Tree Climbing

Insider Info

"Tree climbing is both mentally and physically challenging, fun, relaxing, and exciting all rolled into one amazing sensation!" says Paul Taylor. He is a tree climber. He is also president of Arborwear, a store in Ohio that sells clothing for tree climbers.

Welcome to what many are calling the newest extreme sport. What you may have done quite naturally as a kid is now a popular recreation enjoyed by people all over the world. Tree climbing is just what it sounds like: people climbing trees. Some people, like arborists, climb trees for a living. Others climb for fun. Some people even climb trees in competitions!

You can climb a tree in a forest, or you can climb the tree in your backyard. Basically, you can climb anywhere trees exist. Of course, depending on where the tree is, you may have to ask for permission first.

Ever wonder how many people take part in recreational tree climbing in North America?

"I'd guess 5,000 to 6,000," says Michael Oxman. He is a tree climber and certified arborist in Washington.

"Well, I would have to say somewhere between 1,000 and 3,000. I have been to recreational events here where over 300 have come not to just climb, but who told their stories of climbing," says Vicki Miller. She is a tree climber and student in Wisconsin.

"To date, TCI [Tree Climbing International] has introduced well over 10,000 first-time climbers to this activity with no injuries," says Peter "Treeman" Jenkins. He is a tree climber, certified arborist and the founder of Tree Climbers International.

As you can see, the answer to that question depends on whom you talk to. This is because no one really keeps track. The one thing for sure is that tree climbing is gaining in popularity.

The most notable trend in tree climbing is its growing popularity. Memberships in various trade organizations like the International Society of Arboriculture and the National Arborist Association are said to be on the rise.

Another trend involves the equipment used. These days, there is equipment available that is specifically designed for climbing trees. These special ropes and harnesses make it easy for people of all ages to climb.

Getting Started

Compared to a lot of other activities, tree climbing doesn't cost very much. At the very least, all you really need are the basics -- a rope, a harness or saddle, and an ascending device or pulley. This basic equipment shouldn't cost you much more than about $500.

Of course, when buying gear, make sure it is of good quality. And make sure you buy tree climbing equipment, not rock climbing equipment. There are important differences between the two and you have to think safety first. Remember: you're literally putting your life out on a limb!

Just about anyone can climb a tree. You don't need to be physically fit (although it wouldn't hurt). And you don't have to be a natural climber. What you do need to learn is how to use the equipment properly. This is absolutely vital! Don't ever attempt a climb without expert supervision.

With the right equipment and proper supervision, tree climbing can be enjoyable without being dangerous.
Courtesy of: Michael Oxman

It may not seem possible at first, but people with physical challenges can also enjoy tree climbing. Of course, it depends on the particular challenge, but it's truly amazing how many people can take part.

"I do work with the physically challenged. Paraplegics, deaf, and blind do well. I have also taken quadriplegics up using a counterbalance rope system," says Jenkins.

If you start climbing trees, and you really like it, why not turn it into a good paying job? The most obvious careers that involve tree climbing are arborists or tree surgeons. "For individuals who aren't afraid to work hard, there exists awesome opportunities from coast to coast. Tree services are always looking for qualified climbers, and in many instances are willing to pay top dollar for them," says Taylor.

Are you hooked on this yet? If you are, it doesn't take much to get started. The first thing you need to do is find someone who knows the ropes -- as in an expert teacher. This person should have plenty of tree climbing experience, and may even be able to supply you with the proper equipment.

Tree Climbing International has certified instructors worldwide. Check their Web site and see if there is one near you. Failing that, you could also look up some arborists in your area and see if they would be willing to help you get started. Remember though, they must be experienced tree climbers!

Like many recreational activities, tree climbing has its share of potential dangers. The biggest and most obvious risk is to fall out of a tree. This can be fatal, depending on how high you are or how you fall.

Having said that, bear in mind that tree climbing is very safe, especially with the equipment available these days. Another potential injury you must consider when climbing is not to you, but to the tree! You have to remember that a tree is a living thing, and you must be very careful not to scar or damage it.


Every Time I Climb a Tree,
by  David McCord and Marc Simont
Rope Knots and Tree Climbing Safety for Tree Workers,
by  Robert Thompson
Tree Climbing,
by  Susan Mernit

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