Tree Climbing 101

Obtaining professional tree-climbing instruction is recommended for everyone who wants to learn how to safely climb trees. Learning how to identify hazards and understanding the risk is mission-critical.  Reading about it, or watching videos is no substitute for the real deal. Climb at your own risk.

Getting the climbing line into the tree is the first objective. Hand-throwing a weighted throw-bag, tied to a string into a tree is a basic and common method. In order to get the throw line over the higher limbs an oversized sling shot  known as a Big Shot is used to shoot a weighted throw-bag tied to a light throw-line up and over a secure branch. Once the throw line is in the tree and over a limb or buckle with a life-bearing-load capacity, a climbing rope is then tied to the throw-line and fed into the tree. Tall trees may require a more powerful launching device to reach their lower limbs. A crossbow, an airgun and even a drone are commonly used to set climbing lines.

Friction Savers are usually made using a tube or two rings connected by a strap or rope. They protect the tree from unnecessary friction by placing a barrier between climbing rope and the tree itself.  From the ground, a person using proper technique can install a friction saver, which is retrievable from the ground.  We strongly encourage the use friction savers or rope sleeves to protect a tree’s cambium layer and to avoid direct interference between the rope and the tree.

Technically proficient tree climbers wearing a climbing harness connect themselves to a climbing line to move up the rope while performing a specific climbing method. A rope-walker, or a sit-stand (frog) method uses a combination of rope grabbers, better known as ascenders. Once in the canopy, a lanyard or secondary climbing line can be used to provide an added attachment point, offering the climber greater security and the freedom to move laterally, or branch-walk. By unweighted either the main climbing line or the lanyard, this enables the climber advance and maneuver, by relocating the tie in point/s.

Traversing the canopy and climbing from tree to tree requires a bit more technique and various methods can be utilized to secure distant tie-in-points. Getting a line into a neighboring tree and back to the climber becomes possible when using a grappling hook and a throw-line, or even a throw-line with a magnetic type of retrieval system. Another method utilizes a heavier DMM Captain Hook, connected to one end of the line. Moving from tree to tree also usually involves the use of two concurrent climbing systems, or some sort of zip line rig.

When transitioning from an ascent mode to a descent mode, the climber installs a rappelling device on the main climbing line, then removes the rope grabbing ascenders and while using one hand for breaking, descends in a controlled manner.  Certain devices are designed to perform both the ascending and descending function. These are known as multicenders.

Products like the Rope Wrench, Hitch Hiker and the Unicender, are able to conveniently combine both the ascent and descent functions into one device. Pulleys or rings and carabiners are used in many climbing systems and climbers have an assortment of climbing-knots to incorporate into various climbing systems, as well. The variety of gear options and techniques, may be better suited to some, than others.

Tree climbing can be done with a stationary rope technique (SRT), or a doubled rope technique (DdRT). Climbers even use a combination of these techniques in certain situations when moving around within the canopy and by utilizing secondary or multiple tie-in-points, also known as redirects.

Hopefully as you read the articles posted on this site’s blog and other information, you’ll be able to acquire a better idea of what the tree climbing is really all about. If you are already an experienced rock-climber, than perhaps you are already familiar with many of the tree-climbing components, aside from the fact that rock-climbers climb on and are dependent on the rock walls, while tree climbers connect with living-beings and rely mainly on a climbing line connected to the tree.

All are welcome here, so please come join us for a taste of the TreeXP’erience.

John Greer / Admin

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