With arborists across the UK battling to get to grips with a new way of working, David Wiles of arb training specialist ETC (Environmental Training Centre) offers some useful guidance.

THE Industry Code of Practice for Arboriculture: Tree Work at Height, second edition released last month – and 2019’s HSE statements on the matter –have split the industry. Some are desperately trying to adjust while others categorically refuse to accept that to be compliant to the Work At Height Regulations 2005 we must seek to climb on two ropes as often as the task and tree allow (practically speaking, most of the time spent in trees).

This article is aimed at those who are new to climbing with two ropes, and has the sole aim of providing some tips that could potentially make working in a compliant way more efficient and straightforward.

Positivity is key. Experienced climbers understand the benefits of two-rope working (and single-rope working). Here are a few benefits of two ropes you may not have thought about:

  • Increased confidence, especially on trees with questionable anchors, poor rope angles and for new climbers in larger crowns
  • Better work positioning for cutting and safer in many circumstances due to ability to triangulate and increase stability
  • Easy to traverse from tree to tree or between wide co-dominant stems
  • Systems optimised for ascent, i.e. ISC Ropewrench SRS (stationary rope technique) with its 1:1 ratio, and working on the branch tips, i.e. hitch climber MRS (moving rope system) or ART Lockjack with their 2:1 advantage helping you keep your weight off the limbs, can be used side by side to complement each other
  • Displays a professional image. Many clients and upper-tier contractors insist on two ropes now, with utilities and rail enforcing this strictly. All staff, including subcontractors, should know the regulations and should be complying. The HSE and Arboricultural Association have been very clear on this.

We accept it isn’t all roses, climbing will be a slower process, albeit hopefully a safer one.


Remember learning to climb? That intense frustration when things just aren’t going right, then a twig slaps you in the face? Just relax, take a breath and keep at it. You will find ways that work for you.


If we could give you just one tip it would be this. Focus on one system at a time, especially when returning from limb walks and ascending. You will still need to tend the slack of your second system, so that it remains functional and does not exceed 500 mm. Returning from a limb walk, for example, move a few steps focusing on one system. Stop, adjust the trailing system and repeat. Of course, when descending, if you can, operate both systems simultaneously for efficiency.

Forestry Journal: A stationary rope system used with a moving rope system – hitch climber MRS and RW/chicane SRS.A stationary rope system used with a moving rope system – hitch climber MRS and RW/chicane SRS.


We don’t mean match your blue chainsaw boots to your new blue Protos.

People often say, “It will be more cluttered, so more dangerous.” Firstly, slow down. Think and check twice (we all should, regardless). Try to develop your own techniques for identifying different systems at a glance. You could differentiate according to tape, manufacturers, coloured equipment etc.

Realistically, you will generally have three systems, with one attached to your lower/upper D attachments (lanyard) and two on your bridge, so it’s really only an extra carabiner to contend with on your bridge. However, if you’re using two identical systems, it’s understandable how some may become confused. When training, we use different coloured ropes and carabiners to help identify systems at a glance. Try developing a system for yourself using the equipment you have, and maybe some coloured electrical tape.


Utilise (or weight) different systems for different aspects of your climb. For example, while making your initial ascent into the crown, use SRT (stationary rope technique) and have your groundsman tend the slack of, say, a Zigzag MRT (moving rope technique). That way you get the benefits of the 1:1 progression of a rope-wrench with the branch-walking capability of a Zigzag, utilising the 2:1 mechanical advantage for precise work positioning and returning from limb walks (which can, in fact, also be achieved on SRT systems).

Forestry Journal: Two stationary rope systems – ZZ chicane and rope wrench.Two stationary rope systems – ZZ chicane and rope wrench.


We hear a lot of complaints about friction, MRT systems rubbing on each other or the MRT system rubbing on the tree and SRT system through the same crotch, for example.

By using two SRT systems, you eliminate the negative effects of friction and may find your possibilities for work positioning widen due to the number of redirects you can utilise. SRT is a different ball game, so if you have never climbed on an SRT system, after some training (even if just from a colleague), have a go at using an SRT system alongside your normal day-to-day system and incorporate it as your primary system where you feel comfortable.


When possible (for example, when returning from a long branch walk you haven’t been able to triangulate your lines on), ask your groundsman to pull down on the second line, tending the slack on one system, allowing you to focus your attention on the preferable system at the time. Remind your groundsman not to stand directly underneath you.


No doubt manufacturers will be developing new PPE with two-rope working at the forefront of R&D. Companies like Edelrid and Teufelberger are already producing harnesses with two bridges with the likes of the treeMOTION Evo and TreeRex Triple Lock.

When experimenting with equipment and configurations, especially equipment you’re not familiar with, ensure they are compatible and, if in doubt, check with the manufacturer directly. They are generally very approachable.

We hope this brief article has shown you there are options available to make two-rope working less of a challenge. With an open-minded approach and a bit of creativity, there is still a lot of flexibility to get systems dialled in for your specific day-to-day needs.

If you have any questions regarding techniques and/or compliance we would be happy to try and assist. You can contact us at info@etctrees.com.


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