Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Meet Shirley The Cedar Tree...

We don't have too many really big trees around these parts even though we are surrounded by trees. They... um... cut them down over the last century and what we have left are adolescent trees all competing for dominance.

I did, however, find this large false cedar (incense cedar) up where I ride my mountain bike. She's about 140 feet tall and her first limbs are up about fifty feet. She's got a trunk on her about six feet in diameter right at the base. Big but not REALLY BIG. (The giant redwoods are REALLY BIG. As soon as I get proficient at climbing big trees I'll go tackle a three hundred footer...)

This cedar is close to home and presents some of the same problems the big redwoods will present. The biggest obstacle- HOW TO GET INTO HER.

I've named her Shirley in honor of my blog-friend Shirley. I promised her a story and here is the first part of it--


I loaded up all my far too new and shiny tree climbing gear into the back of the truck, took along lots of water and some powerade (it was a 95 degree day) talked the dogs into loading up ("get your way-too-cool-arses out from underneath the truck you miserable bags-of-bones!".... ok I just said "wanna come?") and headed up our local backroad that runs behind the lake and up to the BLM land beyond.

Last week on a walk with the dogs cut short by very fresh bear poop, I noticed this towering cedar just off the road and I thought "I could climb that sucker"... and now here I was, climbing gear in the bed of the truck, music on the radio...

The trick is to get a rope over the first solid branch you can. It says that in all of the tree climbing pamphlets, and the way I devised to do that was with a modified fishing pole and a slingshot.

I would shoot a half inch nut covered in red duct tape tied to fishing string up and over the branch and then use that to pull up a larger string. I would then use the larger string to pull up a rope and there I'd have it, a rope in a tree...

I taped a spike to the base of the fishing pole so it would stab in the ground and hold itself up. I set the reel to cast. I took the nut and placed it into the slingshot and I pulled the surgical tubing taught and aimed for the space just above the branch and as close to the trunk as possible. You don't want your rope way out on the branch as it multiplies your weight by leverage and that's not good when you are hanging from said branch fifty feet in the air...

I releaed the nut and it flew six inches over the branch and six inches from the trunk of the tree- a PERFECT SHOT!

I thought to myself "All those years as a kid shooting stuff with slingshots!" and then began reeling in the weighted line as it had sailed far beyond my tree and into the uppermost branches of another.

Now apparently I hadn't done enough fishing as a youth because I was less adept at reeling in the weight through the tangle of branches. I wanted the weight to clear all obstacles and then hang freely on the other side of the branch I had just shot it over. What happened was not what I had planned at all. As I cleared the last of the branches of the neighboring tree, the last pull I gave the line (more of a yank, really) flipped my weight up in the air and it LANDED ON TOP OF THE BRANCH I WANTED IT TO BE ON THE OTHER SIDE OF.

So there I was, on the ground, fishing reel in hand, trying to figure out how to push a weight back just three inches with a limp fishing line...

You can see my problem, can't you?

So I had to pull the line down and start over. So much for my perfect first throw....

The second shot with the slingshot actually HIT THE BRANCH and bounced back behind me. Well, at least I was close. The trouble was, I just got worse from there. My line would get snagged on the fishing reel. My weight would curve wildly. I'd hit the trunk of the tree with a "boink" and my weight would bounce in the air and threaten my head as it careened down.

After well over an hour and a half, I got a shot over the branch about six feet from the tree. I thought "hell, close enough" then removed the weight and replaced it with the end of a bigger string and pulled that over the branch. Then I tied on my climbing rope and got that over the branch and back to me.

Now I had a climbing rope over a branch fifty feet in the air doubled over and I was holding both of the ends.


I would have to tie one end of the rope off to an anchor and climb the other end. What that meant was simple physics. BAD simple physics. If I weigh two hundred and sixty pounds with climbing gear on, that would exert FIVE HUNDRED AND TWENTY pounds of downward force on the branch. My weight on one side of the rope, my weight pulling down from the other side as the rope transfers load up and over the tree branch and down to the anchor...

So five hundred and twenty pounds six feet out on a limb becomes... let's just say ALOT when you calculate the six feet of leverage acting on the limb right next to the tree...

My solution was to take the anchoring end of the rope and walk it around the tree, trying to get the angle of force as perpindicular to the tree as possible by wrapping the tree with the rope. The only trouble here was that I'd need to walk far from the tree to wind around it high enough to make a difference, and this picked up a smaller sapling and pinned it to the big cedar with my rope.

Here is a basic drawing of the situation.

(To be continued)

1 comment:

Jeannie said...

Yup - but did you climb?

I don't think I would have the patience to throw that much. I'd have gone and rented a nice sky-jack or something.