July 4 2004
Tony Fuell and John Hunter
(Updated after Naiomi Gray's
The rules for surviving in trees are few, and simple:
- Don't go near trees at all, if you can possibly avoid it. They eat
the lift, they cause rotors and general turbulence.
- Take time to identify your exact location and communicate that to
- Given time over a forest, pick a patch of young growth trees - 2 -3m
high near a road and on a flat area. Choose the best area - one without:
- large rocks;
- stumps; or
- swampy areas. (Hypothermia may occur waiting for a long rescue
and what if you get knocked unconscious or stuck in the mud?)
- Big Trees: If you CAN'T avoid a tree, make sure you pick a soft one
and hit it good and HARD. Fly right at it, and get some speed up.
Most tree injuries happen when you fall out, or lightly catch a wing-tip.
- If you're going over a line of trees and you see you won't make it,
try and land in the top, rather than over the other side.
(There ís NO excuse for hitting a solitary tree!)
- As you enter the foliage, keep you legs together (for OBVIOUS reasons!)
and your knees drawn up.
Protect your face as soon as you touch substantial stuff, grab a big
handful and HOLD ON TIGHT!
Donít let go until you're sure that the glider won't fall out.
- YELL FOR HELP! Unless you're very securly wedged, it's probably better
not to try to climb out without assistance.
Helpers should get ropes and if possible, a ladder.
- Carry an emergency kit including: a signal mirror, space blanket,
wire saw or cutters , 9 meters of rope (to get the glider down) food
and water, first aid supplies, a whistle, spare batteries for your radio
and cell, a flash light or glow stick and matches to light a fire.
Once you're on the ground, have a rest before trying to retrieve the
For sure, you've got a difficult, frustrating, and probably expensive
time ahead, and you'll need your strength!
Reprinted in part from Wings! August 1977
Don't aim for that narrow road in the forest with tall trees because
your wing tips will catch the branches, Collapse (Asymmetric, Recovery)
your wing and make you fall to the road. Also beware of power lines next
to mountain roads. Instead, pick the biggest, softest looking tree, face
the wind, cross your legs (to avoid cutting a vein) and close your arms,
then flare to land right in the center of it, reducing your forward speed
to zero. Keep braking until you can hold on to something. If this goes
well you will end up suspended in the tree by your wing resting on the
forest canopy, but you will not have a big fall to the ground. It will
take time to untangle and maybe some repairs (at least an inspection),
but you will have saved your bones from a fall. You can use your reserve
as a "rope" to help you down. Look into creating your own Emergency
Tree rescue is actually very simple
with a flat bottomed U shaped piece of pipe, a rope running through it
tied around the tree trunk well above them.
That means you have to arrive at
the scene ready to climb.
This means pack gallons of water
and a saw, good shoes and tough jeans.
You will drink every drop, the rescue
may take hours, and you will probably be cutting lots of branches.
The rope you use to lower the pilot
uses a Munter hitch or is wrapped several times around the pipe (called
a friction knot.)
The trick is in practicing with a person of similar weight ahead
of time to ensure you have the right number of wraps for a slow descent.
Don't for a minute try this without practicing with the exact rope,
pipe and weight combination you are going to use, or there is a very
good chance of an accident which will test your first aid training
and kit contents.
Put the rope in the carabiner - placing
it behind the bridle strap.
Use the friction knot + help to
raise the pilot up slightly then release the canopy from the harness.
Then, using one or two ground assistants,
a) the pilot first if they are in
b) if they are enjoying the experience,
get their help in lowering the glider - or you are going to have to repeat
the whole climb.
It is not necessary to use climbing rope, although it is highly recommended.
Any decent diameter rope will work fine - there is no shock loading. The
most weight / load the rope will experience is the total pilot / harness
+ HG glider weight. Buy a LONG rope that is rated circa ten times
this and you should be fine. Got lots of dough? Buy better rope. By long,
you will need at least three times the height you expect to be rescuing
If the pilot is in serious risk of falling, it is possible to open the
carabiner and quickly apply a friction knot (serveral wraps) around the
Tie one end of the rope to the tree above the pilot and securely tie
the other end with a self releasing knot. You can then make a second friction
knot around your pipe and have a very good, controlled slow descent.
It is possible to lower the pilot with only the carabiner friction
knot, or a climbing knot - but this takes practice, good knowledge
and proper training from a guiding / rock climbing school.
Alternatively - you can use your
reserve parachute as a "rope" to help lower you down or to climb down.
Your reserve also makes an excellent
combination tent / sleeping bag.
If you can't get yourself down, deploy
your parachute into the biggest clear area around the tree. Secondly, carry
a small plastic whistle in your harness along with a small amount of food
and a juice box or two. These tips will help rescuers find you in good
time and in good shape.