TRUST IN YOUR CLIMBING EQUIPMENT
What’s the fastest way to get from one branch to the next? Think about the first time you were in a giant tree all day long, knees slightly shaking from fear, and not touching solid ground for the past 6 hours. Yet, you know that there is still that ONE piece of deadwood that needs to get cut out on the complete opposite side of the tree. Obviously, you could climb down and over to that next limb, or maybe you could double tie-in and transfer over to it? OR, you could step off into the void and get some air under your boots and make the swing! Swinging from the branches may seem daunting, but it saves time and is completely safe with the proper professional climbing equipment.
For experienced climbers that have been working in the trees for a while, making the swing may seem like the obvious move, but to new climbers, taking that first big swing can be a pretty scary thought. Not many people relish the first time they need to completely step off into the unknown, especially when their crew leader is yelling at them to do it!
Typically, when someone is afraid to make the swing it’s because they don’t fully trust their climbing gear. Newer climbers – or those that are starting to use a new set up or technique – are sure to at least question the outcome of their first swing on new climbing equipment. However, if you are using professional climbing equipment, then you have climbing gear that can hold up to endless swings; this equipment is made for that type of stuff, as well as rated to handle very high loads. There is one thing though that may not be able to hold up to your swing: your tie-in point.
CHECK EQUIPMENT RATING
All of your professional climbing equipment should have visible markings that state the MBS (Minimum Breaking Strength); this is the minimum amount of force it takes to break or compromise a piece of climbing gear in its recommended orientation. All hardware should be rated to AT MINIMUM 22.5 kN or 5,000 lbs. A kN (Kilonewton) is a measurement of force. To be more exact, a newton is the amount of force required to accelerate a mass of one kilogram at a rate of one meter per square second. In addition, 1N is the force of gravitational pull on an object the size of a small apple. A Kilonewton is roughly 225lbs. So if you do the simple math of 225lbs x 22.5kN = 5,062.5lbs.
So when you are looking for new climbing gear, it should always be rated to at least 22.5 kN in order to make sure that you are within a good margin of safety when climbing, particularly when you are swinging from the branches. All of your climbing gear is rated so that you know its limitations, which are provided by a very rigid set of numbers. Unfortunately, the one thing that you rely on all day long does not have a set rating: your tie-in point! This is why you should BE ABSOLUTELY SURE that your tie-in point is suitable for everything you land on while in the tree. This means more than just making sure you have a high central TIP to move through the tree, but one that can also withstand the forces that your lateral pull will put on it when swinging from the branches or going way out on limb walks.
FOLLOW TIE-IN POINT RULES
Just like when you are looking for a suitable tie-in point, you should be sure that your tie-in point is capable of withstanding the force and the direction of the swing. If you have a leaning tie-in point in a super weak and brittle tree, such as a Sassafras, I think we can all agree that NO ONE would comfortably make that swing! However, if you have an arrow straight tie-in point in a Red Oak, pretty much every climber would make that swing – and have fun while doing it!
One interesting rule comes to mind about making swings: the ANGLE RULE. This rule has been covered before in our rigging blog post, and states that the direction of force can be determined by bisecting the angle a rope makes when passing over a pulley. This means if you take the angle that your rope makes when going over your tie-in point and split this in half, this determines the direction of the force you are creating. So again, if you know that you have a smaller leaning tie-in point and you follow your rope, split the angle of the two ropes, which should point directly down at you, and then determine where you are swinging, you can see exactly where that force is going to be in relation to your tie-in point.
Swinging from limb to limb is easily one of the fastest ways to get through the tree! I’m sure you have all made some memorable swings that saved you tons of time and extra work, and you had a great time while doing it! If you have any stories about a memorable big swing, or photos of you making one, please share them in the comments below and we will share them in a later blog post. Thanks for reading and keep climbing!