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Old Black Locust - Climbing Trust?

lxskllr

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I have a few black locust next to my drive reaching end of life. Some are getting mushrooms, and the largest is ~32"DBH. I don't want to take them down cause I really like them there, but I think I'll have to so they come down on my terms, and not destroy anything coming down when /they/ want to. Been debating removal, and figured I'd start with the one closest to the house. It's the smallest of the group, but the one that has the most potential for causing damage as it has a moderate lean towards the house. As a bonus, the squirrels planted a nice white oak below it, so I have a replacement already started. Figured I'd work on it next fall. That'll give me one last chance to see it bloom, and smell the flowers.

My question relates to how much to trust climbing it. My biggest fear is having a section split away in the middle of my lanyard. Aside from the mushrooms, the tree appears as sound as an old locust could be. I've only started to rough in my plan, but I was figuring on setting a line in one of the adjacent trees. I'll need to rig down most of it do to the house lean, with the lowest branch at least needing two lines to swing it away from the house, and ease it down. My concerns are raised as I get higher in the tree. I can minimize the size of the pieces to reduce shock, but that requires getting higher up. My line to the adjacent tree should give an adequate safety, but is it prudent to use a breakaway link on my flipline?

On another forum I was reading debates back and forth on the merits of a breakaway flipline. Both sides made good arguments imo. The against side said it's stupid to have breakaway climbing gear. If you can't trust your gear to do the job, you shouldn't be using it. The for side says it provides a safety factor if things go pear shaped. I'm leaning towards the for side do to the separate line in a different tree. Anyone here have experience with black locust, and any precautions/tips?
 

Altissimus

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I trust old Black Locusts even the dead top and limbs much more than most species. Tough and heavy it is. Still be careful though ...
 

Mick!

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I have climbed many Robinia Pseudoacacia in all stages of their life.

Never had any issues with them with regards to unexpected splitting or breaking out.
 

stig

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Same here.
Since they are incredibly rot resistant, there is "always" sound wood enough to make them safe to work in.
"always" meant that I haven't come across one that wasn't so far, but that doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

That said, I'm a firm believer in using a breakaway if I climb a dubious tree and have set my line in another.
I mean, why the hell not?
What is there to lose?
I simply don't get the " If you can't trust your gear to do the job, you shouldn't be using it. " thing.
If you can trust your lanyard to make you follow the tree to the ground if it should break under you, add a breakaway.
Not exactly rocket science, is it?
 

SeanKroll

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You are trusting your break-away positioning lanyard to do its job.




Pics!!!







Good assessment and good reduction/ structural pruning can reasonably safely extend a tree's life.
 

lxskllr

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Here's the tree...

20191124_132643.jpg

The lowest limb you can see grows straight up for a few inches, then turns 90° towards the house. That's the one I intend on double lining. You can see my shiny new white oak below it. There's also a red oak I'll remove. I may try digging it out and moving it, but I'm not optimistic regarding success.

Thanks guys. Awhile ago I asked on another forum, but the forum wasn't climbing centric, and I didn't get many replies. One of the replies puzzled me a bit. Guy said he'd be worried about it uprooting. That hasn't been my experience, but thought I maybe I hadn't been paying attention. They seem to degrade in place, and can be kind of splitty, at least at forked sections. Haven't seen many that uprooted.

Stig, those are my thoughts also, but to me there's some logic about not using gear designed to fail. The design part is what matters I think. A lot of things are designed to fail to protect the whole. That indicates correct operation. Otherwise, stuff should hold fast.

edit:
Regarding reduction pruning... Locusts don't have much to reduce. They're kind of spindly things as-is. Not sure how I'd go about it. Brings up a bonus question... Any good web resources regarding pruning? Best practices and whatnot. From an arborist's perspective would be best. Not as much low hanging branches, but the whole tree.
 

DMc

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Black locust wood is nice stuff and useful for more than just fire wood. Several custom bow makers here love it for the core laminations. Looks great under clear fiberglass.

Though they are short lived trees, they are grove trees and as such they coppice well. That means there is a good chance it will try and regrow after you cut it down.
 

stig

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if there is not something I can't see in the picture, I'll agree with Mick.
Wouldn't even think twice about it in fact.
 

lxskllr

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Thanks all. I don't have first had experience regarding climbing, so I figured I'd ask. I pretty much extrapolate from natural behavior. A friend of mine had one split at a fork, and the biggest tree of the group dropped a sizable limb during a wind storm this past summer. They also tend to shed smaller limbs here and there. I could see that having climbing implications, but without first hand experience, it's hard to say. I'll firm up my plan over the next year, and probably work on getting it down next fall :^)
 

Marc-Antoine

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It's a strong and fibrous wood, but he loves making questionable crotches and overall, its reputation of rot resistant is very exaggerated. I had to take down a locust in two different wood lots, both broken in the middle by a Phellinus punctatus. In a bunch of second growth, the old stumps just vanished, the new trees on them seemed standing on one leg. An other black locus near a house (side leaner toward the house and back leaner) was completely hollowed at the stump and with 3 other fungi along the trunk, massive rot. I'm glad that I didn't climb this one. No anchor sturdy enough for the rope puller, so I wedged it over. But it was a little tense when the trunk began to come apart by the wedges's pressure. The pics are on my tablet, I have to find a way to transfer them.
 

stig

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They do tend to get core rot, when they grow old, here.
But nothing to affect the stability of the tree.
But looking at the picture, that is a youngish tree, not one I would think twice about climbing.
 

