“A cambium saver is an annoying thing. It always gets stuck when you try to retrieve it out of the tree and then you have to climb up again.”
This is the most common reason I have heard of fellow arborists for not using a cambium saver. I prefer to use the term cambium saver instead of friction saver because it is technically not possible to save friction. We can reduce friction with modern cambium savers (like the rope guide) but not all cambium savers reduce the friction for the climber though (e.g. leather rope cover bent in a horse shoe form). I believe using a cambium saver is not only good practice but should be expected from all arborists. When we climb a tree for any reason (except felling it of course) we should try to do as little damage to the tree as possible. Using a cambium saver is vital to achieve this goal.
But I must agree that retrieving a cambium saver can be a bit tricky at times.
So here are a few tips how to set and retrieve a cambium saver with hopefully a bit more luck. The most important thing when setting your cambium saver from in the tree is that the chosen spot must be cleaned of all little stumps and twigs (water shoots) that could get in the way. Also have a good look at the side where the cambium saver will drop down in the process of the retrieval and remove all little stumps and twigs that it could catch on. This “cleaning” may take a minute but it will save you time when retrieving your cambium saver.
While placing your cambium saver it is good practice to simulate its retrieval. To do so, pull at the cambium saver in the direction it will be retrieved and check if it moves easily through the crotch or if the pulley releases well. Just check any function your cambium saver should perform. If it does not retrieve look for the problem and eliminate it, even if this means that you have to look for a different spot to place your cambium saver. Also you should make sure that you come out of the tree in a relatively straight line so that you can flick your rope from the ground and hence manipulating the cambium saver out of the fork. A not retrievable cambium saver is annoying, time consuming and therefore money wasting.
The most common cambium saver is made out of one big and one small aluminium or steel ring, connected by a piece of webbing that is normally 900-1200mm long. The easiest way of retrieving the cambium saver is to tie a knot (half hitch) in the end of the rope. The knot should be placed so that the tail of the rope is not more and not less than 50mm long. This will prevent the rope tail to jam between the rings but it will be long enough to stop the knot from “rolling” of the end. If you are fortunate enough to have a spliced eye on your rope end, it is best to use a little locking karabiner or chain link to retrieve your cambium saver. Don´t use a snap karabiner, this tends to find a way of opening and hooking up to the most impossible things.
To prevent the cambium saver from falling to the ground and getting damaged (especially when you are using expensive kit (like the rope guide) or when there is a hard surface under the tree) just throw your throw line over a branch below the anchor point. You can then hook your towline with a karabiner to your rope. When you now pull out your cambium saver it will catch on the karabiner attached to the throw line, and this will prevent the cambium saver from hitting the ground hard.
The same method is used when your cambium saver gets stuck up on your anchor point. Throw a throw line over a point higher than your anchor point. Then tie a karabiner to your throw line and hook it to the retrieving strand of your rope. When you now pull on your throw line, the karabiner will slide up the rope to your cambium saver and lift your cambium saver out of the stuck position. While using this method it is important that your throw line follows the line of your rope.
All these techniques take time to practice, so start with smaller trees to get used to the way this techniques work before you use it on the big ones.
Tree climbing is a physically and mentally exhausting job and any little trick to make our lives easier can give our body a few more years of enjoying this very special and challenging work.
Have fun and climb safe!
Published: (Tree Matters, 2009, 11/4)