SI Vault
Tom Chaffin
October 10, 1988
Dangling from a rope 55 feet up in an oak tree, psychologist Betsy Hoddinott, 42, is as stuck as a cheap zipper. The first half hour of her climb went well enough, but now there seems to be a problem with a knot and some of her gear. That's why Peter Jenkins, speaking in the calming tones of an air-traffic controller talking down a nervous pilot with a bad engine, is explaining to Hoddinott what she must do to free the rope.
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October 10, 1988

Tree Climbers Are Happy Out On A Limb

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Stalled climber Hoddinott is in a safe enough tree this afternoon. But she has been stuck now for 45 minutes. Only one other climber has not yet returned to the ground, and there are nervous jokes about calling the fire department or ordering a pizza as Hoddinott tries to get her foot-cam back on.

"I think it's about time Tree Man goes for a rescue," someone says to Jenkins.

"Betsy, do you want me to come up there?" Jenkins calls.

"No!" comes the answer.

After a few more minutes, Jenkins decides that it is time to go.

"She's O.K.," he says, putting on his foot-cam. "She's protected twice [by two ropes]. But putting on that foot-cam can be pretty hard when you're just hanging up there."

As Jenkins prepares to climb, Hoddinott, from her dangling perch, comments to no one in particular, "This would be real different if I thought I could fall."

Jenkins chuckles, but the concern in his blue eyes is real. "She's been up there a little too long," he says.

By now nervous jokes have given way to silence as Jenkins, with the apparent ease of a winged insect, foot-cams his way up the rope. In less than two minutes he reaches Hoddinott. He makes the needed adjustments on her ropes and foot-cam, and within five minutes both are back on the ground.

A few weeks ago Hoddinott had dreaded the task of standing on a stepladder to change a light bulb. Today she appears unshaken by her adventure, a paragon of urban grace under pressure. Yes, she says, she will have a beer now.

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