Tree climbing

Last updated
A boy sitting in a tree A boy sitting in a tree in Shalban vihara area in Mainamati, Comilla.jpg
A boy sitting in a tree

Tree climbing is a recreational or functional activity consisting of ascending and moving around in the crowns of trees.


A rope, helmet, and harness can be used to increase the safety of the climber. Other equipment can also be used, depending on the experience and skill of the tree climber. Some tree climbers take special hammocks called "Treeboats" and Portaledges with them into canopies where they can have a picnic or sleep.

Some tree climbers employ a mixture of techniques and gear derived from rock climbing and caving. These techniques are also used to climb trees for other purposes: tree care (arborists), animal rescue, research, and activism.


A child climbs a tree. Youth climbing Californian tree.jpg
A child climbs a tree.

Professional arborists have been climbing trees since the late 19th century in the UK and North America. [1] Climbing a tree every day for a year or longer has become a challenge taken up by several artists; Todd Smith from Louisville, KY, USA, climbed a tree every day for 3 years. Henrik G Dahle invited people to climb with him and interviewed people in the canopy of trees, including former competetive tree climber Leo Murray of Monkeydo, who now runs tree top adventures. Other artists include Christopher B Gray from Connecticut, USA, Kamila Wajda from Przybowka, Poland and Cecylia Malik from Kraków, Poland who has published a book about her year climbing trees.


Many different techniques (free climbing, self-belayed climbing with a doubled-rope technique, single-rope technique, and lead climbing) are used to climb trees depending on the climber's purpose for the climb and personal preference. Free climbing is performed without protective gear, and as such is the oldest method of climbing.

Technologically-aided tree climbing is performed by lapping a long rope over a limb and ascending the fallen end using a friction knot tied from initial tie's excess tail. There are a large number of factors that can affect the difficulty of a climb; the regularity of branching, the brittleness of dead wood, the texture of the bark, the width of the trunk and branches, the height and location of the tree, and the weather can all contribute to challenges faced while climbing.

Getting to the first branch of a tree is typically the most difficult part of the climb due to the potentially large distance between the first limb and the ground. Both aid climbing and free climbing can be used, but the throwline technique is most typical among hobbyists. This is done remotely from the ground utilizing a throw weight and line. The weight is swung from its attached line as a pendulum, with the line either held between two fingers of one hand at hip level, or in a basket configuration achieved by running a bight of the line back through the ring that is held in the other hand, with the weight being swung between the legs in a wide stance. It is then launched toward the targeted branch. Once over the branch, the weight must return to the ground, and may have to be manipulated so as to isolate a single anchor point (doubled rope technique), or for SRT into an optimal redirect. The throw bag is then removed; the climbing line is tied on, and pulled through the canopy and back down again, at which point the climbing system may be installed.

Doubled-rope technique

Arborist climbing a Norway Maple in Ontario, Canada Tree Climber.jpg
Arborist climbing a Norway Maple in Ontario, Canada

The doubled-rope technique (DRT or DdRT) is used to self belay the climber in such a way that the rope can be retrieved without going back up the tree. One end of the rope is fastened to the climber's saddle (harness), from there the rope passes around the tree and back to a friction hitch, which is also attached to the climber. This system allows the climber to easily adjust the rope to provide a belay if free-climbing, or to go up or down if hanging on the rope. As long as the climber is below the anchor and there is minimal slack in the system, any fall will be restrained. This system can be placed into the tree from the ground, or the climber can advance the rope up the tree over the course of the climb. [2]

Depiction of a failed attempt at tree climbing, from an anecdote in Frances Fuller Victor's 1887 book Eleven years in the Rocky Mountains and a life on the frontier (Ch. V.) The Wrong End of the Tree.png
Depiction of a failed attempt at tree climbing, from an anecdote in Frances Fuller Victor's 1887 book Eleven years in the Rocky Mountains and a life on the frontier (Ch. V.)

