Tree climbing has been a popular pastime for children and adults for generations. As a recreational and functional sport, it employs several techniques that closely resemble rock climbing and caving. This makes it a risky venture for the inexperienced climber. Tree climbers use a variety of tools and equipment to ensure their safety, including a rope, helmet, and harness. Seasoned climbers may choose to bring other implements, such as tree canopies and “treeboats,” to further enhance their vertical adventure. Tree climbing has also become an important activity for many environmentalists, including arborists, activists, animal rescue and research personnel. As a result, it is common to find tree climbers with a profound respect for the trees and the creatures within them.
One of the most important rules of tree climbing safety revolves around the rope. In fact, veteran tree climbers recommend always staying on the rope while climbing. Tree climbers who dare to take a few seconds off the rope to maneuver around obstacles may endanger their lives. It only takes a few seconds to lose one’s footing to high winds or to an unfriendly animal; therefore, it is imperative to always stay on the rope. Never adopt the “it will never happen to me” mentality. The rope literally keeps climbers alive. Be very careful and ensure that you never use the rope haphazardly, especially around power lines. One slight touch to a power line will electrocute careless climbers in a heartbeat. Conduct an area-wide survey to ensure no power lines are around the climbing tree. Keep children away at all costs.
- Tree Climbers International: A Climber’s Guide to Tree Inspection: A 5-page tree inspection guide for avid climbers.
- Safe Tree Climbing: A webpage that lists important safety tips for tree climbers.
- Tree Climber’s Coalition: Personal Style and Safety: An article that stresses the knowledge and ability to climb trees safely, regardless of personal style.
Inspect a tree before climbing it. If a tree looks suspicious due to weakness, damage, or other obvious signs of danger, then the tree should not be climbed. Tree climbers should also pay attention to signs of inclement weather. Get out of a tree and take shelter immediately after hearing the sound of thunder. The same rule applies for ice storms. Beginners should not attempt to climb during freezing cold, snowy, and exceedingly hot days. In fact, they should seek training from a qualified instructor who can show them the ropes. Tree climbing courses will provide guidance on the proper equipment and techniques to employ while climbing. Instructors target a student’s strengths and weaknesses to help turn him or her into a proficient climber.
- Tree Trimming and Removal Safety Tips (PDF): A document that provides extensive information on trimming and removing trees safely.
- Safe and Efficient Tree Ascent: DoubledRope Techniques (DdRT), Part Two (PDF): An article that illustrates an effective technique for climbers to ascend into the tree tops safely and securely.
- The National Tree Climbing Guide (PDF): An extensive document covering everything about the sport of tree climbing, including training, safety, and equipment.
Tree climbers use a variety of equipment to help protect themselves, the trees, and the creatures that live within them. The helmet ranks number two on the list of important pieces of equipment for tree climbers. A helmet protects the climber from falling branches and other debris. Every climber should wear a helmet, regardless of their experience. Never wear leg spikes while climbing trees. Leg spikes cause damage to the tree by leaving it open to attack by viruses, bacteria, fungus, and insects. In some cases, the punctures left by leg spikes may cause the death of a tree directly. Professional climbers should only use leg spikes when removing a tree. Use a branch saver to protect the tree from cuts left by a moving rope. A harness will increase control over the rope while climbing to avoid injury and damage to the tree. Avoid using handsaws to trim dead branches and other obstacles. A handsaw can sever the rope by accident.
- NPR: Climbing Big Trees to Understand Them: The National Public Radio covers a story of an NPR journalist who embarks on a tree climbing adventure.
- Popular Mechanics: How to Climb Trees With Ropes and Harnesses: Popular Mechanics provides a guide for beginners on how to climb trees with ropes and harnesses safely.
- How to Climb a Tree Like a Pro (or, How *Not* to Use Tree-Climbing Spikes): Discovery provides a guide on how to climb trees without using leg spikes.
Consider the entire tree population and old-growth trees before climbing them. Some tree populations have grown for hundreds of years. One thoughtless bump into a tree can change the face of a one-hundred year old tree. The same rule applies to nests and nesting animals. Trees provide a natural habitat for many animals. Climbers who accidentally knock down a nest could find themselves fending off angry birds. Avoid trampling on certain ground cover or moss mats in certain trees. True tree climbing enthusiasts preserve the distinct tree paths they climb for future visits.
- How Tree Climbing Works: HowStuffWorks provides an extensive guide on tree climbing for beginners.
- Ultimate Adventure Handbook: Climb Big Trees: Backpacker magazine provides a few simple suggestions for novice tree climbers.
- Tree Climbing Safety (PDF): The State of Hawaii provides safety tips for work-related occupations that require tree climbing to fulfill their duties.
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