Piling anything above the root collar will cause many problems to your trees health. Roots can also begin to inhabit this area creating girdling roots. Correctly mulching your trees is a great way to improve their health.
Benefits include: helps hold soil moisture, provides organic matter and nutrients, helps eliminate other plant competition, and regulates soil temperature.
The root collar is the area where the roots joint the main trunk. Unlike the roots, the trunk is not specialized to resist constant soil moisture. Why is this important? New plantings, moving trees, and mulching. Plant trees with the root collar at ground level.
The green marks in the picture (right) is the root collar.
Girdling roots can kill your tree over time. The roots grow in a circular manner and eventually can strangle itself. This mostly starts in container trees or mulch volcanos. When planting, ensure the roots are spread out and not wrapped around itself. Roots that can't be pulled outward must be pruned. Girdling roots can be found above and below ground.
Professional old school climbers used ladders to access trees, but never cut from them. Operating a chainsaw from a ladder is a very bad practice and can easily end in serious injury or death. Aerial chainsaw operation requires different cutting techniques than cutting from the ground. If you don't have the proper safety equipment and knowledge, please call a professional.
Back in the day, topping was an acceptable practice, however, it does more harm than good. Not only does it create significant decay below the cut, it also removes a large portion of the leaves (which is a trees mouth). This heavily stresses the tree to regrow what was lost so it can begin feeding again (photosynthesis). For some tree species, death will result.
The most important area to be aware of is the "kickback" quadrant on a chainsaw bar. Up to 14000 rpm's can be achieved during chainsaw operation. This can create a violent kickback and cause serious injury or death. A common time for this to occur is while cutting firewood in a stack of logs.