Single-rope technique

The single-rope technique (SRT) is used mainly for getting to the top of large trees that cannot be easily free-climbed. With the adequate hardware, a throw line, an attached weight, and a launching system (e.g., a bow or slingshot), a climbing rope can be anchored to a branch very high in the tree. This is done by launching the weight (with the throw line attached) over the desired limb and tying the climbing rope to the unweighted end. The climbing rope is then hauled over the branch by pulling on the throw line. The line is anchored to the trunk or to the high limb itself by running one end through a closed bight made in the other end. The climber then ascends the rope (using a set of friction hitches or mechanical ascenders) to obtain the desired limb. With practice, this method is typically fastest and requires the least amount of hardware. One drawback is that it does not necessarily involve directly ascending the tree itself, as the vast majority of the time spent climbing is ascending the rope, and not the tree itself. Additionally, it can provide greater safety to a climber over DRT or lead climbing techniques, as the climber can rig the rope over multiple limbs when using a ground-level trunk anchor. If one limb breaks, then lower limbs may stop the fall.

Lead climbing

Lead climbing is employed by climber where points of protection are formed by girthing the tree's limbs with slings. Once the lead climber ascends the tree, they may create a belay or top rope anchor or else simply rappel down. If an anchor is created, then other climbers can subsequently climb the tree on belay without having to lead. Drawbacks to this method include the probability of hitting a lower limb or the main trunk in the event of a fall.

See also

Related Research Articles

Climbing protection is any of a variety of devices employed to reduce risk and protect others while climbing rock and ice. It includes such items as nylon webbing and metal nuts, cams, bolts, and pitons.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Traditional climbing</span> Style of rock climbing

Traditional climbing is a style of rock climbing in which the climber places all the necessary protection gear required to arrest any falls as they are climbing, and then removes it when the pitch is complete. Traditional bolted aid climbing means the bolts were placed while on lead and/or with hand drills. Traditional climbing carries a higher level of risk than bolted sport climbing, as the climber may not have placed the safety equipment correctly while trying to ascend the route; for some of the world's hardest climbs, there may not be sufficient cracks or features in the rock that can accept protection gear, and the climb can only be safely attempted by bolting as a sport climb.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Glossary of climbing terms</span> List of definitions of terms and concepts related to rock climbing and mountaineering

This glossary of climbing terms is a list of definitions of terms and jargon related to rock climbing and mountaineering. The specific terms used can vary considerably between different English-speaking countries; many of the phrases described here are particular to the United States and the United Kingdom.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Rock-climbing equipment</span>

A wide range of equipment is used during rock or any other type of climbing that includes equipment commonly used to protect a climber against the consequences of a fall.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Abseiling</span> Rope-controlled descent of a vertical surface

Abseiling, also known as rappelling, is the controlled descent of a steep slope, such as a rock face, by moving down a rope. When abseiling the person descending controls their own movement down the rope, in contrast to lowering off in which the rope attached to the person descending is paid out by their belayer.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Aid climbing</span> Style of climbing

Aid climbing is a style of climbing in which standing on or pulling oneself up via devices attached to fixed or placed protection is used to make upward progress.

Self-locking devices are devices intended to arrest the fall of solo climbers who climb without partners. This device is used for back rope solo climbing for "ground-up climbing" or "top rope self belaying". To date, several types of such self-locking devices have evolved.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Belaying</span> Rock climbing safety technique using ropes

Belaying is a variety of techniques climbers use to create friction within a climbing system, particularly on a climbing rope, so that a falling climber does not fall very far. A climbing partner typically applies tension at the other end of the rope whenever the climber is not moving, and removes the tension from the rope whenever the climber needs more rope to continue climbing.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Lead climbing</span> Competitive discipline of sport climbing

Lead climbing is a climbing style, predominantly used in rock climbing. In a roped party one climber has to take the lead while the other climbers follow. The lead climber wears a harness attached to a climbing rope, which in turn is connected to the other climbers below the lead climber. While ascending the route, the lead climber periodically connects the rope to protection equipment for safety in the event of a fall. This protection can consist of permanent bolts, to which the climber clips quickdraws, or removable protection such as nuts and cams. One of the climbers below the lead climber acts as a belayer. The belayer gives out rope while the lead climber ascends and also stops the rope when the lead climber falls or wants to rest.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Top rope climbing</span> Rock climbing technique

