Conifers are generally regarded as "evergreens." They are trees that form cones (hence the name) and their leaves are needlelike or scalelike. They tend to have only one main leader, rarely more. The lateral limbs tending to be significantly smaller in diameter than the adjacent trunk, and grow out, or out and down rather than generally upward as is common in deciduous trees. This characteristic of having one leader frequently makes it possible to ascend all the way to the extreme top of some of the conifers, something that can rarely be done in a deciduous tree.
As a general note, there are deciduous conifers (Larch or Tamarack) as well as broadleaf evergreens (Live Oak to name but one). Most rules have their exceptions.
It is fairly common among large evergreens to have a large number of dead limbs below the first sound limb, because of the density of the shade that the upper foliage imposes on the lower parts of the tree. There are three ways to deal with this:
1) Get a rope over the first sound limb above the dead limbs. Anchor the end of the rope to an adjacent tree and climb the free end with ascenders or,
2) Get a rope over a dead limb and pull the limb down, retrieve the rope get it over the next dead limb and pull it down... continue until you have cleared all of the dead from below the sound limb. Note - be ready to move fast when pulling down dead wood!
3) Get a rope over the first dead limb and anchor the rope around the trunk using the dead limb as a spur to prevent the anchor sliding down the trunk. This last technique involves some .judgment to determine whether the dead limb is solid enough to hold the very small, downward pressure involved.
Caution- Trees that are not in good general health may be dangerous to climb. Warning signs are: mushrooms or shelf fungi growing on the trunk or major limbs, a "hump" of soil on the ground on the side of the tree away from it's direction of lean, broken roots exposed at the surface, numerous visibly dead limbs; splits or lightening scars on the trunks, a heavy vine load, or a great deal of woodpecker damage. Any of these should trigger a yellow light in your brain and encourage you to go find a safer tree to play in unless you are very sure of what you are doing.
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