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Thread: Falling trees

  1. #1
    New Member terceiro's Avatar
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    Falling trees

    Friday night I went out with my son's scout troop for a quick overnighter. While the boys pitched their crappy tents on the soggy grass, I set up my HH in the trees by the creek (effectively blocking out the noise of the scouts: double bonus!).

    I was just checking out my setup ... you know: taking a couple of minutes to, um, check the integrity of my knots ... when I hear this loud cracking noise and I hear the branch I'm tied to begin to fall -- towards me. The tarp blocked my vision and I had to imagine being crushed by a falling tree until it landed 12" to my right.

    I *thought* I had thoroughly checked the tree before I tied to it. It was plenty big enough (I could get the stock 'huggers around one full loop but not two) and it didn't seem unstable when I gave it an initial shake. Am I missing something here? Should I have used a different technique to ensure that my anchor-trees were safe and solid? Has anyone had a tree actually fall on them while they were enhammocked?

    I usually just give a quick-but-definitive shake of a tree or branch before I tie off: maybe 40 lbs of pressure? Do the rest of you make a more comprehensive test of tree-strength before tying off?

    (To make matters worse, when I tied to another tree I moved too fast, didn't fully anchor my knots and had them slip on me as soon as I got in. I was feeling pretty stupid that night. I know the solution to that one, though.)
    uva uvam vivendo varia fit

  2. #2
    all secure in sector 7 Shug's Avatar
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    That is scary. Falling trees affect tenters as well as us hangers although we depend on them. I do not think one can control every aspect of nature. Sounds like you did all the right stuff to check out your environment.
    Glad you were not injured.....
    Whooooo Buddy)))) All Good in the Backwood Hood.

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  3. #3
    Senior Member blackie's Avatar
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    certain types of trees are more prone to breakage..soft woods ect..often a storm in the past stressed the tree to its almost breaking point and then..a little sustained pressure..pop!!..i live in the deep south and we see this often after a hurricane event..i had my own bad tree event...once while hiking in the mountains of north alabama..we got delayed due to a bridge being out on the trail..night feel and we were still miles from our planed camp site..so a decision was made to stop and head out at first light...i was using a old army jungle hammock back then..so i tied one end to a good tree on the side of the trail..and the other side i reached out and grabbed a tree down a cliff face..the tree was plenty tall enough and a good shake said it was solid..so i tied up..this put me almost half on and half over the edge of the cliff..no sweat right..after we turned in for the night i was awakened my the feeling of movement..i snapped awake..and thinking the poles at the ends of the hammock might be breaking..i sat up and looked for the zip..thats when the tree over the cliff broke free and began a 200 ft drop to the valley below!!!..by sheer luck the pole at my foot end could not take the twisting action and broke free..i was dropped feet first onto the netting at the bottom of my hammock..it was quite a view..of nothing but air for 200 ft..i began clawing to try and get a grip on the hammock bottom but it too tight and slick..finally my friends heard me yelling and came to drag me back up..ever since i have been very careful to pick my trees.

  4. #4
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    yeah its happened a couple times to me - first time I was near Old Orchard shelter (AT Mt Rogers area) - it was a forked tree and I didn't check the inside of the fork - the fork had been used to break firewood and the part of the tree on the inside low of the fork was dead - not any real danger since the tree hung up in the other support tree - there were however pictures taken of me with my butt on the ground and feet sticking out of the slot (it was an old Hennessy). Second time I was in the Sipsey tied onto a reasonable big leaf magnolia tree (est 5 inch diameter) - here there was a combination of issues - the type of tree tends to be tall with somewhat shallow roots, the soil was sandy, a thunder storm came up, wet/lubricated the soil, and blew the tree over. This one was somewhat more dangerous but I got sort of lucky in that I had put a folding chair under the tarp and the tree landed on the chair - if it had not been sort of stopped by the chair I could have been pinned in the hammock since it came down close to my left arm. Lesson learned here is to never use less than a 8 inch magnolia in sandy soil.

  5. #5
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    Terceiro,
    Remember the physics of a hammock hang: the force you put on the support can be as much as several times your weight, depending on the angle of the support lines to the support. If the lines are close to ninety degrees to the support the force is greatest. It decreases sharply as the angle approaches forty-five degrees.

    We use that effect in rapid water rescue to remove canoes that have been wrapped around rocks. The water pressure can be several tons, and the canoe can look like crumpled aluminum foil, but a stout line stretched tight to a good anchor and pulled perpendicular to the middle will jerk that puppy right off the troll boulder.

  6. #6
    Senior Member blackie's Avatar
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    hog brought up a good point..never use a small tree..i look for trees at least a foot in dia..anything less might give way.. another reason is that a small tree suffers more from the hanging..a larger tree ill spread out the force on its bark and be less likely to suffer long term damage from the exp..

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    terceiro,

    You use the word, "night," a couple of times. I thus assume it was dark and that was the primary reason for you selecting a weak anchor tree? Wouldn't the ultimate take-home lesson then be to hang in the light? Of course, perhaps you didn't arrive at the site until after dark, and in such a case opting for trees larger than the ideal 4-in diameter seems to be the appropriate precaution.

    I've concluded that by opting for a hammock we have simply accepted more risk of being inconvenienced or injured by falling branches or trees than have our ground-dwelling brethren. At least we sleep better.

    FarStar

  8. #8
    slowhike's Avatar
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    If you do need to use a small tree for some reason, it can be a great help to run webbing or rope (if you have extra) from the small tree, to another tree, root, or rock. This can keep the small tree from bending.

    It's even harder to be sure about the condition of some trees when there are no leaves in the winter.
    I've been way to quick & careless about choosing my trees at times, but I'm trying to discipline myself to take as much time as needed to be sure about the trees I'm using, including their limbs above me, & near by trees. And even giving thought to shallow root systems & wet soil like the others mentioned are good things to give thought to before choosing your trees too.
    don`t leave the CREATOR out of the creation!

  9. #9
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    Yeah, Slowhike is right. Taking your time is best, but sometimes small trees are the only things available, but they can flex enough to put you on the ground even if they don't break. The solution is sequential anchors. Take a couple of wraps around the small tree, then angle the line down at about 45 degrees to the next available sapling that in in line with the pull of the hammock. You might have to anchor to more than one if subsequent anchors are not in line. In fact, you might have to put out additional side anchors to keep the primary tree from bending sideways.

  10. #10
    New Member terceiro's Avatar
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    Great idea, Slowhike: I think I could have avoided my near-catastrophe had I simply tied the first anchor-tree to another one right next to it as a secondary precaution. That's a great tip for situations when I don't have the option for choosing an ideal location.

    FWIW, yes, it was night, and yes, it was raining when I chose my spot. That might have been some rationale for my haste. A backup anchor would have been some insurance against my own lack of attention. Of course, I'll have to be sure I have sufficient rope for a backup...
    uva uvam vivendo varia fit

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