In light of the first snowfall here in London, Ontario, I wanted to look at some basic considerations for working in the winter. James had an eye opener climbing in snowy conditions today for the first time! Here are some things to think about for winter tree climbing:
When you use ropes in the snow, they get covered in it, then they get warmed up from usage, which soaks the water into them, and then they freeze overnight. Then the next morning, they are… literally… useless. Don’t be the guy who tries to use a frozen rope – for anything. You need to get religious about drying out the ropes that you use on a daily basis: take them home, unpack them in the house, get them dry. For me, this means beside the wood stove. Regardless of how you accomplish this, it has to become a priority. Figure out a way to dry your ropes each night, and do it every time. This also means that I end up limiting the number of ropes that I use – one climbing rope, one main rigging rope, one tag line, and that’s about it. The more ropes you use each day, the more ropes you have to dry each night…
I don’t know about you, but when my hands get really cold, they are utterly useless. Imagine trying to do tree work with two frozen stubs where your hands used to be… yeah you get the picture. I don’t climb with gloves during the summer, but in the winter I can’t climb without them. Get some good insulated grippy gloves, and bring minimum 2 pairs to work each day. They have to be dry to be useful. Keep your backup pair(s) in the truck on the dashboard heater where they can get dry on the way to the next job. If you are working with a bucket truck, turn the heater on low while you are working and keep your backup gloves on the vents.
If my head and ears get real cold, I’m pretty much done. Get a helmet liner, and get back to work.
4. Upper body
Get some good, insulated, long-sleeve base-layer shirts that are made for work. These can make all the difference on those cold days. These go underneath your regular work shirts. I also like a good quality work sweater with hood, the kind that doesn’t have a zipper. This will hold in a lot of warmth. Also consider a wind-proof outer jacket, this can be a game changer for working in the cold.
5. Lower body
Chainsaw pants are notoriously warm, it’s like we wear snow-pants all summer long! But when the cold weather comes back around, it might be time to re-evaluate your chainsaw pants. Grab a new pair that is free of holes, and all the wear and tear from the summer work. Your legs will thank you.
Get some good, thick, wool socks for the winter. Some people go with just wool, some put woolies on top of their regular socks. Bring a backup pair of socks to work each day, just in case. Cold and wet feet can wreck your day so fast… trust me on this.
I have made it a habit for the last 10 years to get a new pair of work boots as we get into the winter season. Snowy trees are slippery, and snowy ground is wet. Good quality, leather work boots are a necessity in the snow, don’t skimp on your boots!
So, what about you? What are your recommendations for working in the cold? Reply and let me know, I will add it to this article!
Climb high, Work smart, Read more.
– Treemuggs (Patrick)