How to Climb a Palm Tree

5.IMG_0161I love how people worldwide do the same things in so many different ways. For example, climbing palm trees. How many ways do YOU know to climb a palm tree?

Where I was born, the mainland USA, people who climb palm trees tend to use the proper equipment: gloves, spiked/spurred boots, and, always safety conscious, a harness and a rope or “flip line.”

In many places that I’ve witnessed worldwide, palm tree climbers do the job au naturale, using no equipment—not even shoes. They use only their bare hands and feet. One technique is to actually walk up the palmera, using the scars from dropped fronds for leverage:

The most popular equipment-less way that I’ve seen worldwide to climb a palm tree, however, is using one’s thighs as vices:

This gentleman uses natural “rope” that he puts around his feet to aid his climb, a technique somewhere between using and not using equipment, I’d say:

Here’s a guy who climbed a palmera with a GoPro, so we get a climbers’-eye view:

This morning, on a lazy, warm, post-Christmas/pre-New Year’s day, we spent some time during our morning walk to watch as the CFE workers climbed the new palm trees on the malecón to install the beautiful new lighting, now that the electric cabling is in place.

We are excited to have lighting on the new palm trees along the malecón in front of our house—they say the lights should get turned on Monday or Tuesday in front of where we live. Of course, they’ve been on for a while now from Valentino’s southward to Insurgentes.

3.IMG_0159The CFE workers are using a combination of the above methods. They have ropes that they have braided into a loop on each end: one larger and one smaller loop. The rope is passed around the tree trunk and through the large loop, to act as a harness. The other, smaller loop goes on the guy’s foot or thigh, like a stirrup. Each worker had two double-looped ropes: one for each leg (see photo above). Each worker moves one of the foot ropes that’s wound around the tree up with his hands, as he steps up. Then, he rolls the other rope up along the truck, and steps up with the other foot. Some workers kept the loop on their feet and walked up, others, less nimble I suppose, put the second harness around their thigh to walk up.

Either way, the leg/foot harnesses appeared to make it much easier to climb the tree than just bare feet. Plus, if they lost their footing, their foot braces would act as a harness. No spurred boots, no gloves, but they did also use a safety harness. Sorry about the quality of the photos; we only had a cell phone with us.

How does the whole process work? A truck drops off a bunch of the light fixtures in one central location for that day’s work. To us, this looked dangerous: easy pickings for someone in a pickup truck to steal. One of the CFE workers has a bicycle, and bikes back to the fixture stockpile, bringing one light at a time to the workers who do the installation.

Two workers climb each tree to install the lights, one light on each side. The malecón, as you well know, has already been jackhammered a couple of times, and conduit and cabling installed. Conduit (metal pipe) has also been fastened along the ocean side of each of the palmeras/palm trees. Each piece of conduit has a guide wire placed through it. (Click on any photo to view it larger or see a slideshow.)

The workers climb the tree, the electrician going first. He has a rope hanging from his waist. Once the two workers are in position at the top of the tree, a third worker down below ties a light fixture to the rope, and the electrician pulls it up. The two workers use temporary wire to fasten the fixture to the tree, and the electrician then connects the wiring. They put in the second fixture the same way, then install the metal bands that will hold the fixtures up permanently. The electrician throws the two electrical cables, one from each fixture, to the third worker on the malecón (he holds onto the top end of the cables). The guy below braids these two cables together, fastening the ends with electrical tape. The electrician pulls the braid back up, and fastens it to the guide wire. Finally, he feeds it into the conduit, and the guy on the bottom pulls it down through the tube.

There is plenty of extra cabling, so that the palm tree can grow without rewiring the lights. This extra cabling is buried at the base of the tree.

Nothing earth shattering, but a fun show to watch on a Saturday morning. And, several steps closer to having lights on the palmeras in front of our house!

About Dianne Hofner Saphiere

There are loads of talented people in this gorgeous world of ours. We all have a unique contribution to make, and if we collaborate, I am confident we have all the pieces we need to solve any problem we face. I have been an intercultural organizational effectiveness consultant since 1979, working primarily with for-profit multinational corporations. I lived and worked in Japan in the late 70s through the 80s, and currently live in and work from México, where with a wonderful partner we've raised a bicultural, global-minded son. I have worked with organizations and people from over 100 nations in my career. What's your story?

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