Properly Caring For Your Climbing Equipment
How careful are you with your tree climbing equipment? More than likely, when it comes to your life support gear, you are pretty particular with the way it's treated and what it's put through. Would you say the same for your rigging gear? We've talked about how much abuse that our rigging lines go through in the past, so we will leave that alone for today! Let's have a little discussion about life support gear and some of the stuff that it goes through on a daily basis!
I remember doing some training years ago with a company that had a bunch of brand-new climbers coming on-board. They wanted me to go over the most basic climbing system with them so that they would be capable of safely getting into small trees from the ground. Unfortunately for myself and them, the training was taking place in February in Michigan! That means subzero temps and tons of snow! Anyways, the climbers came over to the tree that we are doing the training in and I watched as one of them takes his new climbing hank line, and just tosses it in a nasty pile of snow! My mind was blown that someone would treat their life support gear like that!
Anyone that has ever climbed in the snow knows that an icy, slick rope can lead to an interesting climb at the least, to a catastrophic one at the worst. This new climber had no idea what he was doing, let alone how dangerous this could actually be for him. So, I decided to start all of the training with how to treat your gear, whether that be while you are climbing, getting ready to climb, storing it, or even carrying it to the tree. Obviously, we went over how to check your tree climbing gear before you begin any ascent, but I think this can be just as important to properly maintain our support gear and it's great to get into good practices and habits.
The biggest thing I showed the new climbers was the simple fact that a rope that isn't laid out correctly will end in a huge mess of a knot that will weigh you down in the tree and in time trying to get it untangled. If you are still hanking your rope, be sure to set it down with the correct end on top and not in a mess! Next, if you are working with snow on the ground, kick all the snow away from the base of the tree so your rope will hopefully be laying on the grass instead of under the snow! Better yet, to alleviate both of these issues, pick up a rope bag to store your rope in. This makes your rope easier to carry, protects it from the elements while it's still on the ground and makes it way easier to put away! That's a win, win and win!
Another thing I've noticed lately is gear not being reattached to the harness while climbing or being carried from the truck to the tree. This is mostly with a work positioning lanyard from what I've seen. There are multiple problems with this, the first being the carabiner or snap on the end of the lanyard getting dragged through dirt and across the cement, asphalt or snow. The last thing we need while climbing is a carabiner or snap that is jammed up with dirt. This is dangerous and easily avoidable by paying attention to your gear and how you treat it! Another thing to keep in mind is the simple fact that battery acid can deteriorate a rope which can and has led to death before. Dragging your gear across a homeowner's driveway is like dragging your gear through a razor blade factory, it might not get cut this time, but sooner or later, it's going to happen! On top of that, when I see a climber walking through a client's yard dragging their gear, I can't help but cringe at how unprofessional it looks! We already get a bad reputation from our job title, don't give them another reason to think we are some knuckle draggers! Pick up your gear and treat it with some respect!!
Hopefully this is a good heads up to anyone that is a habitual gear dragger at the moment and a great reminder from any former gear draggers that are on the verge of a relapse! We care about you, your family and your livelihood so we want to make sure you are being as safe as possible even if that means paying attention to stuff before any of the work has even started! Stay safe out there and let's hear some other safety related things in the comments!