The job of arborists, or tree surgeons, is to care for and maintain trees and other woody shrubs. Unlike foresters or loggers, an arborist's main concern is prolonging the lives of trees rather than managing or harvesting. As such, their tree-climbing methods aim to be minimally invasive and prevent unnecessary damage to the tree.
Arborists may use a variety of methods to ascend into a tree. One of the most common uses ropes so as not to harm the tree. Rope and harness climbing is fairly easy and very effective, and involves a variety of techniques. In some situations arborists might use spurs attached to their shoes and a strap to work their way up, but since this wounds the tree it is not recommended.
The two basic rope-climbing techniques are double-rope technique (DRT) and single-rope technique (SRT). DRT is primarily used on trees less than 100 feet tall and is easier to master. SRT is more appropriate for taller trees and requires more equipment.
To use the double-rope technique, climbers must first loop the rope over a branch and position a branch protection device over it to safeguard the tree. A throw bag and throw line are sometimes used to pull the rope over the limb if it's especially hard to reach--this is done by throwing the bag and line over the branch and then attaching the rope to pull it up and over.
Once the rope is secure, the climber dons a harness and attaches himself to the rope. A series of climbing knots helps him ascend and descend. Some people use just their arms to go up, while others find it easier to use a foot loop. To do this, they use one foot to wrap the rope around the other and then stand on it to ascend.
Unlike DRT, the single-rope technique involves the use of a mechanical device--usually ascenders. One end of the rope gets anchored to a branch or to the tree base and the other holds the handles used to ascend.
Depending on the ascension method, a variety of equipment is at an arborist's disposal. The most common pieces include helmet, harness, rope, a throw line and bag, and carabiners.
Arborists have one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. Performing one's job from 100-plus feet in the air presents a variety of deadly obstacles. Before climbing any tree, one should always thoroughly inspect it to make sure it is safe. Certified arborists have at least three years of experience and must pass a series of examinations before they are considered qualified.
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