Attention all climbers! Climbing trees isn’t just for adventurous children! You can satisfy that need to climb right in the forest. These tips and tricks for climbing trees will ensure that you can safely climb higher to that top branch and enjoy the view around you! This is a great activity when you can’t make it on a bigger climbing trip but still want to practice your skills. Here’s all you need to know about this fun hobby!
Throw line—thin, brightly colored rope connected to a weight (sand bag, etc.) that is thrown to loop over an upper branch
Climbing line—connects to the throw line and uses static ropes, unlike the more stretchy dynamic ropes used in rock climbing
Harness—Use a harness with wide webbing and considerable padding. Avoid traditional lightweight rock climbing harnesses, as they’ll cut circulation in the legs.
Helmet—use a rock climbing helmet, as safety always comes first
Prusik cord—attached to climbing rope and harness with a carabiner clip
Branch protector—tubular cover for rope to protect tree from rope burn
Picking a Tree To Climb
Because trees are a whole lot less stable than a cliff, you’ll want to be sure to scout out a sturdy, healthy tree for your climbing adventure! Of course you’ll want to go for some height or else you’ll be going through a lot of setup for a really short trip. But aside from height, there are many factors to consider when choosing the perfect climbing tree.
Look For Sturdy Branches
Solid, sturdy branches are essential for a successful climb! You’ll especially want to look for a solid branch higher up that can support your weight. You’ll want a branch that’s at least six inches in diameter—but the bigger, the better! Make sure to check out the other branches as well, in case you should need them for support along the way.
Make Sure It’s a Healthy Tree
Take a good look at your prospective tree, both up close and further away. Does its overall appearance look healthy? Inspect it more closely, and look for any missing bark, as this could indicate weakness in the tree or decay. Also look up to the leaves above. Are they healthy, or are they brown and falling off? Brown leaves toward the top of a tree indicate that the tree is diseased or dying and the tree should not be used for climbing.
Avoid Trees With Surrounding Hazards
Although this may be somewhat obvious, you’ll want to make sure that there aren’t any hazards surrounding your potential climbing tree. Obviously, you’ll want to steer clear of trees near power lines, but you’ll also want to skip trees that have people hanging around it too. Also make sure to avoid trees where any animals or animal habitats are present, as you won’t want to disturb them or put yourself in any peril. A less obvious hazard can be a tree with a lot of knots or a large root system at the bottom. Small animals, poison ivy, hornet nests, or plain old root decay can cause a lot of problems for you and your friends on the ground!
Choose an Area Where Climbing Is Allowed
Unfortunately, many parks prohibit tree climbing, but it never hurts to ask if it's ok! As long as you aren’t damaging the tree you’re climbing on, there is nothing environmentally wrong with tree climbing. Just be respectful of the rules, and find somewhere else to climb if you are turned away. A little adventure isn’t worth legal trouble!
How To Climb a Tree
- Toss the throw line over the high branch you’d like to climb to. Make sure the branch is sturdy!
- Place branch protector onto the climbing rope, then attach the end of your throw line to your climbing rope using a clove knot method. Once the lines are attached, pull your throw line so that both ends of the climbing rope are back on the ground, looped over the branch with the branch protector securely over the top.
- Designate about an arm’s length and a half of one end of your climbing rope. At this part of the rope, attach it to a heavy carabiner using an anchor knot or double fisherman’s knot. Tie a simple overhand knot about one foot from the carabiner, then with the remaining length tie a Blake’s hitch around the other portion of the climbing rope (you’re essentially tying your climbing rope in a big loop around the branch), leaving a foot or two of rope. Tie another overhand knot at the end of the rope for added safety.*
- If you aren’t too confident in your upper body strength, attach a length of cord using the Prusik knot to the climbing rope as a foot assist to help anchor you. Do this instead of using climbing spikes, as they’ll permanently damage the tree!
- Use the tree to help you climb up with any knots or jutting edges for footholds. Take your time and stay steady! Keep climbing until you reach the branch that your rope loops over.
- To descend, hold on to the Blake’s hitch and gently pull down, making sure not to go too quickly. Slow is safe!
What do you think? Are you ready for your first climb? Just follow these tips and tricks for climbing trees and you’ll be able to see the world from a whole new perspective and climb higher than you ever did when you were a kid!
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Are you an experienced tree climber, or have you done other types of climbing? We’d love to hear from you! Leave us a comment below with any other advice, including your favorite spots to go tree climbing!