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What is Tree Climbing?

Nychole Price
Nychole Price

Tree climbing is done as a hobby, or a job. The purpose of tree climbing, as a hobby, is to climb as high as possible. Those that climb trees for work are known as tree trimmers and are usually looking to remove branches. Tree climbing can be done free solo, with a rope and harness or with spikes.

Free solo climbing is strictly for recreational purposes. It is usually done for the sole purpose of an adrenaline rush. Children who climb trees are free solo climbing, as they are young and haven't yet learned rope techniques. How high a person climbs is dependent upon how well they know the route, their skills and abilities and the risks the tree presents.

Trees may be climbed for fun or for professional trimming purposes.
Trees may be climbed for fun or for professional trimming purposes.

The rope and harness technique for climbing trees is the most popular. Unlike climbing with spurs, there is no harm done to the tree. This technique is done with a tree climbing harness, carabiners, helmet and gloves. Tree trimmers use this technique most often, as it ensures the safety of the climbers.

There are two types of rope techniques to use; single rope, or SRT and double rope, or DRT. Single rope technique is used for trees taller than 100 feet (30.48m), such as firs, redwoods or spruce, as the routes usually form a straight line. When making ascents with the SRT technique, an ascender is used. This is a device that locks in place should the climber fall. A petzl stop is used when descending, as it slows the descent when the handle is released.

The single-rope technique is used for climbing tall trees like redwoods.
The single-rope technique is used for climbing tall trees like redwoods.

The double rope technique is used when climbing trees less than 100 feet tall (30.48m), such as maples, poplars, oaks and pines. DRT offers extra protection due to the additional rope, and prevents drag. To use the DRT, a person tosses the rope over the branch in which they are attempting to climb and secures it to the saddle with a Blake's hitch knot. The climber than pulls on one side of the rope to pull themselves upwards towards the branch.

Climbing trees with spikes is one of the easier methods, but it is more risky and may damage the tree being climbed. Spikes must be worn with high top boots to prevent impaling yourself. Attach the spikes to your boots immediately before the climb to avoid walking on them and increase your chances of injury. Secure a safety line and check the tree for loose bark to avoid slipping. Climb the tree by stabbing the spikes into the trunk and working your way upwards.

Discussion Comments


A nice article. I should point out that it is a little dismissive of free tree climbing, which really is a lot more than an adrenaline rush/the activity of children. It's a much more physically and mentally challenging endeavor than climbing with equipment and harnesses. Equipment serves its purpose, but let's not be too dismissive of the benefits of free tree climbing.


I never used any professional tree climbing supplies, but I did use some thick rope that I found in my dad's shop to help me climb a big tree. I did have a slight fear of heights, and I knew that if I was going to be successful at getting up in the tree, I needed some security.

There was a huge branch about twenty feet up in the air, and this was my destination. I threw the rope up and over the branch, and I brought the end of it down to meet the end I was holding. I made a loose knot further up, and I grabbed onto both sides of the rope and began pulling myself up.

I did slip once while climbing, and I grasped that rope with all my might. I think I gave myself rope burn, but it was worth it!


I remember how fun it was to climb trees when I was a child. They were like natural playgrounds waiting to be explored.

Some of my friends were more daring than I, so they would climb large, tall trees. I preferred the ones with branches closer to the ground, which usually weren't the oldest and sturdiest.

When one of my friends slipped on a tree branch and fell fifteen feet to the ground, he broke his arm. He also decided to stick to climbing shorter trees with me. It really is a lot safer.


@lighth0se33 – A firefighter rescued my neighbor's cat with a ladder, but this cat wasn't terribly high up in the tree. Our local fire department is very good about responding to cat rescue calls, though I have heard that some in other neighborhoods have flat-out refused, stating that the cat will come down on its own, and it's not worth risking the life of the fireman.

I think that the best thing to do is to call a professional rescue service. There are organizations that will send someone out with the proper tree climbing equipment to retrieve your animal. They are also trained in how to properly capture and handle the cat, so this would increase the likelihood that your pet would be returned to the ground safely.


Has anyone here ever had a cat that got stuck up in a tree? I have heard of firefighters climbing trees to rescue cats that got up there but couldn't seem to figure out how to get down.

I am just curious about what method they use to climb the tree. I picture them using a ladder in my mind, but that could just be because the fire trucks always have a ladder on them.

The only cat rescue I have ever seen was on a children's movie, and I don't know whether it was designed to reflect reality or not. It seems to me that if the tree is really tall, something other than a ladder would need to be used.

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    • Trees may be climbed for fun or for professional trimming purposes.
      By: Sergey Belov
      Trees may be climbed for fun or for professional trimming purposes.
    • The single-rope technique is used for climbing tall trees like redwoods.
      By: Jgz
      The single-rope technique is used for climbing tall trees like redwoods.