Tree climbing invokes thoughts of childhood adventures for many. Throughout the ages countless life forms climb trees, reside in trees, or somehow benefit from trees. A squirrel can climb up or down a tree trunk, because their feet can pivot and rotate, whereas a cat can easily go up, but is unaccustomed to backing down or out of a tree. Many animals, including reptiles, monkeys, and birds easily move through the trees with the utmost grace, while rarely shock-loading a limb.
Some may never successfully address certain challenges like fear of heights, or be able to overcome certain obstacles, simply because of how our bodies are designed. The risk of tree climbing is always present and forces us to make critical decisions to better ensure our safety. The significance of proper climbing equipment has transformed tree climbing into a relatively safe activity. There’s little cross-over between the kinds of gear used among tree climbing Arborists and recreational tree climbers, but when the act of tree removal is taken out of the equation, the risks are much less.
Being up in a tree while exercising both body and mind is immensely gratifying and rewarding. The feeling, similar to that of a distance runner that attains a certain euphoric level of calmness while jogging, is one way to explain it. After a climb I feel a buzz that can last for days. Sharpened focus and enhanced awareness are just a couple of the reasons I like to climb trees, but beyond just the physical act of climbing, there are any number of things happening in the recreational tree climbing world that are open to practically anyone who has the desire to pursue this incredible pastime.
To a Recreational Tree Climber there are only two kinds of trees: Wild trees and all the rest. Wild Trees is a term made famous by Richard Preston in his book The Wild Trees. He describes them in two ways: One is a tree that’s never been climbed by a human, or hasn’t been climbed for some time. The other kind are trees that have been more recently climbed and are thereby less wild for that reason. The first climber ascending into any wild tree may need to clear potential hazards like fallen deadwood, or encounter certain threats, previously unknown from a ground based perspective. Hazards may include less than optimal tie-in-points, bee hives, raccoons, active bird nests, or stumbling upon inhabitants that may not appreciate being visited or disturbed. These hazards are of serious concern and must be avoided whenever possible. A climber needs to deal with the differences between a tree cleared by other fellow climbers, versus a wild tree with potentially unaddressed hazards.
Advances in equipment and devices like the Rope Runner have brought about changes in technical tree climbing, similar to how urethane wheels transformed the sport of skate boarding. The emergence of talented individuals who are primarily working Arborists, have taken tree climbing to a whole new level. Whether it’s competitive speed climbing, using a hybrid rope-walking system, or bombing out of a tree, while gracefully spinning and flipping, like an acrobatic flying squirrel and landing with the precision of a Lear jet, the art and beauty of recreational tree climbing is now only starting to emerge in our collective consciousness.
Among the recreational tree climbing community are those who participate in an annual get together known as the Tree Climbing Rendezvous. Other events include tree climbing competitions and guided climbs into some of the most amazing living beings on earth. The competitive events are usually organized and sponsored by equipment dealers and Arborist organizations. These events bring together a broad assortment of tree care professionals, rec climbers and other like-minded enthusiasts.
Recreational tree climbing is a great way to build physical strength, sharpened focus and connect with nature’s objective reality. Every climb has it’s own unique characteristics, based on constantly changing variables. Helping to teach others, ranging in all ages, including those with physical challenges, or even by helping orphan orangutans who’ve been displaced by palm oil production, helps us all to better connect with nature in a most intimate manner. Tree climbing involves real time problem solving skills, using sound methods and gear to provide safe and enjoyable experiences when used responsibly.
Recreational tree climbers focus on the specific challenges each tree offers. Tall trees may include a long initial descent to reach the lower branches and while climbing tools may vary among smaller and larger trees, the principals are much the same, as are the laws of physics and gravity.
Canopy research has been transformed through the art of technical tree climbing, with much thanks to Donald Perry who invented the original Zip-Line. Don is now pioneering a modern Zip line technology, enabling users to control starting, stopping and be able to rotate on a pivot to more efficiently study and observe nature from a first hand perspective.
Recreational tree climbing is certainly a constructive way to protect precious rain forests. Education and awareness raising is helping to protect and preserve trees. More aggressive methods like canopy-installed motion detecting and sound sensing devices are now able to relay real-time information to authorities concerning territories being illegally poached and deforested, thanks to recreational tree climbers.
Enough about the tree climbers and their methods, let’s consider the actual trees themselves. Trees are our planet’s carbon scrubbers, ridding the atmosphere of toxic material, in return for producing life supporting oxygen. On a daily basis, rain forests throughout the world inhale carbon and exhale oxygen. In doing so, they create their own weather systems, returning moisture into the atmosphere which is then redeposited back to earth in the form of rain. This symbiotic relationship between the planet and the rain forests is not only necessary for life’s survival on a macro level, but also all the way down to benefiting micro-ecosystems.
There are a variety of trees throughout the world’s rain forests, including Old Growth Redwood/Sequoias, Eucalyptus, Sitka Spruce, Douglas and Nobel Firs and many others, some reaching enormous heights. Trees are earth’s treasures and should be appreciated, studied and utilized from a recreational standpoint.
Some Redwood trees can live up to 3000 years, reaching heights of 300 feet or more. Redwoods are among the tallest and largest trees and meditating on this fact alone can significantly alter one’s perspective. To experience each day as a single heartbeat, over 1000’s of years, while surviving everything nature has to throw at you, including forest fire, is challenging to fathom. The fallen trees also continue to give back to the forest. A tree’s snag will decay over time and continue to nourish and support the forest and wildlife long after a tree appears to die.
Unfortunately only about 5% of the original Redwood’s forest still remains. This and other rain forests throughout the world are vital to our survival, while high levels of deforestation continues to plague our very existence. Fortunately, many countries are now taking affirmative action to protect and restore their forests, realizing how much they give to us in return for our Eco-restoration efforts.
Trees communicate and work together within the forest through an underground root network connecting to other plants, fused together with fungi. Trees are also a symbolic part of an inclusive network that encompasses all of reality. The concept of a Universal Tree of Life, literally means that we and everything in reality is connected and part of a greater whole. From a spiritual perspectives, this further implies we are all united as One.