“It’s the most wonderful time of the year!”
Songs like these echo out of our radios (more like streaming services these days) to remind us of the magic of the holidays. Decorations all around, thoughts of snow as the temperatures drop, and, of course, presents around the Christmas tree.
While we climbers are excited about this time of year for all the same reasons, we get equally excited about what this time also means for us. Yes, we will have presents around the tree, most likely climbing-related trinkets. But the real presents are how the trees show themselves off with the changing of colors, shedding of leaves, and showing their structure. The area’s trees are visible in a way that they haven’t been for the past six months allowing us to now see the actual growth and map out how they will be climbed in a way we have trouble with when foliage is present. The lack of foliage also means that the limbs removed from the tree take up less space in the truck when chipped. A practical and often overlooked benefit for people, but we are very much aware and excited by it. Fewer trips to the dump mean more time in the trees, which, if we’re being honest, is the thing we desire most. As much time off the ground in the Richmond playground as possible!
Route planning from the ground (which I alluded to earlier) is a benefit of no foliage, but more so than that is identifying what we can tie our ropes into from the ground. You see, we don’t know how strong our attachment points in the trees truly are. So much of our work is one giant hypothesis based mostly upon experience with some biology mixed in. In every other at-height discipline (think of folks working on towers, fire/rescue, or oil rigs) the anchor point they climb off of is fully rated. Essentially, they know when something will break, based on specific testing on just that: When does concrete or steel break? In trees, we don’t have that luxury, which makes the climbing that much more adventurous as well as intentional. Our life-support attachment to the tree itself requires a lot of trust. Trust in our experience, training, knowledge, and what our gut instinct has to say.
In the natural world, there are lots of different types of trees, and we sure do have a lot of them in RVA. Part of what makes being a tree climber in Richmond so awesome is the diversity that is afforded us. That said, it also means there are more things to keep dialed into the mental Rolodex. Some trees are stronger than others. Some bend more than others. Some rot faster internally than others. While some (amazingly) get harder when they die. All these factors are part of what a tree climber must assess prior to each climb, usually within the first couple of minutes of setting foot in someone’s yard. As we gain experience, this assessment gets not only faster but, believe it or not, more thorough. We know more of what to look for as well as how certain species either give us confidence or scare the crap out of us. Lack of leaves means our job gets easier, which makes us happy.
So, tying this all back to how this convo started, is why this is a magical time of year for us. It allows our risk assessments to happen faster. There are fewer things in the way that are blocking our view. We can make the best decisions about where to tie our ropes to the tree and how to access them. It gives us the opportunity to care for trees in a little bit of a better way with our pruning cuts. A side benefit is we can also be seen a lot easier, especially in our Truetimber-branded red shirts, so we look way cooler! But it also allows us to keep tabs on one another to make sure everyone is still good.
When it comes down to it, most of us are excited this time of year for the cooler temperatures, making the climbing not quite as hard, and the shorter workdays mean we get more time to rest our bodies as well as spend more time with our families. If you see a Truetimber truck rolling around, know that you’re watching a group of folks heading to climb some trees knowing that we have the best job in the world. We’re off to swing around in your trees, hoot and holler, and bask in the most wonderful time of year to be a tree climber. Here’s to hoping that you have a happy holiday season from your friendly neighborhood tree climbers!