The Emergence of Micro Pulleys
We have been talking about the ways that the tree climbing industry has changed from when climbers were free climbing trees with absolutely no safety equipment to when climbers started using the Taut Line Hitch and the Blake’s Hitch. There is no doubt that changes in materials for hardware have changed over the years, as well as rope materials and other rope gear too. Now let’s talk a bit about further evolutions in the tree climbing industry and what came after the Blake’s Hitch and the Split Tail System.
So previously we had talked about the Split Tail System opening up doors for climbers to work safer and more efficiently because they now can use their climb line as a Work Positioning Lanyard, as well as change their tie-in point with ease. This gear advancement also brought about the use of new hitches using a hitch cord that connects to a carabiner at both ends instead of just one end like a split tail. This allowed for a multitude of knots to be developed; and some are still being developed or at least rediscovered to this day!
By attaching both ends of the hitch cord to a carabiner, the hitch can open when pushed upwards and then quickly grab when the direction is reversed, which brought about hitches like the VT, Schwabisch, and Distel.
Now that both legs of a friction hitch are attached to our carabiner, climbers can slip a micro pulley between our legs and start tending slack with one hand! Once micro pulleys became popular it became hard to conceive going back to the two-handed slack tending of the past.
A rope can now easily be set over a limb and the climber can tie-in from the ground and have their ground person pull down on the tail of their rope. Their friction hitch slides right up the rope next to them, keeping them safe in the event of a slip or mishap. This also allows climbers to drop down over multiple limbs and not need to pull the tail of their rope over those limbs because the micro pulley fairleads the tail and the tail is pulled to them. This advancement has made climbing around big spread out trees both easier and faster.
The Hitch Climber Pulley and New Techniques
The next big jump in climbing gear technology was the invention of the Hitch Climber Pulley through the work of DMM and the Treemagineers. The Hitch Climber Pulley is a micro pulley with three holes in it. These three holes allow the climber to attach their entire climbing system to one main hub, instead of having two different carabiners clipped to their D ring to clang together and cross load or get hung up on each other.
The Hitch Climber has also made it possible for climbers to start using techniques like the “V Rig” to help them spread loads over two tie-in points with ease. This pulley really started getting climbers looking at gear that was designed specifically for climbers!
From this point on, tree gear began to make leaps and bounds in the techniques it allowed climbers to utilize. SRT (Single Rope Technique) ascent had been alive and well in many other industries for years, but in these past 10 years it has become a main stay in our industry.
For many years SRT ascent was a quick and easy way to enter a tree, but once in the tree the climber would have to switch over to their traditional doubled rope system. Detroit native Kevin Bingham invented the F8 Revolver system that subsequently evolved into the Rope Wrench and the Rope Runner you are probably accustomed to using today!
The Rise of SRT Climbing
Did you know that Kevin actually used a box wrench on his climb line to help him work position on a single rope? It’s pretty wild to see where the ideas for our gear came from and what the gear has morphed into through innovation. During this same time, Rock Exotica released the Unicender, which is used for SRT and DdRT climbing. Many climbers around the world now employ SRT work positioning to more easily access trees and make their work positioning safer, while also reducing wicked rope angles with natural redirects and the sort.
Speaking of making accessing trees easier and faster, with the rise in popularity of SRT climbing came the rise of the knee ascender. Michael Frankhauser designed the HAAS (Haul Ass Ascent System) for climbers of all body types to easily climb a rope and get into the tops of the trees. This advancement in our industry really did take away the trepidation of big daunting climbs by allowing usage of the same movements as climbing a ladder!
The knee ascender works by placing an ascender on your climbing line right next to your knee; the ascender itself has a rigid strap attached to the bottom of it that attaches to your boot. The top of the ascender has a bungee cord that clips to a neck tether or your chest harness via a snap or small carabiner.
As the climber steps up with their foot attached to the HAAS, the bungee cord pulls the ascender up with every step! This is always teamed up with a foot ascender so that every step the climber takes moves them further and further up the rope. It’s a beautiful thing because the climber can practically run up the rope if they need to!
Keep On Communicating and Innovating!
Climbers and manufacturers are continually looking for new ideas and developing gear that makes climbing easier for everyone. With the release of the Captain Hook grappling hook for DMM or the Mag Throw Bags from Richard Mumford, we can see that many people are really using their head and finding ways to make our jobs easier.