic ropes are primarily used as lifelines due to their flexibility and versatility. They can be easily worked with to create essential knots and can absorb the force of a fall. Nylon dynamic ropes are the most popular material used with Laid and Braided construction.
Tree Climbing Ropes and Gear Storage
Tree removal gear has to be stored correctly for its continued use. As was mentioned in the last section, a tree climbing rope has certain characteristics that make it unique. In order to maintain those characteristics, ropes and other gear need to be stored in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight. You should never step, drive over or place other heavy equipment on top of your rope. Proper washing when necessary and coiling without placing on a rusty nail or hook will ensure your rope lasts. Harnesses, belts and saddles should be checked regularly for splits and worn areas.
We’ve talked a lot about ropes. You can find out a bit more about tree roping from the National Tree Climbing Guide.
Tree Removal Harnesses, Belts and Saddles
Safety and fit are the main concerns when looking for the correct harness. You should look for harnesses that have sturdy back padding, rings to place ropes through and leg straps. Tree removal harnesses are sometimes known as saddles due to their familiar western style leg straps. Belts can be very useful to hold spikes, rigging hardware and other rigging equipment.
Pulleys, Blocks, Carabiners and other miscellaneous tree removal equipment
Tree removal climbing gear such as pulleys and blocks are essential tree removal gear. You should make sure that all components that you assemble for the rigging system you’ll use are compatible with the other parts of your existing rigging system. Carabiners are often used by mountain climbers, but tree climbers use carabiners to link cable or rope in a pulley system to haul wood. The right tree removal climbing gear helps maintain safety while climbing trees, cutting tree limbs with chainsaws and lowering wood safely to the ground.
Arborists know that it’s important to have the right tree removal and climbing equipment for the job. Using this equipment correctly could mean the difference between life and death. Determining first what type of rigging system you need before doing the job can save you time, energy and boost your reputation as a tree expert. This was only a small outline of what you can do, as every tree is different and calls for combinations of rigging systems.