Mark Bridge gave an overview and demonstration of Teufelberger’s
new treeMotion evo (trademarked treeMOTION evo) climbing saddle in the Unboxing Ring at the 2019 TCI EXPO in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
When “unboxing” the saddle from its duffel-type bag, you’ll find it also houses a smaller bag containing a length of shock cord and the user’s manual. The first thing you notice about the user’s manual is how surprisingly big it is. Most equipment user’s manuals are not 139 pages long, but the treeMotion evo has clear instructions written in 13 languages, which should be useful to international climbers.
The treeMotion evo is the newest improvement, or evolution, on the treeMotion saddle that has been around since 2006. The common features these two saddles share include that they both are considered “sit and work-positioning” harnesses, and both offer multiple layers of webbing on the back pad and leg loops to provide wide load distribution for comfort. The back pad covers all the technical information to protect it, and is removable for inspection or cleaning.
Also the same on both saddles is the color coding of their aluminum attachment points. Green rings and attachments points are safe to use for life support, whereas the red, round rings and attachment points are meant for stowing connectors and lightweight tools. Do not attach life-support systems to the red attachment points.
Now here’s where the two saddles begin to differ. One notable improvement on the treeMotion evo is the appearance of
ANSI-rated, flush-pull Cobra buckles. These high-strength, low-profile support connectors are a little harder to operate, but that seeming imperfection also prevents them from being opened by mistake. They are covered by flexible sleeves that can slide on and off to protect the buckles from sawdust, debris or impact.
The biggest upgrade to the treeMotion evo is the addition of a double rope bridge as opposed to the treeMotion’s single rope bridge. Having a double rope bridge allows so much flexibility in work positioning, which will be covered in a bit. You have the option of two differently colored ropes in the bridge, both terminated with knots or a stitched termination, or you could have a single length of a webbed strap in the bridge. This adaptability offers tree companies the choice of having their climbers on knotted, spliced or webbing bridges. All of the bridge options come in varying lengths for more customization.
The rope bridges are made with a polyester covering over a Dyneema core, which provides high breaking strength and good abrasion resistance. Similar to the treeMotion, the ends of the rope bridge are terminated with a stitch. This is to keep the cover from slipping off the core in the event the rope is shock loaded. Also, stitching the end of the rope assures that enough of it is sticking out of the knot – which also confirms that there is no risk of the end creeping back through the knot. There is a single, longer stitch over both knots, which is the manufacturer’s indicator that the knot was tied correctly in the factory. The single stitch is a bit of a systems check. In case of the end user wanting to retie the knot, he or she can remove the stitching. The user manual specifies exactly how the knot shall be tied.
So, what are the benefits of having two rope bridges? In the configuration where the ring is running over both bridges, the two bridges will act as a redundant life-support system. It is designed so that if one rope were to fail, the other would be intact to protect the climber.
You also may separate the two bridges as an additional option to configure the harness. By separating the rope bridge, you could attach your climbing system to one bridge and your lanyard to the other, which would create support from two different directions. That scenario makes this setup extremely stable. If you’re using a chain saw in an awkward spot or need to stay as still as possible during the cut, then the split-bridge system works well. You also can have your climbing system on one bridge as before and an ascent system on the other. Again, the rope bridges are two different colors, so you can tell instantly which system you are suspended from. This provides a passive safety feature and makes it easy to tell if you are actually doing what you think you are doing.
To determine how long the bridge cordage or webbing should be, keep in mind where your hitch will be when the bridge is fully extended. Can you still reach your hitch? Also, the closer you bring the bridge to your body, the closer the attachment point is to your center of gravity, making the position more responsive, compact and “sporty.” However, it also can cause imbalance and flip you over in the saddle. Running the bridge longer offers a more easy-going, gentle position in relation to the center of gravity.
To adjust the bridge position in relation to your reach for the hitch, you’ll want to get familiar with a couple of adjustment points – notably the riser adjustment and the leg loops. The riser adjusts where the bridge sits and how the climber is suspended from the bridge. The treeMotion evo is designed to sit low on the hips. When you hang in a suspended position, you want to try for almost neutral buoyancy and balanced pressure on the hips and back. If you have too much pressure on the hips, adjust the riser straps to bring the bridge closer into your body. Don’t worry too much about getting each riser (side) perfectly symmetrical, because our bodies aren’t symmetrical. Just make it comfortable. It will help if you also keep the leg straps loose.
The side D-rings on the treeMotion evo are the standard EN 358 work-
positioning attachment points made for horizontal work positioning only. If you try to attach your climbing line to those side D’s, you’ll feel like the harness is being pulled out of shape – which it is. Those side D’s are made for your lanyard to hold you in position – not for suspension. The forward D-rings are EN 813 sit-harness attachment points designed for suspension, so it will feel noticeably better to clip your climbing line into them. You could, though, attach your lanyard to that center ring on both bridges to give you even more options. If you are going for maximum mobility, then clip into the center ring for the greatest range of motion when needed.
Mark Bridge has been a practicing arborist since 1990 and a co-owner of Treemagineers, Ltd., based in Ranouch Station, Scotland, Great Britain, since 2000. He is involved with training and the development of tree-climbing equipment – including as a technical advisor to Teufelberger – as well as having been head technician of both the European Tree Climbing Championship (ETCC) and the International Tree Climbing Championship (ITCC). He also chaired the ITCC’s Technical Advisory Committee.