Sunday, December 11, 2011

The “Getting Away From It All” Factor of Tree Climbing

I don't want to sound trite, but tree climbing gives me a way to get away from it all. Tree climbing puts me in a completely different space. It's a place where I can get a little peace and quiet. My own little private spot. If you climbed trees as a kid, you know what I'm talking about.

I've done a little scientific study. Well, sort of scientific. Here's the question. How far do you have to climb to get a feeling of disconnect? I'm talking about the feeling of separating yourself from the world. I'm talking about a place in the vertical world, above ground; where you can get a little introspective. Become an observer of the world on the ground below.

I've come up with a figure: 25 feet. That's all you need. How did I come up with that number? I made hundreds of observations at the Tree Climbers International school. That’s my laboratory.

Laurie "Flash" Feig Sandoval gets "the disconnect" in a 90 foot white oak (Quercus alba) named "New Start". Difficulty rating 5.6
 I'm a big fan of psychology. One of the big things that has me interested is the reaction of people when they leave the ground and climb up the rope into a big tree.

At first people are hesitant. They are figuring out how to work the knots and building trust in the system. After they get past those early stages, it gets interesting. The new climbers are now suspended in air. We call it the “Peter Pan Effect”. They are floating in space. When they get to a branch the new climbers usually stop. Sometimes they stand on the branch, other times they sit on the branch. Or they just hang in midair. Then they just look around. This is “the disconnect”.

When you get “the disconnect” in a big tree, you become an observer. It's a shift in perspective. You are now looking down at the world below you. There's a separation between you and those below. It’s a visual kind of cotton candy fascination, and it lives in a 3 dimensional world of height.

This “other worldly” sense of height and disconnect is easy to read on climber’s faces. A light seems to turn on. It doesn't matter whether your are a new climber or an old hand at tree climbing. That feeling of wonder and peace isn’t too far away up in a tree. I think it takes only 25 feet. That is my own unscientific opinion.


  1. very poetic, treeman
    i often have this feeling, to be in another world. specially in the largest trees (for example, a 45 meters tulip tree who received me 2 times. he's a world by himself)
    but sometimes, i get this feeling in front of a tree, standing on the ground. i see him, then i see a whole world. it happened to me around ten times, and no matter with the tree's height. it depends of something else i can't name, but it's real.

  2. 25', the height of the peak of your average 2 story home. Or the height of the average utility pole. Funny thing about the 25' height is that by my observation, you are not a part of the earth bound folk. I have a place that I climb in often which is used by many for dog walking, biking, etc. I've been about 25' up when they've walked right by my tree, looked at the rope coil on the ground that is running up into the canopy, and not even glance up to see why a rope is in the tree. I did not exhist to those folks. Fact...people do not look up, unless they've been trained to look up. It's in our collective DNA to look down. Goes back to our hunter/ gatherer days.


  3. Nice indeed. There is something majestic about trees and all it takes is a close look. A glimpse of my past and future are reported in each limb, each twig, and leaf. It was here before me and it will be here after me kinda feeling. Most endearing to me is the silent, watchful, nurturing aspect. Never asking, only giving.