Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Extreme Tree Climbing

Meteor Shower Watching From the Treetops: Jan 3, 2012

Have you ever watched a meteor shower from the treetops? Here’s an extreme tree climbing adventure you’ll wow your friends with and remember a lifetime. You’ll get your chance Tuesday night, January 3, when the Quadrantids, one of the best but least-known meteor showers, will shine in the new year.

Peak viewing time:
3-4 AM EST
Where to look: North east. Look at the bottom of the handle of the Big Dipper.
Best viewing conditions: Clear sky. Away from city lights.
Peak meteor numbers: Up to 120 per hour!
Meteor details: Bright. Blue in color. Some will blaze nearly half way across the sky. Some may leave a persistent dust train. The meteors evaporate just 50 miles above the earth’s surface traveling at 250 miles per hour!

How do you watch meteors from the treetops? It’s easy when you know what to do:

Here's my viewing station — it's a Portaledge outfitted for comfort. The two bundles in the middle are pillows.
How do you watch meteors from the treetops? It’s easy when you know what to do:
  • First check the weather. You won’t see much if it is cloudy or worse, raining.
  • Select a tree next. Choose a hardwood that has dropped all the leaves. You want to be able to see through the treetop. You don’t have to go to the top of the tree. You only need a tree that allows you to set up a Tree boat or Portaledge.
  • Set up during the day. Nighttime rigging is risky and takes much more time. Use a fixed line you set up during the day to get to your hammock setup. It’s wise to leave your bed made up and ready for use.
  • Don’t want to leave your gear up in the tree? Use a single point suspension Portaledge you pre rigged with a rope during the day. Make your bed on the ground, hoist it up, tie it off at the trunk and you’re set to go.
  • Important! Prepare for extreme cold. You must use a Thermolite insulating pad or Treeboat Cozy. If you don’t use a pad, you loose enormous amounts of body heat from radiant heat loss. You’ll freeze!! Use a sleeping bag that will take you down well below the predicted low. Wear a warm head cover as well.
  • Bring food and a hot beverage. The hot drink is a major bonus! Which leads to the next important item.
  • Bring a pee bottle. It’s wise to practice the technique (using a pee bottle) at least once aloft before going on your star gazing outing. You can practice low. Remain tied in at all times- that’s the catch. Guys- use a large mouthed plastic bottle. Ladies- You can drop the leg straps of New Tribe saddles and easily reconnect them after you have done the deed. They make special pee bottles for women but I have been told Tupperware/ type plastic containers work just as well. Hang your pee bottle off the side where your feet are. You don’t want to mistakenly grab the wrong container for drinking. If you miss or get something wet- hey, it’s only yellow rain. It all comes out in the wash, no?
  • Use a red filtered flashlight. If you need to look at a map or find something, the red filter will not destroy your night vision like regular flashlights do.
  • Never go off rope. Always stay tied in.

So who’s going to give this adventure a go? We expect a report back on how it goes; good or bad. Calling all extreme tree climbers...


  1. Quite a cadillac setup Treeman. I really like those Portaledges.... Single point or traverse anchors...stable platform....sweeeeet. Enjoy the Quadrantids. BTW nice blogs!

  2. Make some good wishes too!

  3. Folks, I ain't doing it! Yep- backing out. Going to be in the 20's with 30 mph winds. That will bring the chill factor down to single digits. The Weather Channel even put up a frost bite warning!! Can you imagine- frost bite in the South?

    There is nothing worse for the voice than cold air. It wrecks the vocal chords. It's really bad medicine if you do voice work, like recording voice tracks; something I do.

    So I am being sensible here. But I have to admit I hate backing out of something. Always try to be my word.

    So if anyone else goes out to check out the shower, please tell us all here about it. Even if you watch from the ground.

  4. Aerovet,
    Portaledges are great if you have deep pockets (expensive), a strong back (8+ pounds), or for trees that only allow single point suspension, like pines and other conifers. They are also great if you have back problems that don't like hammocks that sag in the middle. It's like sleeping on a canvas cot. You have to sleep on an air cushion or Thermolite. If you don't, radiant heat loss will bite you around 2 AM; even in summer.

    I did some experimenting with hanging the Portaledge on a Petzl sealed bearing swivel. When the wind would come up it would spin the Portaledge. Sort of like sleeping atop a propeller. You could get better spin by hanging a jacket on one corner. If you look up, you get a little woozy. But after nightfall, everything goes to near black and my internal gyroscope calms down. In fact, it created a really magnificent slumber. A real rock- a- by- baby kind of experience which is a big plus for me with my not so perfect sleeping problems.

  5. a friend of mine made his own portaledge, by welding aluminum tubes and sewing a tarpaulin (? not sure about translation). it really works and costs so much less money!
    pete, i think you'll be more successful with your proposal if you do it in spring, or summer ^^ ! in france, we've got a "star shower" every year, around 10-11th of august. i've never tried to live this experiment from the top of a tree, but i'll try at least one time! thanks for the idea!