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Backpacker Magazine – November 2011

Ultimate Adventure Handbook: Climb Big Trees

Discover a higher world.

by: Kelly Bastone

Score views like this one. (David Collier)
Photo by BP1111GAME_dcollierphoto3650_445x260
Score views like this one. (David Collier)

Learning curve (+++*) Go with a guide, the way most people start, and you simply need to be comfortable with heights. For DIY canopy exploration, you’ll need solid rope skills.

*(+) = Low effort, low risk  (+++++) = Get a lesson and life insurance  

» Suitable trees have trunks that measure at least six inches in diameter.

» Look for candidates with the lowest branches no more than 35 feet off the ground (experts can double that). To lasso a branch, attach the rope to a throw bag and toss it over.  

» Use ascenders (single rope) or a series of pre-tied knots (double rope) to climb to the first branch. Repeat. 

» Conifers’ branches are more flexible than hardwoods; climb them at the trunk for greater security.

» Use a rope sleeve to protect the bark and branches from rope burns ($25,

» Check the base; deep cavities weaken the tree and make climbing dangerous. 

» Climb slowly to conquer fear. “Go up 10 feet, pause for a while to acclimate, then climb another 10 feet,” says Patty Jenkins, co-owner of Tree Climbers International (TCI), an instructional school and climbers’ club.

» Check restrictions: Tree-climbing is prohibited in national parks, but allowed on USDA Forest Service lands. 

» Watch Tree Climbing Basics ($20,

Top spots
» Georgia Tree Climbers International hosts climbs ($20) and teaches classes ($475, in Atlanta.

» Oregon In Willamette National Forest, the Pacific Tree Climbing Institute ( offers guided climbs of 300-foot-tall Douglas firs and hammock-supported, tree-top overnights (climbs start at $200).

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