During one of our climbs last May, we had people from 7 years to 76 years of age in a tree at the same time. There was a family of 2 children, mom, dad, and grandfather who all had time on rope. There was a father and son as well as a mother and daughter climbing that day. Like most climbs, we also had a few siblings as well as a handful of single climbers.
Growing up in a house of 6 boys, many of our back yard activities involved sports. That was a lot of fun; if you were the oldest. It was hard to get a fair game of 3-on-3 football going when dealing with an age span from 7 to 19 and height difference from 3 ½’ to 5 ½’.
Gatherings with my brothers and their families these days presents us with an age span of 5 to 50. Probably the same as your family, we see the different age groups splintering off to play with each other.
That all changes when Uncle Curt shows up and the ropes are set in the tree. Everyone comes wandering back together for an afternoon of family fun.
Individual Challenge, Joint Experience
With tree climbing, each person climbs on their own rope. There could be twelve of us in the tree at any given time. While climbing the tree together, you get to face your own challenges, set your own goals, and have your own successes. And I get to have mine.
At the multi-generational climb in May, a fear of heights was the challenge for two of the climbers. One successfully reached the first branch at 15 feet above the ground. The other was able to push until she could sit on a branch 25 feet up.
One person was challenged with the technique, yet he persisted and reached his goal of climbing high enough to see out across the park.
With the father and son, we were able to help the young boy reach the height he was most comfortable at. Once he returned closer to the ground, he repeated the ascent process. When he discovered the sensation of being swung through the air, we could not swing him high enough! Once the father realized the son was able to climb on his own, dad was able to focus inward and head for the top of the tree. Pushing himself ever higher, he too reached his goal as he stood on a branch near the top of the tree.
A young girl’s face glowed with excitement as she watched her parents and grandfather climbing the tree with her and her sister! Her lack of fear and inhibition led her to higher points in the tree, all the while encouraging her family to continue their journeys and join her. Three generations playing together.
The mother and daughter were able to ascend ropes next to each other and approached the climb similar to a casual hike. The bond they shared was apparent in their conversation during their time together that morning.
Two of the observing parents commented on how focused their children were while climbing, that they never asked for their electronic devices which were left back in the car.
For those who had never visited the park we were climbing in that day, most were unaware that a river flows by only 30 feet from our climbing tree as it is screened by tall grass along the bank. With the elevated perspective, the river came into view for the climbers. At one point, all climbers were able to catch a glimpse of passing canoeists and shout out a cheerful greeting to the bewildered paddlers. I would have loved to seen the faces of the paddlers, or better yet, had their view of people hanging in the trees on a seemingly secluded stretch of the Fox River.
While all of the climbers enjoyed the same tree and views of the river and park, they each came away with something completely different. Every ascent is a new venture, a new challenge, and an opportunity to reach a new goal. We spend the time together, yet it is your personal experience which provides the greatest impact and long-lasting memories.
Afterwards, climbers often continue the conversation over lunch or on the ride home in order to share personal experiences, observations, and successes during their day in the trees.
These kinds of climbs, with diverse groups and even my own brothers, nieces and nephews at a family gathering are what make me treasure activities like tree climbing. Activities that open up an experience that can be enjoyed by individuals, families, couples, friends, clubs, and a variety of groups or teams. The bond that is created is real.
What diverse group are you part of that could benefit from being in a tree together?
As an I.S.A. Certified Arborist, T.C.I.A. Certified Treecare Safety Professional, T.C.I.A. Climber Specialist, and GOTC Recognized Instructor, Curt has spent over 25 years dedicated to the study and care of trees.