By Michael Tain
Tree care professionals use rope and cordage in a wide variety of ways on a daily basis. Rope, cordage, and tools formed from them are used in climbing systems, rigging systems, felling scenarios, and even in dynamic cabling. Rope is used to ascend into the canopy safely and securely, and then lower large pieces of wood or branches after arrival. Often, various forms of rope tools, pieces of cordage formed or manufactured for specific applications, play an integral part in these climbing, rigging, and felling operations. Individual rope tools may employ hand splicing or machine stitching to generate the desired design, but can also be created by individual users through the use of appropriate knots or hitches. However, a spliced or stitched rope tool will retain more of the rope’s original strength than one using knots or hitches. This is due to the inherent strength loss created by the bends caused by the knots or hitches in the rope/cordage. An understanding of rope tools, their applications, and limitations will assist climbing arborists in employing them safely and efficiently during tree care operations.
* Endless loop: An endless loop is one of the simplest forms of rope tools, and is created by attaching a length of cordage back to itself by splicing, stitching, or an appropriate knot. The loop may then be used in any number of ways in both climbing and rigging systems. Girth hitched around a limb or trunk it provides an anchor point in rigging systems, or when used to form a Prusik around the two parts of a static climbing line it provides a means for a secured footlock ascent. The primary limitation of the endless loop is a lack of adjustability.
* Eye slings: Eye slings are rope tools made from a variety of rope constructions, but the most commonly used constructions are double braid and 12-strand hollow braids such as Tenex. These tools have a large eye in one end and are typically used to attach a piece of equipment to the tree, such as a rigging block or a lowering device like the Port-a-wrap. The sling should be attached to the block by passing the fixed eye around the bushing or to a device such as the Port-a-Wrap by girth hitching the fixed eye to the Port-a-Wrap. Connecting links should be avoided in dynamic rigging situations due to the possibility of cross or side loading. Eye slings are typically secured to the tree through the use of an appropriate knot such as the timber hitch or the cow hitch w/ a half-hitch. A sling with an eye spliced into the end of it is a much better choice than one created by tying a bowline or other knot, due to the extreme forces generated at rigging points and the strength loss that knots cause.
* Whoopie slings: These slings are typically spliced from 12-strand hollow braids. They have a fixed eye on one end, and an adjustable eye on the other. The whoopie sling is designed to be used with the fixed eye through the adjustable eye around the tree or branch, and a rigging block or lowering device attached to the fixed eye. As with the eye sling, the whoopie should be attached to the block by passing the fixed eye around the bushing or to a device by girth hitching the fixed eye to the device. This sling’s adjustability makes it quite versatile and useful on a wide variety of tree sizes. However, it can be awkward to adjust aloft, and may be better suited for use at ground level for redirect blocks or lowering devices.
* Loopie slings: Loopie slings are also typically manufactured from 12-strand hollow braids, but unlike the whoopie sling, the loopie sling is an adjustable endless loop. Loopie slings are used in a girth hitch around the trunk or branch, with the unspliced portion holding the rigging block and passing through the spliced portion. Their adjustability and strength make them an excellent choice for placing rigging blocks in the canopy, although they can certainly also be used at ground level for redirect blocks or lowering devices. Both whoopie and loopie slings are available in several different diameters of cordage, so users should be aware of the strength needs of their particular rigging scenario and purchase/use accordingly.
* Eye and eyes: These are rope tools with an eye at both ends, and are often called eye and eye Prusiks. They are used primarily in dynamic climbing systems, but also have applications in static climbing systems or when acting as a “rope grab” in various rigging scenarios. Eye and eyes are most commonly spliced, but may also be formed through the use of knots or hitches to form the eyes at either end. The resulting rope tool is then used to form any variety of closed climbing hitches around the climbing or load line, such as the Michoacán or French Prusik.
There are many other useful rope tools available to modern and progressive tree care professionals than those discussed here, but this introduction to some of the applications, advantages, and disadvantages of various rope tools will assist in using them safely and efficiently. The use and application of these tools is limited only by the given tool’s physical capabilities and its user’s imagination. Their appropriate use in a variety of applications cannot help but make jobs go more smoothly and safely.
Michael “House” Tain is a contract climber, splicer, educator and writer currently located in Lancaster, Ky. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org