The Open Masters' Challenge tree climbing series, organized by well known Auckland climber Matt Glen, offer an excellent opportunity for climbers to showcase new trends and techniques. Spectators (and other climbers) can see various climbing systems and methods up close and discuss the benefits and issues related to each, first-hand with the climbers involved. All of this in one place, on one day and… Sunday's Open Masters Challenge was no exception.Seven climbers competed in the event, including the 2010 Women's Asia-Pacific Regional winner Chrissy Spence who traveled up from the Waikato with NZ NationalTCC Coordinator Marlies Laser .
It was interesting to note that almost every climber installed an access line and entered the tree using some form of SRT. It was as if each climber haddiscussed this strategy before the event (which we are sure was not the case). Arb companies take note: you should expect to see the everyday use of accesslines in the work environment sometime very soon.
While the use of an access line was common amongst the climbers, the SRT techniques and systems used differ quite substantially.
Treescape climber Tony Bennett has a custom-built SRT system based on Scott Sharpe's rope walker utilizing the Petzl Mini Traxion (as shown in a previousTreetools blog). Tony's system appeared a bit fiddly to set up but once he was on the rope he made the climbing look effortless. All of Tony's upward motion is generated through the power in his legs; his hands are free for balance and to guide the rope or move aside branches as he goes - very impressive.
Drew Bristow and Chrissy Spence both had similar 'clip 'n climb' SRT systems which require the use of a hand ascender. These systems are much easier toattach pre-climb and release once you are in the tree. The major difference between the two are the style of hand ascender (Petzl Ascension versus Kong Futura) and the method used to keep the Croll upright. Drew utilizes a bungee attached to his helmet chin strap and Chrissy has a bungee loop which goesover her head and around her neck. Both methods produce the same result: an upright Petzl Croll on a TreeMOTION harness so there is no need for the cumbersomechest attachment (Petzl Secur).
Johno Smith used the Unicender for which he is now quite famous.
Russell VanWijingaarden, a climbing arborist with the Cornwall Park Trust Board in Auckland also has a Rock Exotica Unicender but Russell says he is not ready yetto use it in competition climbs… but he does use it almost everyday at work. Russell entered the tree using an access line via SRT and put in anexcellent 'traditional' climb.
Zane Wedding and Matt Glen opted for a footlock ascent. Zane formed a prussic with his climbing line on the doubled access rope and had a few spectatorsscratching their heads wondering how the system would work. Matt entered the tree using a traditional footlock prussic on a single 11 mm line (only forthose with strong hands and can stand a little pain). Both climbers put in impressive climbs.
The use of access lines and SRT are gaining popularity with climbers and the Open Masters' Challenge showed how prevalent this trend is. Treetools is noticing a movement in SRT related hardware and lots of questions being asked at the store.
However climbers need to be aware - there is more to SRT than meets the eye - make sure you talk to someone who is using an SRT system with an access line before you go down that path yourself.
Russell VanWijingaarden on completing his climb at the Open