There’s a really neat property in Lynden WA that has huge trees . It’s right in the middle of town and is around 15 acres. Total park setting. Fishtrap Creek runs right through it. Huge cedars, firs and maples. Just a beautiful property, full of awesome trees.
The owner hired me to limb 20 cedars and knock down some branches out of a couple maples up by the house. One of the maples has a base around 12 feet diameter. It goes up 25′ feet, then has multiple arms going up another 30′. He wanted some of the arms completely cut off. One of the ones he wanted cut off was unusual. This maple was a bear to climb. Once I got up to the 25′ mark I found something that makes you feel sick. The entire center of the tree was hollow. You wonder how these old rotted out trees can support so much branch weight growing out of it without breaking off.
From that part of the tree one of the branches went straight out, parallel to the ground, 20 feet. It had two shoots going up that were 15 feet high and were 12″ diameter coming off the main branch. Good size shoot. Here’s where it gets intense. I use a steel core flip line, if the saw hits it you have a chance not cut yourself out of the tree. The flip line is secured on your climbing belt. I scooted out on the branch inch by inch. When I got to the shoot my customer wanted cut off I stood up. Standing up with my flip line three feet from the base of the branch, I made the face cut two feet about my head. I did notice a slight crack in the branch but nothing that looked serious. Ready for the back cut, I eyed it and started through the tree. I barely had started cutting when the weight of the shoot split down from the cut below my flip line. I was instantly sucked into the tree. All I could think was that I was going to see blood come out of my mouth. My body tensed to the max and I just grunted hard. It was months ago but I can remember the seconds passing by so clearly.
Life had stopped and all was on this moment. Finally with a great snap, the branch gave way and broke off; slamming to the ground. I wasn’t sure for a minute if there was any internal damage. Funny, when tough situations happen, you still have to get out of the tree. As I was evaluating my state, the owner not seeing what had just happened, looked up as I was getting my wits back, and says, “you ever have any close calls.” That was funny. “Ya, a couple,” I said, “but I don’t talk about it while I’m in the tree.” It’s kind of funny when a customer looks up and ask, “have you ever fallen?”. I have to tell them to please not use the f word while I am still in the tree.
I knew the technique to prevent that situation from happening. You can know every technique in the book, but stuff happens. I use the technique now almost to a paranoia level. A split below your flip line only happens once, and you understand real well, better to take a couple extra minutes. By wrapping your lowering or repelling rope around the tree ,below the cut, five or six times or more depending on the size of the tree you are working with, you create a breaking point if the top is too heavy and it starts splitting out the tree. Sometimes I use chain. It’s a common technique.
Every tree man has times when he wishes he would have taken a little more time. Some write about what happened, and some don’t. It’s a great profession. I love it!