Tools of the Trade

David McNeill

This is not intended to be a comprehensive list of all the tools available in arboriculture. Frankly, that would be well beyond the scope of this blog. Nor is it intended to be a comprehensive history of the development and progression of arboriculture, although there will be some necessary retrospective explanations.

This is intended to introduce and/or discuss tools I have come across that made a significant impression and changed my ability to climb for the better. I have found these tools to have merit whether I continued to use them long term or not. I will reiterate: these are my opinions only.

When first learning to climb in the 1960s, we used ropes and saddles, not a lot of extensive equipment. Ascent was performed often by foot-locking, a technique that used upper body and leg strength and the coordination of capturing both legs of the rope between your feet. A skilled climber could ascend a tree very quickly.

Another technique was hip-thrusting, using a great deal of upper body strength. Both of these systems were used on a doubled rope; that is a single length of rope, thrown over a branch close to the trunk of the tree with both legs of the rope coming down to the ground. In hip-thrusting, one leg of the rope was attached to the climbing saddle and the other leg was captured to the first leg with a knot that allowed you to ascend and descend. That was called Doubled Rope Technique (DdRT). Some people have confused the term thinking it meant two ropes were used. That is not the case. This technique is now referred to as Moving Rope Technique (MRT). Friction hitch knots were typically used in MRT for ascent and descent.

It was during this time period, over a span of 40 years, my overuse injuries occurred. Day-after-day of ascending trees primarily using the arms and shoulders, handling the (heavier) chainsaws of that era in the trees took a heavy toll on my body.

There came a realization that I might have to give up climbing, a profession I had spent my entire life pursuing and loving. Then innovative arborists started coming out with new tools. Tools that allowed the use of the large leg muscles rather than focusing on the upper body. A main difference, and it was a big one, was these tools allowed the rope to stay stationary as opposed to moving as you advanced or descended the tree. This new-to-arboriculture technique is referred to as Stationary Rope Technique (SRT).

In MRT, the rope actually moves, meaning among other things, you need to stay aware of how it is moving, if it is getting caught up in brush causing the climber to become trapped in the tree, and it is possible to run out of rope coming out of the tree. With SRT the rope stays stationary. YOU move up and down the rope.

These new tools utilize SRT. For me, there was definitely a learning curve as I had spent over 40 years climbing in a specific manner, so muscle memory was strong. The new technique required some counter intuitive movements for me. But once I mastered them, there was no turning back.

These new tools were termed multicenders because they allowed you to go up and down the single rope without the use of knots, although some have been developed which do utilize knots. They also allow lateral movement throughout the tree for limb walking, some being more adaptable than others. The development of a variety of these tools has allowed a greater acceptance and utilization by climbers around the world.

The first multicender I tried out in 2007 was the Unicender (pictured below) designed by Morgan Thompson. This tool was fully mechanical, which I believe was actually a stalling point for wide spread acceptance by the climbing community. They were accustomed to working with knots.

When the Hitch Hiker (HH) came my way, I anticipated a greater acceptance from the climbing world as this tool utilized familiar knots. Invented and produced by Paul Cox, it wasn’t long before he produced a new generation edition, the Hitch Hiker 2 (HH2). To this day, it remains my “go to” climbing tool. (Pictured below)

There have been many fine tools developed since the HH2, but I found the ones that worked best for me. In certain situations, I will use the Akimbo (pictured below) developed by Jaime Merritt.

I will be discussing the full system I typically use in an upcoming blog.

© 2020 McNeill’s Tree Service

One Comment on “Tools of the Trade

  1. Pingback: SINGLE ROPE SYSTEM (SRS) – Techniques and tips – MCNEILL'S TREE SERVICE

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