Mick!

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It's a strong and fibrous wood, but he loves making questionable crotches and overall, its reputation of rot resistant is very exaggerated. I had to take down a locust in two different wood lots, both broken in the middle by a Phellinus punctatus. In a bunch of second growth, the old stumps just vanished, the new trees on them seemed standing on one leg. An other black locus near a house (side leaner toward the house and back leaner) was completely hollowed at the stump and with 3 other fungi along the trunk, massive rot. I'm glad that I didn't climb this one. No anchor sturdy enough for the rope puller, so I wedged it over. But it was a little tense when the trunk began to come apart by the wedges's pressure. The pics are on my tablet, I have to find a way to transfer them.
You should post more pics MA, just go to ‘attach files’
 

Marc-Antoine

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I'll try Mick.

The broken ones which I told had a similar size, skinny trunks. It's often very strong, but just look closely to be sure.
 

lxskllr

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that is a youngish tree
I don't know about that. This house was built in 63, and it was already established. I don't remember it ever not being big, but some of that was seen through kid eyes. I'd bet the biggest of the group is closer to 100yr than 50yr.
 

greengreer

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It's strong wood, and is pretty predictable even when dead. Around here they tend to uproot more than about any other specie, that and the core rot others have mentioned. Check for any fruiting Bodies.
Otherwise they're a horrible pain in the ass to climb. Tight crotches make setting a rope no easy feat and soft, loose bark on top of rock hard wood make spiking up no fun either. We don't have honey locust except the thornless landscape variety, so can't comment much on those.
 

CurSedVoyce

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Had to do some bondage on a locust once cause we were rigging it down with me climbing it. Poor union pushing itself apart with included bark and a bit of rot in it as well. Otherwise, tree was solid as all get out and behaved as a live supple tree should.
Once the codom was bound, tree was stable as all get out.
Fun part was, once we took the binding off, the poorly connected stub fell off the main lead. Always chuckle when we make a correct call on something like that and the inevitable happens once you're in a safe position for it to do so
 

murphy4trees

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That tree needs to come down!!!

Ther are two large shelf mushrooms apparent in the photo. These shrooms put on an annual growth ring, and so age can be observed by size. Each year the mushroom rots more and more wood horizontally, so you may have good solid wood above and below, but mush in the middle. This tree will fail. It's just a matter of when. To that end, you may take some weight off: a partial removal, as a temporary measure to buy the tree and yourself some more time. The tree looks close enough to the house to pose a threat.

You could try to take as much weight off as possible above the mushrooms. The lowest limb could be shortened significantly or removed. I'd prefer to leave it about 1/2 length. The limb above that could be cut back to the upright, which is more than 50% of its weight, and the right side of the top (larger side growing toward the camera) could be removed. I would cut it back to a small sprout, a few feet from the union. The tree would survive the heavy pruning, as this species is particularly resilient to a heavy prune. However, budget and sentimentality are the only good reasons to delay removal.

And if you have to ask whether you should be using a breakaway lanyard or not, you probably shouldn't be doing the climbing on this one.

I'd be quite comfortable tying into the smaller upright top, after setting a line from the ground, and testing it with the weight of 4 men. But I wouldn't set any blocks above that top fork (and therefore the mushroom) unless there was no other option. And you wouldn't rig off the top at the same time you were tied into it. You would unclip your high line and make the cut from your lanyard, in which case it would be your only tie in point and should be rated for life support. This tree could be a killer, so bring in a good team, climber and groundman!


BE SAFE
 
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lxskllr

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Thanks Daniel. Good information. I'm my ehem... "good" team, climber, and groundman :^D

I think I can handle it. I'm still forming my plan, and that'll continue til next fall, when I take the whole thing down. I'd consider an aggressive prune, but the white oak under it would appreciate the room, so there's no point in delaying a few years or whatever for not much return. I'll still have my other locusts to keep me company for a little bit longer.

Still contemplating a breakaway lanyard, but I'll be tied into one of the adjacent trees. What's gonna make this a little tricky, is it's surrounded by 'no touch' things. Not all the things would be a big tragedy if they got hit, but I want the damage to be as close to zero as I can get it. I've figured out how I'm getting the lowest limb down. I'll have the coming months to work over the rest in my head. My planning process for tree work is glacial, but it tends to workout alright in the end. It's all on my time, so I can afford to take as long as I want.

I mentioned in another thread a 'side job' I thought I might get. I was a little concerned about it cause I didn't know what it looked like. I'd have had to show up, make an assessment, and formulate a plan if I thought it was within my ability, then execute it without my normal glacial time span. That didn't end up going through, but it would have been an interesting opportunity. You gotta push yourself sometimes if you want to grow. Slow assessment is a bit of a crutch, but it's the safer way to go; for me anyway.
 
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