My scariest moment in recent memory involved the most dangerous piece of home equipment: the ladder. I have since discovered that a 12 foot ladder should be supported in three places while in use. Go figure.
I have chainsawed through numerous small trees and long branches, but this one was different. I needed to make a cut about 16 feet high - otherwise, the falling tree would have snapped the telecommunication wires. It is not recommended to use a chainsaw while perched atop a ladder, but gosh darn it, the tree cutting company I called told me I would have to wait 5 weeks for them to do it, and I had a tree-house to build...
The tree in question was some sort of weed tree, with an 8 inch diameter, about 40 feet high and leaning significantly. I leaned my 12-ft ladder up against the tree I was cutting. Now that might sound stupid, and it turns out it is, but hear me out. The ladder's friction contact was a couple of feet below the cut point...
With a friend at the bottom of the ladder (like he could actually do anything from there besides have a great view of my demise), I stood on the second to top rung of the ladder, leaned forward with two hands on the chainsaw, and began to cut. With the cut 80% the way through, I heard a snap, which is expected. What I did not
expect is that the cut would cause the portion of tree BELOW the cut to split in half.
I am 12 feet in the air, with two feet on the ladder, two hands on a chainsaw, and I am going for a ride. The ladder revolved about its base by about 15 degrees (I descended a few feet) until, thankfully, it made a firm contact with the tree somewhere else. I, in a state of shock, slowly scaled the ladder back down to the ground, and confirmed that all of my body parts were still present.
In hindsight, even had the tree not split, the situation is still far from safe: when the upper portion is cut off a hanging tree, the lower part that is not cut is suddenly supporting less weight, and could shift its angle accordingly to a new equilibrium position.
Next time, I will attach the top of my ladder to something solid with a rope before making such a cut, or, more likely, I will wait for the tree cutting company to do the job for me.