Cone picking pics for Bounce


Woods walker
Mar 7, 2005
Western Oregon
I reckon the rest of you can look, too :). These were put up in one of the old versions of the THouse, so many of you may have seen them before.

Sean and I were in chat, and he asked about cone picking. These were taken in the pre-digital days, 1999 I think. The first 3 are me, the last two are my climbing partner, who is my wife :D.


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  • #6
Sometimes they do, Butch. Sometimes they do.

You have to plan on it happening, take the proper precautions, and learn the techniques to help keep the tree in one piece while you're up there working it.
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  • #11
Ok Burnham you've piqued my curiosity. What precuations do you employ?:)

Set up a self-belay system anchored below the diameter where top breakout can occur. I might be able to link to descriptions of this in the old Treehouse...I'll look tomorrow. The system devised by USFS climbers is called the "four inch tie in system". It's been the subject of some discussions in the past.

After that: move smoothly, keep your weight close to the bole, keep you back to the wind, know what each species can take in general, guess right on how much you can push the envelope in each specific tree.

Faint of heart need not apply :).
Faint of heart need not apply :).

No kidding :O , damn those tops are skinny. I think I get the gist of what you were describing still sorta sounds like a better then nothing if it hits the fan sort of procedure. Not like something you'd really want to be testing out.
i remember something about half hitching with your knots upside down and beneath each whorl of limbs till you hit 4-5 inch wood. am i close?
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  • #17
Here is a link to one thread from the old TreeHouse where I gave a pretty complete description of the Forest Service self-belay protocol. This system was devised by PNW climbers working in the very upper portions of conifers, harvesting cones for reforestation seed and grafting scion for establishment of seed orchards.

Not quite, Willie...check out the link below and if it is confusing, ask away and I'll try to clarify.

John, it's quite a bit like lead climbing on rock, except you manage the belay yourself rather have a second do so...though you can work it that way, too. I never have.

The linked thread above includes a link :|: . Here it is...the actual description of how the system is deployed. If you don't want to go through the whole thing you can get the meat here, on page 194 and 195 of the old TH Photo thread.
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  • #18
i didnt know the mrs climbed too! cool

115 lbs. soaking wet, muscular...she can really get into the smallwood :D.

Awesome Burnham.

Full disclosure: My partner, though still a fully qualified and certified FS climber, no longer holds a FS position where climbing is part of her responsibilities. She makes a point of keeping up her cert. by attending the required training at least every 3 years. I have had to move on to other climbing partners since those pics were taken :cry: .

We do still climb together on our own time, both tending to the trees on our 5 acres, and just for fun. It's a joy to bring home some new hitch or whiz bang gadget to show her, both equally charged up by the few people can really relate to what it's like to be a tree climber, having my best friend and life partner in that small group is one of the special things about our relationship ;) .
Taper of the tree has all to do with how much it sways. A tree growing in the open will generally have a quicker taper and make it easier and safer to work in its tippy top. In that case the top itself may be the only part that bows over and the possiblily of a break occuring is mostly slight.

In dense forest stands the trees grow slender, tall and are very slow tapered. Approaching the top of such a tree can result in the entire stem bending, and or bowing over. In which case a breakout can occur far below you.

I worked in the tippy tops of such trees many times, but not without tying them off to other trees as I go up. In thick stands it's easy enough to do. It really doesn't take all that much to keep them upright and straight. Throwline is often all it takes. Though I will admit using rope is more reassuring.

I've used as many as four lines to keep the tree from bowing over while I worked its top out. Like Burnam said, keep close and back to the wind.
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Whenever I start to think I'm cool Burnham starts a thread. Damn.

ahh slings and biners. and above the whorls, thanks for the link, im a lazy surfer:)
move smoothly, keep your weight close to the bole, keep you back to the wind, know what each species can take in general, guess right on how much you can push the envelope in each specific tree.
:O and don't eat too many big macs, I'd also add. I guess there just aren't that many samoan cone harvesters then?

Holy shyte Burn! The pictures make it seem even more incredible than when we talked.
Man I bet you are just lathered in pitch at the end of the day. That is one sticky part of the tree.
I did alot of cone picking as a kid and young man, paid pretty good money too as I remember, but could not tell you how much that was now. I have'nt realy noticed anybody doing it anymore though. maybe I am not paying attention.

I sure do miss all that pitch that took about a gallon of gas to get off.
Yeah, the pitch in those tops can sure gum up the ropes really quick.

Robert, mayonaise is a great pitch cutter. Actually better than gas, and it's not bad on ham and swiss sandwiches too.