Prusik vs. Split Tail for Tree Climbing Descent


Well-Known Member
  • #1
I have a question that I haven't been able to find an answer for as of yet. Let's say that I've spiked up a tree to attach a single rope to be used as a pull rope for a take-down cut from the bottom. All I want to do is climb (spike) the tree a good ways up, attach the rope to the stick and then come back down to make my cut from the base. A groundman will pull the rope to help the tree fall in the direction I desire.

As far as I know, a rappelling device such as a traditional figure 8 or a figure 8 with ears is a great method for descent as opposed to spiking back down while using my lanyard to assist. Also, as far as I know, it's smart to have a backup for the figure 8, such as a prusik, in case anything goes wrong, such as loss of control, loss of consciousness, etc... The last thing I want is to be free-falling to the ground because I got myself knocked out by hitting my head on a branch or something like that.

So here's my question: popular opinion says that a prusik is a popular device to use as that backup, but can't I just use a split tail to do the same thing? Let's say I am still tied in with my lanyard and I set up my figure 8. Instead of setting up the prusik, I can clip my split tail to my harness and then tie a Blake's hitch to the pull rope and descend from there. What's the difference? I haven't heard this idea or suggestion anywhere out there and I'm starting to think I'm missing something. Is it because of the friction of the Blake's hitch? Are prusiks made out of different more high temperature rope? That's the only thing I could think of as both would be suitable as a backup. Or perhaps the Blake's hitch needs to be set by the arborist to remain tight, else it will slide too fast.

Please let me know.


Well-Known Member
  • #2
I don't think anyone would argue with you if you wanted to use a split tail as opposed to a prusik for backing up your descent with a figure 8. Either one is good. The thing is, even owning a prusik or split tail depends on which type of climbing system you use. If you own and use a full length lanyard that's got a floater (prusik) already, that prusik will be at your disposal when you need it to use elsewhere. Not everyone uses an open climbing system where they'd own a split tail. So that's one reason right there. I do think both would work well and you could take advantage of whichever one you own. I also think that the whole "using a prusik backup while descending" thing has somewhat become gospel in the arborist world. Good question though. I wish more people would think outside the box like this.

Check out these two videos I found of the topic.

Using a Figure 8 for Descending the Tree - WesSpur's Niceguydave Demonstrates a Classic Tool

Using the Floater on Your Lanyard for Better Positioning

The videos don't exactly cover what I was referring to above, but they do give some good background on descending and using the lanyard prusik as a positioning aide when climbing.


Well-Known Member
  • #3
If you already own a split tail, then use it for your decent backup. What's more, you don't even need to buy a figure 8 to use as a descender. You could use your carabiner and a Munter hitch. When using the Munter, I give the carabiner two wraps instead of one. The knot is the same as the Anchor hitch until about half way through. That's how I remember how to tie it. I know the Anchor hitch like the back of my hand. Instead of passing the working end through the turns, you pass it through the carabiner instead. Obviously, because the working end will likely be about 100' long.