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Innovations In Action

Author: JimW and Jmaher
Date: October 11, 2005
My brain went a little fuzzy on me while trying to understand a recent post by Jim (JimW) Wilcox in which he was explaining a new method for tying off his Econoledge in such a way that its height could be adjusted easily without the necessity of a lot of up and down climbing during the adjustment process.

Then along came a photo and suddenly everything made sense. At least sort of made sense. It took quite a bit of playing around with a bit of rope before I finally got it down to the point that I was ready for a field test. Before going there, however, let’s take a look at what JimW had to say about the thing:

“Have I invented a new knot?

Ropes have been in use for so long that I continue to be surprised when someone actually does come up with a new one. The icicle hitch may be the newest. I suppose that most of our new ones are the result of having to deal with the different characteristics of synthetic ropes.

I bought an “Econoledge” from Fish Products, and am quite pleased with it. I may get around to writing a review of it, but, for now, will say that if you are looking for such a device and are concerned about the quality, etc. of Fish’s stuff, forget it (the concerns, that is). This thing is quite well made, plenty big enough, and very cleverly constructed. I recommend it.

But that is not what this post is about. I finally had a chance last weekend to try it out in a tree (having first assembled and disassembled it several times in my living room).

This is going to be a bit difficult to explain without pictures, but here goes. I had a 17-or-so-foot length of Samson’s True-Blue that I was going to use to suspend the Econoledge from a limb. Because of branches from the tree I was in, and from an adjacent one, I needed to be able to make fine adjustment to the height of the ledge to keep from bumping into said branches.

What I discovered was that if I attached a carabiner to the ledge's support straps and then one end of the rope to the carabiner; and put the adjusting knot (a tautline) around the tree branch, the ledge was too far away from the tautline for me to make the required adjustment. Ditto if I put a fixed knot around the limb and ran the tautline through the carabiner.

Further, using a tautline either of those ways would not allow me to make the supporting line short: the tautline forced me to have the supporting line no shorter than half the length of the line.

If you’re interested, you might want to draw some pictures, or do like Dietley and rig this with some small stuff.

Yes, I could have retied (and retied and retied) the fixed knot until the adjustable knot was within easy reach of the ledge and I had the length right, but I wanted something that I could set up ahead of time and simply install without diddling with it. If I had to do all that fiddling, I may as well not use an adjusting knot.

So I took off my Ecrin Roc helmet and put on my thinking cap (figuratively, of course—I don’t want to break any of those new rules we’re going to have to follow). Here’s the track of my thoughts:

Use two lengths of rope.

--one of them (20 or so feet long) would tie to the limb and simply hang down --another length (a few feet long) would be attached to the carabiner; this one would be used to tie an adjustable hitch (Blake’s, Knut, tautline, etc.) around the other one That way, the adjusting hitch would always be just where I wanted it, within easy reach of the ledge. Of course, the immediately next thing I thought of was to put a stopper knot in the end of the long rope so the hitch couldn’t slide off (“. . . down will come baby, cradle and all”). But then I had the thought that I could have both of those ropes be the same rope. So here’s what there would be:

--one end of the supporting line secured around a limb, dangling down, making a full turn upward and then back down (a loop) --the free end tying a tautline (a two over two worked just right for the True-Blue) around the standing part --the free end attached to the carabiner.

Of course, one would start tying this at the end nearer the ledge in order to have the hitch positioned properly. This configuration does the following: --gives me the length adjustment I need, from virtually the full length of the rope to having the carabiner almost touching the limb --keeps the adjusting hitch where I want it (in exactly the same place) however long the support line is adjusted to --provides security in that it is one continuous piece of rope.

I’ve never seen this configuration before. I would look in Ashley, but still haven’t bought myself a copy; guess I’d better do that—have wanted one for 35 years. I’ll have to make a trip to the library.

Assuming it is a new knot, and thus I will be able to name it, I think I will call it the “captive tautline.” I thought of doing what some modern-day people have done and name it after myself; you know, like Jason Blake naming our most-often used climbing hitch after himself . . . even though he learned the knot from someone else. I remember something from Ashley (I think) where he states in his book that at that time, only one knot had been named after a person; all others usually had functional or descriptive names. As much as I would like to have immortality, I’d rather stick with the old tradition.

Before I subdued my pride, though—while I still had that thought of immortality—I considered what I might call the knot. I modestly considered things such as the “James Michael Wilcox of Keyser West Virginia, son of Leo and Hilda, hitch.” I was going to use my parents’ full names, but realized that that would have given enough information to the world that all my financial accounts could easily be ransacked. So how about it: Have any of you ever seen the “captive tautline” before? Do you have an equivalent, or even simpler, way to accomplish what I need?

So. Now that you have read what I read perhaps you will understand why I was suffering from fuzzy brain cells. Without the photo that Jim finally sent out, I still would be trying to understand what this was all about!

I have now tied the thing half a dozen times and this morning decided that the thing was due for a field test. But…. I decided that this thing was simply too good to waste on a mere portaledge. I decided that if Brad Dietley could have his latte served to him in a tree top well, by gosh, I would just have myself a full dinner served to me in the tree top. With this new system, that I will designate as the JimmyW Captive Tautline NewKnot until Jim can decide on anything else he might want to call it, I could raise my entire dinner table into the tree. And I did!

I must report that the thing worked admirably. As I climbed, I was able to raise the dining room table right on up with me. Fine-tuning the exact desired height of the table was easily accomplished. The only problem with the whole system was that whenever the wind started blowing, the dining room table started swaying, and my meal was constantly in danger of succumbing to the laws of gravity and going to the ground. Somehow, Brad, I don’t think your cup of latte could have survived vertical travel on the JimmyW Captive Tautline NewKnot!

So Jim, when do we get a review on the Econoledge?

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