Choosing Your Tie-In Point for Tree Climbing
After getting input from fellow climbers about what the next blog post should be, I heard from multiple people that there should be an article about choosing the correct tie-in point. At first, I thought this was a bit strange, but upon further reflection, it seemed like the perfect thing to discuss and hopefully get a conversation started about how you pick the right tie-in point for your everyday climbs! Just to make the fact clear, this article is a means of discussing tie-in points and is in no way a definitive guide on the 'correct' tie-in point. The 'correct' tie-in point is always YOUR personal responsibility as the climber. Now that we have that out in the open, let's talk about climbing!
So one of the first things that comes to mind when discussing tie-in points is tree limb size. What size limb can I tie into? What size limb shouldn't I tie into? Well, the answers are quite situational and depend on what tree species you're dealing with. The best thing to know is what species of tree you are climbing and what types of characteristics the tree species is known for. If I were to tie into something like a Red Oak (Quercus rubra), I could tie into a much smaller limb than I would in something like an Eastern Cottonwood (Populus deltoides). I know from experience and knowledge that Red Oak wood is much stronger and far less brittle than an Eastern Cottonwood. So, when it comes to tree limb size for your tie-in point, the best thing to do is know EXACTLY what you are climbing and how strong that wood is in terms of using it to support your life!
Another consideration is what you actually intend to do in the tree. If you plan on going way out on the tips of limbs in a dispersed tree, your best bet is going to be a tie-in point that is either really high or to redirect from a primary rigging point to something that puts you right over top of your work. Personally, I don't really like having a primary tie-in point on anything that is leaning--but if I'm redirecting, I have no problem with a leaning limb. What comes to mind when I think of a leaning tie-in point is the associated danger that we are putting a lot of force on that limb when we are fighting to get all the way to the tips of those limbs. If we look back on the way that forces are spread through a tree in rigging, we know that the angle our rope creates is bisected to determine the angle of force. If we are tied into JUST that leaning limb, then all of the force we are putting on that limb is working across the grain and not working with the strength of the tree. Again, this is more of a personal thought but I am backing it up with real life data.
Maybe the best tie-in point is actually a tree next to your subject tree? This is a great way to alleviate some of the associated hazards that come with tying into the tree that you are climbing. By using another tree as your tie-in point, you could also use a stronger species of tree to mitigate the risks of the weak and brittle tree that you are removing. This may be second nature to some climbers but sometimes we get stuck with the blinders on and can't see some of the other options we have in front of us!
Lastly, if you are climbing with an SRS system and decide a base anchor is your best bet, keep in mind that force are somewhat amplified when your rope goes up and over a tie-in point and is then anchored off to the base of the tree. Though these forces are not enormous, they can be far greater than a traditional tie-in point or a canopy anchor. This can be something to think about when choosing the tie-in point that is leaning or smaller. A great way to mitigate some of these forces are to pre-direct your rope through the tree or to set your rope over multiple branch unions to help share the load that you will be putting on the tree.
A final tip is to make sure you're tying into the tree in the correct manner. Your rope, or friction saver should always go over a limb and then AROUND the trunk of the tree. This acts as a backup in the event that the limb you are over breaks out, and your rope will slide down the trunk to the next limb. This works the same for canopy anchors while climbing SRS. If you were to tie into a singular limb and it were to break, you'd be in a fast trip to the ground with nothing in between. Be sure to always tie in with an associated back up like the trunk of the tree.
These are just a couple small things to think about when choosing a tie-in point for climbing trees. The biggest thing to remember is to know the species of tree you are climbing, and how it is going to be affected by the forces you are putting on it. Trees are not used to having humans swinging around their branches, especially with all the weight held on one branch. Stay safe and let us know some of your tips for choosing a good tie-in point!