Thursday, December 15, 2011

Tree Climbing Difficulty Ratings

What can a tree climber expect in a climb?

Tree climbers use difficulty ratings. I got the idea of tree climbing difficulty ratings years ago from the rock climbers. It's a kind of barometer reading for tree climbers to get an idea of what kind of tree climbing they're getting into on a given climb.

Who gives the tree a difficulty rating number? It's usually based on the experience of the tree climber who makes the first ascent. The number might also be arrived at jointly from the tree climbing team. Is it exact? Certainly not. It's really an estimate. If the lead climber is having a bad tree climbing day, the numbers might be higher. If the tree is wet and slippery, the numbers will certainly go up. But it's just a ballpark idea of how hard it is to climb a specific tree. You can bet that the tree getting a difficulty rating also has a tree name.

A long 95-foot climb (first pitch) to the incredibly high treetop of “Obama the Tree,” a 40-inch diameter tulip tree (Liriodendron Tulipifera Linnaeus). From there it’s a 30-foot climb (second pitch) to the “summit branch”, the highest climbing point in the tree. Difficulty rating: 5.9
The tree to the right is “Rosie Red Oak” It’s not unusual to traverse over to “Rosie” before coming down. Climbers use the other end of their rope to do this (double rope end climbing).
 What's the use of difficulty ratings? Some people use them for bragging rights. But I don't see that too often with tree climbers. For some reason, tree climbers just don't seem to have a lot of ego issues. Maybe it's the calming affect the trees give to the tree climbers.

Tree climbing ratings can be useful. Where I have seen it used to good effect is in describing how hard it is going to be to climb a certain tree. So if I tell you that we are going to climb a 5.9 tree today, you’ll probably need a 200-foot rope and a bit of stamina. If I told you we were going to go climb a 4.5 tree, you might want to invite your significant other along for a little tree climbing party/social. Get the picture?

I really wish people would use the difficulty rating more often. I think it would save some folks some grief and frustration from getting into a climb that could be exhausting and over their heads as far as skillsets. It’s really much more fun if the tree climbing team is together on the same page and up for the adventure.


What difficulty rating would you rate your favorite climbing tree?

5 comments:

  1. so what do the numbers indicate? For example, how would you know that a 5.9 would need a 200' rope?

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  2. and what is the lower, and the higher number you can give for a tree? (size of the scale)

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  3. Difficulty is not solely based on height. The numbers are based on a climber's experience. If you are a working climber, a climb might be easy to you because you do it 8 hours a day. If you are new to climbing with a rope and saddle, that first pitch climbing up 50 feet might be truly daunting. Click on the link to get more details on rating a climb.

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  4. Treeman, true that on height not being the sole indicator of a higher rating. Example: a tree may only be 40', not high by my standards, but if it has poison ivy growing up its trunk the rating of a #2.5 tree automaticly jumps to a 4. Reason being that you have to take a branch route up rather than a trunk route. Also, rope management being of a greater importance due to not wanting to get PI residue all over my rope.

    2chops

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  5. So where is the latest standard?

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