The hot topic of conversation among tree climbers at the 1997 ISA Conference in Salt Lake City was the “new French Prusik” knot. It was somewhat controversial since the International Tree Climbing Championship committee was faced with the decision of whether to allow its use in competition. It had been previously disallowed in 1995. In actuality, the knot has been around in arboriculture for awhile.

In 1993 I had the good fortune to be one of the Americans to attend the first European Congress on Tree Care in Lahnstein, Germany. To this day those of us that were there remember the Congress as a forum that helped us all to realize the importance of the ISA and the International Tree Climbing Championship series.

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Francois Dussenne from Belgium introduced the Machard Tresse, an unusual climbing hitch, to all those present at the first European Tree Climbing Competition. He had used the climbing hitch in 1992 to help him win his second French Championship. Everyone who had a chance to try the Machard tresse agreed that it was more complex than the other climbing hitches. There was an equal sense of intrigue and caution among us.

The Machard tresse is, in my opinion, an advanced knot that requires experience and practice to integrate into a climbing system. I have seen several different ways of tying the knot, utilizing a variety of rope lengths of cord that is being used today. In this article we are endeavoring to compare and contrast several experienced climber’s views on this knot. Each reader must assess the advantages and disadvantages before drawing their own opinions.

Ken Palmer is the only three time International Tree Climbing Champion. He has been climbing trees for over 22 years. He is president of ArborMaster Training, Inc., where he and partner, Rip Tompkins, are well known for their training programs.

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Just when you thought it was safe to sit in your Blake’s hitch a new hitch emerges. The hitch I would like to introduce in Climbers; Corner debut is the very same hitch 1997 World Tree Climbing Champion, Mark Chrisholm used in Salt Lake City, Utah this past summer. Second place Kay-Olaf Busemann and I were the only other two who used this new hitch in competition.

This hitch has been used by mountaineers and rescue teams in France and Europe for many years. In fact Machard is the name of a French rock climber. I first saw Francois Dussenne of Belgium demonstrate this hitch to North American tree climbers in Halifax in 1994. Since then it has developed a small cult following. The hitch is radically different looking than anything we are used to and so at a glance you tend to want to shrug it off. Then why does the current world champion prefer this hitch? This hitch outperforms any other hitch I have used in all the right ways. That is not to say that it is perfect – it has its limitations as any other hitch does.

never binds or remains stuck when load relieved
facilitates rapid and easy descents
very nicely accommodates the fair lead system, even fair lead itself
very economical in that cost per split tail is about $30.00
extremely strong due to the fact it is a closed knot system
reduce to no grab when tied with same diameter line or hard lay line
must be comprised of proper material and proper length
very rapid descents initiated with very little effort
cannot be tied easily using a locking snap, best using a carabiner
These are all things I have experienced and verified with others who have been using this hitch for the past several years. Most people once they try it, feel the advantages far out weigh the disadvantages.

Practice and test this hitch at a low height to be sure you are completely familiar with it prior to moving higher in the canopy.
Never start or try any new technique for a first time during a high-risk live environment. Always stick with what you know for sure first.
Never incorporate something new on the job until you and everyone working with you are completely comfortable with it in practice and theory.
Finally, plan your practices and jobs. Accidents