Ever wonder what fake tree poles look like up close? Here are three pictures. In the first one, you can see the climber’s foot on a branch. Notice a small bolt near the right side of the foot; that bolt indicates how far out you can step on the branches. You can’t step farther out past the bolt because there is nothing but fiberglass or PVC branch farther out – the steel protrusion the branch attaches to is only about 8″ long. These trees are put together much like artificial Christmas trees. You build the trunk then bolt on the branches.
This picture is my first stealth job from December 2001; this was adding antennas to an existing monopine on the Congressional Golf Course in Potomac, MD. Yes, I should have my hard hat on. Apparently, I thought it was no-hard-hat Friday or something. Right above my head, you can see the end of the structural area where we can climb. Similar to the first picture, this stealth pole was made with 8-10″ pipes sticking out, and we would then bolt the branches to the pipes. When you are in the tree working, you can only tie your safety to those pipe pieces, and you can only step on or grab onto the pipe stubs as well. The yellow lanyard is my safety line, and my hands are on the rigging rope we put in the tree to pull the antennas up into the tree branches where they will be mounted.
Because these stealth towers are supposed to look real, there are no climbing facilities on them. No step bolts and no ladders. In order to climb into the branches to do our job, we had to bring in a crane and hang ropes in the tree at the beginning of the job. Once the ropes are in place, we climb the ropes every morning into the branches where our workstation is, 120′. At the end of the day, we would also descend on the ropes as well. The next picture is a standard morning ascending into the tree; I am just above the cell shelters at the site. This stealth design makes it more complicated and more expensive to work on the structures and can double the amount of labor time it takes to do a simple antenna swap.