Recreational tree climbing is in its infancy. We are still at the stage where - when you tell someone that you've been climbing a tree - that they look at you with an expression usually reserved for small, mud covered children, Alzheimer's patients and the mentally deranged and say something like "Really?" Their inflection implying thorough disbelief, as if you had told them that you are really from a planet over in the next solar system. This is especially so if you are "old enough to know better."
I have taught rock climbing for several years and enjoyed the time I have spent on rock faces, but when I climbed that first beech tree, I knew that I was into something special. The appeal is not easily explained though. I have heard it described as energizing, the theory being that the tree shares its energy with the climber and I suppose that is as good an explanation as any. All I can say for certain is that I invariably feel better when I come down than I did before I staited.
At any rate, enthusiasm is infectious. I have managed to infect many people since that first beech tree. With few exceptions, they get permanently hooked. My communication with the friends with whom I have shared tree climbing is frequent and full of the love of life.
One of the questions that everyone comes to though is "Why isn't there more written on how to do this?" Peter Jenkins, founder of Tree Climbers International has done much in this regard. Without Peter and TCI, I probably wouldn't have gotten started. The mysteries of friction hitch climbing would likely have remained a mystery. All of us who climb trees for fun owe Peter a debt of thanks and should support TCI by becoming members. Tom Ness and Sophia Sparks, who founded New Tribe, are also responsible, in a large part, for the popularity of the sport. Because they saw the wonder of it early on and had that rare combination of creative genius and skill, they invented and began producing lightweight gear specifically for recreational tree climbing, as well as supplying other equipment that is needed and not always readily available. You can leam a great deal just by reading Tom's descriptions of the gear in their catalog!
The sport is full of wonderful people whose one common theme is the love of trees.
I wasn't entirely comfortable writing this manual as I don't at all see myself as a luminary. But still the question was always there... "Why isn't there more written?" And the answer was always, "I don't know." So here I am. This manual can only be looked at as one person's attempt to perhaps round out what Peter, and others, have already made a good start at accomplishing.
I don't view this manual as an "end all" source. It is merely what I have learned to this point. I look forward to learning much more. In fact I hope, and indeed expect, that some of the people who use this manual as a source will be among those who teach me.
I need to stress that most of my climbing is done in the eastern part of the country; Since the eastern forests are markedly different from the western forests, there will be some differences in the way that I approach the subject vs. how a western tree climber would approach the subject. Most of the techniques are generally the same though, at least in the beginning.
The book you hold in your hand is a revision of the original manual. Since I wrote the original, I have had several years of teaching tree climbing at the local college. This has reshaped my thinking on some aspects of the sport. I have also learned one or two new techniques that, I feel, make things easier and/or safer for the entry level climber. In addition, some parts of the original manual were, upon sober reflection, either unnecessary or inappropriate for a guide aimed at newcomers. This revision is intended to reflect those changes.
There are now many individuals out there who are qualified to introduce a newcomer to the sport. I would encourage you to find one of these individuals. Your climbing experience will be safer and more enjoyable.
I hope this manual helps you towards understanding the techniques and language used in the tree climbing. It's a fan and exciting sport and I guarantee that you will feel exhilarated after your first climb, and after eveiy climb after that as well. I do. And so does every other tree climber that I know.
I look forward to seeing you out there. Dick Flowers
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