Tree Selection

HansonWould you choose to climb this giant eucalyptus tree?
TCI Photo Contest winning image by Adrian Hanson
Selecting a Safe Tree

Which tree is safe for climbing? Among big trees, little trees, skinny trees and all the different varieties of trees, there are lots of choices for those with a rope and harness. Here are the most important safety factors to keep in mind when making your selection.

  • The tree must be big enough to support you. The branches you loop your rope over need to be at least six inches (15 cm) in diameter. If they’re smaller than that, a branch could break when you put your weight on it. A tree with branches large enough for safe rope settings will usually be 18 inches (46 cm) in diameter or larger.
  • The tree must be healthy. Leave diseased, dying, or dead trees alone. Make sure to read "A Climber's Guide to Tree Inspection" for detailed information on identifying potential hazards in and around trees.
  • The tree must be safe from external hazards. Don’t ever climb a tree with power lines running through it. In addition, check for an active animal or bird nest. Hornets, bees, and wasps will not add to your climbing pleasure if they come after you; and an unhappy bird or mammal whose territory is being invaded can be very nasty indeed.
  • The tree should be appropriate to your skill and comfort levels. It won’t take long to figure out that you are over your head if the first sturdy branch starts 50 feet up and your best throw with a throw line is only 30 feet high! In addition, if your height ceiling (the “fear factor”) starts at 20 feet, a tree taller than this may not be much fun until you get more accustomed to climbing.

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