Top rope climbing is a style in climbing in which the climber is securely attached to a rope which then passes up, through an anchor system at the top of the climb, and down to a belayer at the foot of the climb. The belayer takes in slack rope throughout the climb, so that if at any point the climber were to lose their hold, they would not fall more than a short distance.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Fall factor</span> Mathematical ratio relevant to climbing safety

In lead climbing using a dynamic rope, the fall factor (f) is the ratio of the height (h) a climber falls before the climber's rope begins to stretch and the rope length (L) available to absorb the energy of the fall,

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Rock climbing</span> Sport in which participants climb natural rock formations

Rock climbing is a sport in which participants climb up, across, or down natural rock formations. The goal is to reach the summit of a formation or the endpoint of a usually pre-defined route without falling. Rock climbing is a physically and mentally demanding sport, one that often tests a climber's strength, endurance, agility and balance along with mental control. Knowledge of proper climbing techniques and the use of specialized climbing equipment is crucial for the safe completion of routes.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Munter hitch</span> Adjustable knot used control friction in a belay system

The Munter hitch, also known as the Italian hitch, mezzo barcaiolo or the crossing hitch, is a simple adjustable knot, commonly used by climbers, cavers, and rescuers to control friction in a life-lining or belay system. To climbers, this hitch is also known as HMS, the abbreviation for the German term Halbmastwurfsicherung, meaning half clove hitch belay. This technique can be used with a special "pear-shaped" HMS locking carabiner, or any locking carabiner wide enough to take two turns of the rope.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ascender (climbing)</span> Devices used for ascending, braking, or protection in climbing

An ascender is a device used for directly ascending a rope, or for facilitating protection with a fixed rope when climbing on very steep mountain terrain.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Prusik knot</span> Type of knot

A Prusik is a friction hitch or knot used to attach a loop of cord around a rope, applied in climbing, canyoneering, mountaineering, caving, rope rescue, ziplining, and by arborists. The term Prusik is a name for both the loops of cord used to tie the hitch and the hitch itself, and the verb is "to prusik". More casually, the term is used for any friction hitch or device that can grab a rope. Due to the pronunciation, the word is often misspelled Prussik, Prussick, or Prussic.

In rock climbing, an anchor can be any device or method for attaching a climber, a rope, or a load above or onto a climbing surface—typically rock, ice, steep dirt, or a building—either permanently or temporarily. The intention of an anchor is case-specific but is usually for fall protection, primarily fall arrest and fall restraint. Climbing anchors are also used for hoisting, holding static loads, or redirecting a rope.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Single-rope technique</span>

Single-rope technique (SRT) is a set of methods used to descend and ascend on the same single rope. Single-rope technique is used in caving, potholing, rock climbing, canyoning, roped access for building maintenance and by arborists for tree climbing, although to avoid confusion in the tree climbing community, many have taken to calling it "stationary" rope technique.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Dynamic rope</span> Rope designed to stretch under load

A dynamic rope is a specially constructed, somewhat elastic rope used primarily in rock climbing, ice climbing, and mountaineering. This elasticity, or stretch, is the property that makes the rope dynamic—in contrast to a static rope that has only slight elongation under load. Greater elasticity allows a dynamic rope to more slowly absorb the energy of a sudden load, such from arresting a climber's fall, by reducing the peak force on the rope and thus the probability of the rope's catastrophic failure. A kernmantle rope is the most common type of dynamic rope now used. Since 1945, nylon has, because of its superior durability and strength, replaced all natural materials in climbing rope.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Belay device</span> Mechanical piece of climbing equipment

A belay device is a mechanical piece of climbing equipment used to control a rope during belaying. It is designed to improve belay safety for the climber by allowing the belayer to manage their duties with minimal physical effort. With the right belay device, a small, weak climber can easily arrest the fall of a much heavier partner. Belay devices act as a friction brake, so that when a climber falls with any slack in the rope, the fall is brought to a stop.


  1. Memory Lane - A History of ISA
  2. Kilgore, C. M.; et al. (2008). "Tree Canopy Research and Student Experiences Using the Doubled Rope Climbing Method" (PDF). Journal of the Botanical Research Institute of Texas. 2 (2). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-09-25.