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Keeping An Eye On The Weather

Author: jmaher
Date: October 09, 2008
Keeping An Eye On The Weather

While conducting the pre-climb risk assessment ritual it is important that the climber not forget to include a check of the weather. Risks associated with weather conditions are as important as any other. High winds, heavy rain, extreme temperatures, and humidity all have the potential to influence the risk that might be encountered during a climb.

Having the sense to check the weather is not limited to those who climb trees. Anyone involved in any form of outdoor activity should keep an eye on the weather and stay within safety parameters dictated by such conditions.

In another age, about forty or more years ago, while working as a camp counselor at a YMCA camp way up in the north Georgia mountains, we would take great pains to insure that the kids were keeping an eye on the weather. Within a few days of their arrival at the camp, we would lecture them on the dangers of bad weather and caution them to be alert to potential bad weather. In order to maintain a watch on something of this importance we would have them construct a weather station.

First we would send out a work detail to acquire three wooden poles. The poles needed to be at least twenty feet in length and no more than four inches in diameter. This usually involved a trip "across the road" to the planted pine forest "over there". We didn't feel the least bit guilty about doing this, because a whole lot of beautiful north Georgia hardwood forest had been cleared in order to make room for the pines. We figured that the timber company who owned the property and that had every intention of logging it at some future date would not mind donating a few to our camp program. They would be cutting them down eventually anyway, so went our logic of the moment!

After an exhausting morning spent acquiring the poles and hauling them back to camp we would lash them together near their top so that a tripod was formed.

Next, the work detail was sent out to scavenge a length of rope, also at least twenty feet in length and capable of supporting a weight in excess of a hundred pounds. This usually involved a covert trip to the camp manager's tool shed, while said manager was being distracted.

The final piece of material to be gathered was a big rock. It had to be at least fifty pounds in weight but not more than a hundred pounds. It needed to be mostly round in shape. It needed to be found and hauled to the site of the aforementioned tripod of poles.

By this time the kids were suffering. This was starting to look like work.

But now it was time to assemble the weather station. One of us counselors would shinny up one of the poles to the apex of the tripod and attach the piece of rope, leaving the end touching the ground and centered beneath the tripod. We had the kids do this once, but realized the potential for accidents was too high and, besides, it was fun sitting on top the tripod. We counselors would usually argue over who would get to do it and that would result in our letting the kids vote as to which of us would go up.

Now, we would have ourselves a tripod almost twenty feet high with a rope dangling beneath. It was time to attach the rock. Much sweating and struggling on the part of the kids would finally end with the rock hanging from the rope about a foot off the ground. The weather station was complete!

A tired, dirty, sweaty bunch of kids would then look upon us to explain the workings of the weather station, and we would take great delight in explaining that:

If the rock is wet, it is raining!
If the rock is dry, it's not raining!
If the rock is green, it probably rained a short while ago!
If the rock is white, it is snowing!
If the rock is swinging, it is windy!
If the rock is warm, it's a warm day!
If there is a shadow beneath rock, it is sunny!
If there is no shadow, it is cloudy!
If the rock can't be seen, it's dark and you've been up too late!

Obviously, we took great pleasure in this activity and it was a wonderful way to keep the kids busy for most of an entire day. At the end of their two-week camp session we would have them disassemble the thing to make room for the next group to be coming in.

Having thought about this adventure has made me wonder if the activity could be applied to the tree climbing community. Rather than construct a tripod, simply climb the tree and hang a bit of rope over a limb. Raise a rock on the rope and "Voila!" we have an in-tree weather station! Raising or lowering the rope would allow for weather assessment at different heights in the tree. Having one of these in the tree with us would allow for a constant monitoring of weather conditions and contribute to a higher quality risk-assessment process.

Just wait till the next time I have to take a bunch of kids tree climbing...

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