Children’s activity grows up
By ROBERT A. DEFRANK
Times Leader Staff Writer
LOUNDONVILLE, Ohio — A fun activity many of us recall from childhood, tree climbing has become a sport to be enjoyed by all ages thanks to innovations in scaling the towering trunks.
One business that facilitates tree climbers is Natural Fit in Loudonville, Ohio. The owners say tree climbing is gaining popularity for a wide variety of people.
“If you can walk up stairs, you can climb a tree with this method,” co-owner Tim Mason said, adding that he became involved in the sport as an outgrowth of his career dealing with natural surroundings. “My background is in wildlife biology, so having a background in outdoors/natural resources, it was sort of a natural flow to look at investigating trees in a different way.”
He said the secret is the use of rope, which he said opens the sport to a wider clientele.
“In recreational tree climbing, we use what’s known as a double-rope technique,” he said. “The way that works is you put a rope over a tree limb, so you’re pulling yourself up by your feet instead of upper body. So it’s all leg strength instead of any upper body strength.”
He also pointed out the surprising simplicity involved in tree climbing using this method.
“We use that method because that’s probably the safest method. It’s also all frictionless because there are no mechanical devices,” he said.
“So anyone can climb with this style. I have climbed with as young as 3 years old and as old as 87 years old,” he said. “That’s just the method we use. It makes it easy, and just about anyone, all ability levels, will be able to do that.”
He also pointed out the variety of trees that are accessible with this method.
“We can climb any tree that has large enough limbs to support a person’s weight. We typically climb the hardwoods. That would be oak, maple, sycamore, trees like that,” he said. “We will go as high in the tree as the limbs allow us, so as long as there’s a safe limb for the rope to attach to, we will go that height.”
Mason explained the draw of people to tree climbing. He spoke about the sensation of outdoor activity as well as the unique excitement and reward of climbing.
“I believe the attraction here is everybody has climbed a tree when they were a kid, and this allows us to do that safely because you’re on a rope and you don’t have the risk of falling like you would in other tree climbing, and you have the opportunity to see the tree from a bird’s-eye view, because you’re right up there in the tree with the birds,” he said.
“There’s very much a natural feel. You can look down on the world from 70 feet at the top of the tree and you just get a different perspective about not only the tree but the ground below,” he said.
Mason also pointed out the comparative lack of equipment required for this sport.
“Participants wear head protection to keep you from bumping your head on a limb,” he said. “We use recreational tree-climbing saddles and a harness that’s designed for recreational tree climbing.”
Mason said there has been a high level of interest in the activity.
“We do a lot of event climbs for festivals. City parks and county parks holding a festival, we get clients for that. We do some specialty birthday-type climbs where people want to do something different for a birthday,” he said. “It’s just a fun outdoor activity.”