How Tree Climbing Works

Tree Climbing Training

You need some training, son!
You need some training, son!

Learning to safely climb a tree is a lot more involved than simply spying some sturdy looking branches that seem like they could hold your weight as you scramble to the top. It's very important to sign up for some training with an expert who can show you the ins and outs of recreational tree climbing, otherwise you could have some nasty bruises -- or much worse -- to show for your efforts.

When it comes to certification, there are two commonly recognized levels: facilitator and instructor. People trained as facilitators can lead group climbs, but they aren't qualified to teach tree-climbing techniques to beginners. For that, they have to be professional instructors. Instructors start out as facilitators, then after they gain some hands-on experience, they can take their training to the next level.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service is one organization that offers training sessions for instructor certification. It covers a variety of topics, including:

  • How to run training sessions and group climbs
  • How to assess tree hazards
  • How to use and care for equipment
  • How to follow proper safety practices
  • How to perform rescue techniques
  • How to master skills such as knot tying and methods for ascending and descending

Some of these topics are also covered in regular training sessions for newcomers to recreational tree climbing, but certified instructors have to know them like the back of their hands. During beginners' training courses -- which adhere to a strict instructor-to-climber ratio -- new climbers can expect instructors to run through the basics and double-check to make sure everyone is rigged properly before heading up.

While everyone's airborne, instructors not only keep an eye out for each climber's progress, but also note factors like a change in the weather, outside distractions that avert climbers' focus and bad advice being passed among the climbers.

And keep in mind, training isn't just for neophytes -- climbers looking to take their skills up a notch can attend instructional courses, too. Depending on where you go, some of the activities in the training could include branch walking, advanced line setting and other more complex climbing techniques.