Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Tree Climbing for Fun

So as a kid you climbed trees for fun and as you got older you gave it up because, well, older people just don't climb trees for fun. Well, let me tell you that there are a lot of not so young folks that are still climbing trees for fun but not the kind of tree you climbed as a youngster. Nope! These are serious climbers going up trees where the first limb may be 100 feet off the ground, redwoods, large oaks, etc. They do it for the same reason people climb rocks, mountains, or explore caves. Today we got a first hand account of how to go about this activity. We were touring Shaw Nature Reserve in west St. Louis County and came upon a group of three men checking out a large oak tree they were going to use for a class in tree climbing at a Tree Climbing Festival this weekend. They were expecting 60 to 100 people from all over the country for this annual event. The three we talked to were from Minnesota, North Carolina, and Georgia. They were kind enough to show us the ropes, literally. They don't use spikes because that damages the tree so the first thing is to in some way get a rope up the tree so they can climb the rope using step climbers, explained later. This is done by using a very serious sling shot (see picture) that shoots a weighted bag attached to a thin but strong line over a limb that may be more then 100 feet up in the air.
This thin line has a 600 pound test strength but can't be used for climbing because a falling person might create more than 1000 pounds of force so this thin line is used to pull a larger line with a 5400 pound test strength over the limb. After this line is anchored to the tree the climber gets ready with his gear which is very much like a mountain climber or cave explorer would use (see picture).
The most necessary pieces of equipment are the step climbers, one on each foot or leg, that grip the rope when weight is on them and then release to slide up the rope for the next step becoming basically a rope ladder. After everything is in place the climber goes up just a few feet and bounces a few times to make sure the rope and equipment is holding okay and is ready to go (see picture).

Now the fun begins. The rest was all preparation. It took just a minute or two and the climber was 40 to 50 feet up in the tree (see picture). Looks like fun. To come back down he uses a brake device to slide down the rope like repelling.
When asked what happens after you get up the tree the three said you might look at the scenery, sit and visit with other climbers, or just meditate. So there you go. We may see you up the next tree.

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