2017 Year in Review - Sylvana Alta
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2017 Year in Review

2017 Year in Review

Looking Back

Its been a year of epic proportions that I’d love to take credit for the planning of, however, much was the result of opportunity and momentum created from meeting the right people going in the same direction.  Its been a pleasure and a privilege.

Here is a whirlwind tour of some of the best bits.


2017 began the best way possible: buying huge quantities of shiny new climbing equipment and escaping the winter months in favour of climbing trees in the rainforests of Panama. Throw in a climbing experience with a sloth and the bucket list had to be re-written.

This particular project in Panama debuted Sylvana Alta delivering their first tree climbing training course.   A bespoke 6 day intensive course was developed for a team of 7 international scientists looking into the host specificity of epiphytes.   The team led by Dr Katrin Wagner were collecting canopy data over a 5 month period as part of a three year study.  This required all members to be competent and comfortable in climbing trees up to 40m.  The initial training was directly followed by a week in the field putting into practice the new skills learnt and refining the canopy sampling methods required for the data collection.

The two week window reserved purely for training was a great way of allowing everyone to focus on the climbing and acclimatise to the environment without (too much!) pressure on being productive in the field from the start.   we had everything from botfly harassment, howler monkey intimidation antics, tick bombs (not even an exaggeration), dodgy GPS readings and chiggers to contend with as part of the beautiful yet uncomfortable realities of jungle fieldwork!

It was an absolute privilege and a pleasure to meet and work with such a dedicated team of researchers who then went on to achieve their data collection goal during the gruelling months of field work in the Parque Nacional San Lorenzo.

I cannot express how impressive Dr Katrin Wagner and her team’s attitude was toward the practical climbing elements and the whole project in general.  Their enthusiasm for the research was an inspiration to see and it was also a reminder as to why  climbing is a key research tool that can be utilised to huge benefits for our knowledge of the natural world.

Keep an eye on the news feed for a more detailed account of the whole project to come January 2018.


Tree climbing for life:  Augsburg Deutsche Baumflegetage


The Baumflegetage (tree care) conference in Augsburg, Germany brings together climbers, scientists, tree care specialists and equipment manufactures in the largest international tree care event in the world.

The 3 day event showcases the work, lives, current research and equipment relevant to the tree care industry. The Climbing Forum provides a platform for professionals from tree care and climbing  to raise topics for discussion.

A personal highlight this year saw Roland Schindler from Baum & Seil talk about the realities of a lifelong career in a physical profession such as tree care from rope and harness (with sharp tools) and the considerations required both physically and mentally.  Poignantly pointed out, we are not invincible and along with the daily safety measures we take in our working lives it is important to work with the long term in sight and take care of the most important tool we will ever own, our body.  So, yoga and not doing stupid things at height with sharp objects is key.

However, its equally as important to look at all the health benefits of working a physical job outdoors.  It’s easy to forget that exposure to clean, fresh air, natural light and regular exercise is in fact not such a bad thing!

Looking forward to next years event on 24th -26th of April with the theme of women in tree care taking centre stage.



Respect the Risk.  Queensferry Crossing

Knut Foppe ‘Risk is always there.  You cannot omit risk but we can develop competency’

There is a trend for the first question that people ask when they discover people work at height is, ‘Isn’t it dangerous?’.  Well naturally dangling off a rope with power tools can conjure images of disaster but there is risk everywhere and professionals working at height specialise in managing these risks.  Its a lengthy and intricate process demanding time, energy and most importantly experience in dealing with different situations, people and environments.  Most of which are difficult to control!

Well, a lot of new experience about risk was gained this year working on the Queensferry Crossing Bridge in Scotland.  The project was in its 5th year of construction with a looming deadline approaching when Rigmar joined to provide a Rope Access Rigging Team and Work at Height Rescue Team.  The bridge spans 2.7km in length with three 200m towers and over 1500 workers on and around the bridge at any one time.  Attempting to keep an overview of work scopes at any one time was a challenge in itself.

Being involved in a large scale project with multiple areas of different works, people, organisation and legislation made for a unique learning experience in project planning.  This was one to remember.



