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Up close and personal: Tree climbing

December 22nd, 2014|


By Lea Sloan, Vice President of Communications

When I was invited to get a lesson in how to climb a tree with ropes by Peter and Patty Jenkins, husband and wife partners in Tree Climbers International (TCI), based in Atlanta, my adventurous side instantly said “YES!” But in the back of my mind I wondered whether I would freak out after I got 15 or 20 feet off the ground!

A recent business trip to Atlanta gave me the chance to find out. The setting was a magnificent willow oak in a park in a nearby town. Peter walked me through the basics: thick round nylon line, some very cool knots, adapted from Peter’s early days as a rock climber, a “saddle” that you sit on while hoisting yourself up, gloves and a helmet — so you don’t get bonked a branch or anything else dislodged by the ropes above you.

Peter tossed the throw-weight with a feeder line over a chosen fork in a branch about seven stories up with impressive ease, and pulled the soft nylon line up and over the leather sheath that guards the branch. The system for climbing is easy — standing in the rope stirrups (loops) made with a short attached line, and sliding the “magic knot” (Blake’s Hitch) up the main line, which pulls the saddle up. With a couple of practice stand-and-slides, I was on my way up.

American Forests' VP of Communications, Lea Sloan, about 20 feet up in a tree's canopy.Twenty feet up, I paused to rotate around and look. I felt anchored by the big tree, and calmly in its spell. Patty did look smaller, sitting at the picnic table below, but I felt no trace of fear. I kept on going, to within ten feet or so of the rope apex. It felt like the most natural thing in the world.

Coming down was effortless — an easily controlled slide down, slipping the Blake’s Hitch down the rope leader.

Peter, a certified arborist, started TCI in 1983. Customers used to tell him that it looked like he was having fun (he was) — and it sparked the idea for TCI. Decades later, with Patty on board as business and marketing chief, TCI has taught many thousands of people from all over the world, all ages (3 – 83) and walks of life, including professional arborists, how to climb trees safely and without harming the tree (no leg spikes or abrasive ropes). And with a track record of absolutely no injuries in more than 30 years in business — no people hurt either.

I’m hooked. Can’t wait to go bigger. I’d love to get into the canopy of a redwood or Douglas-fir — and spend the night in a hammock. The DNA from the tree creatures we’re all descended from must be alive and well in my cells, because I felt completely at home in that tree.

December 22nd, 2014|0 Comments

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