Canopy Cafe: Arbocamp Switzerland

Does it get any better than sitting on a sofa, up a tree, drinking coffee delivered to you by a tree top barista!?  A team of tree climbers get together to voluntarily set up and open up an event for fellow tree dwellers and their families to attend over a weekend.

An incredible social event that personifies the heart of this tree climbing community.  Just wonderful.


The Big Canopy Campout: Spending Time in Forests to Preserve them.

This year was also the pioneering event for The Big Canopy Campout which came to fruition within three months of an idea and phone conversation!

The brainchild of John Pike, The Big Canopy Campout was born out of a passion for trees, climbing, science and exploration.  There are so many people doing so much for our forests whether it be research, conservation, promoting value through media and exploration or purely spending time in them.  The event aimed to join all these people in one shared night in forests around the world on the 24th of June.

Money was raised for The World Land Trust to support the Saving Kinabatangan Appeal led by Steve Backshall and Helen Glover.

It was a real privilege to return to Glentanar Estate in the Cairngorm National Park, Scotland to host one of over 45 events worldwide and share dawn and dusk with people all over the globe.

The event went on to contribute to raising the £300 000 to secure an area of virgin rainforest in Borneo from further palm oil development.  For more information on what happened during the event and what the World Land Trust has achieved see the link below:


Keep an eye up for regular updates on how to take part next year.





Vertical Connect
René Comin ‘ Look for common ground to create synergy between two worlds’

This is the third year that the multidisciplinary rope and work at height conference has continued to impress with an incredible line up of speakers and demonstrations that address subjects and topics in the disciplines of Rope Access & Rescue, Tree Care, Mountain Rescue and Cave Exploration.

What makes this event stand out is its ability to merge concepts, knowledge and understanding within these industries and break down preconceived ideas about each others work practices.   This opens up a platform for people to extend ideas, skills and conversations in and around these areas.  Now, surely there will be many a good idea with so many incredible people talking, drinking and beer and eating cheese.

This event cannot be recommended more.





Finding Dream Teams

Getting the pleasure of working with several arborist and industrial teams in Europe this year has highlighted how important a working environment is that allows time for education, practice, developing skills and knowing that mistakes can be made as part of the learning process.



Bespoke one to one training

This year Sylvana Alta delivered one to one training for specific canopy based research projects.  Often the nature of field research and canopy sampling methods is that they require certain skills or knowledge particular to carrying out the project.  In these cases it is often much more time and energy efficient to focus entirely on the aims of the person and their study to achieve the necessary training.

It is always such a different but equally rewarding experience to deliver these courses.  There is time to understand how that person learns best and provide the details and information that will assist that exact project.    Wishing both Anthony and Carla the best of luck in their research this year and looking forward to hearing how it goes!

If you would like more details about booking one to one training please get in touch through our contact page.


Southern German Climbing Competition

What better way to spend a weekend than watching climbers from all over Europe compete in 5 different climbing events.  The weather was against the competitors this year but it made for some great spectating and an excuse to hide in the beer tent and support from the sidelines!

If you have the chance to attend any of these free events it is well worth it to see professional tree climbers in their element.  They involve a lot of set up effort and energy and volunteers are always welcome to take part prior to and during the event.  Keep an eye on the ISA website and our news feed for up and coming competitions.





Advanced Medical Course.

Wise words from an Expedition Medic:  ‘If its wet, sticky and not yours, don’t touch it.’

Finishing this year by preparing for the next with the fantastic Advanced Medical course from  Wilderness Medical Training.

An intense 4 day theoretical and practical course that focuses on providing more comprehensive care in remote environments to patients who are injured and ill.  With several projects overseas and in challenging environments next year this course gave a solid foundation to planning, preparing and dealing with potential medical situations.

Directed at non medically trained personnel, the no nonsense and practical approach to managing medical emergencies was equally as important to the information given on preventing any potentially dangerous situations when on expedition.


Advanced Medicine




Every success of this year has been down to the involvement, inspiration, support and challenges from others. For this I thank every single person that has been present in any shape or form.

Many thanks and wishing everyone a Happy New Year.

Vicki Tough