Tree Climbing Classes

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8 years 7 months ago #137470 by Tree-D
Tree Climbing Classes was created by Tree-D
I mention classes in most of my posts. Maybe you are wondering, what can you learn in a class, and what can you do with those new skills?

All of my classes were taught by Tim Kovar of Tree Climbing Planet. Most of my classes were at his place up in Portland, Oregon, although a few were taught down here in the San Francisco Bay Area and in the Santa Cruz mountains. Your mileage may vary… but here are the classes I have taken, a little bit about what I learned in each class, and what I did with that knowledge!

I jumped in with both feet, and started with a Basic Tree Week. In one week I learned the following things that might be taught as different classes:
 - Go on a Facilitated Climb (~3 hours)
 - Basic Tree Climbing Class (~2.5 days)
 - Beyond the Basics (~2 days)
 - Intro to SRT (~1 day)
 - Climb a wild tree. (~1 day)

Go on a Facilitated Climb.
-What is it?
This just takes a few hours. DRT systems were already in the tree and set up for us. Someone helped me into my saddle to make sure it was on correctly, and checked to make sure my helmet was buckled. I learned how to climb up using DRT, I stood on a branch and looked around for a bit, and then came back down. It was a one-dimensional activity—straight up and straight down—but still very cool for someone who had not been up a tree in thirty years!
-What did I do with it?
I had fun, texted my friends some pictures, and got excited about learning more!

Basic Tree Climbing Class (BTCC).
-What is it?
This is generally a two- or three-day class. It is also possible to take this class online through TCI's "At Home BTCC,” and your final exam would be administered in person by a certified Reviewer, but more on that later. I learned how to inspect my gear and a tree, how to set my own rope in a tree, and how to tie the DRT system myself. Once I learned all that, I could set a rope from the ground, AND I could pull up the other end of my rope to set up a second anchor! This changes everything! By having two anchors, climbing goes from one-dimensional climbing up-and-down to a three-dimensional exploration of the entire canopy!
-What did I do with it?
I have logged 51 DRT climbs in the last two years, in 22 individual trees, representing eight different species of trees. I have sat on branches, laid on thick moss, I climbed one tree then climbed over into a second tree before I came down to the ground, I bought a headlamp and did night climbs, I have watched sunrises and sunsets while perched sleepily on branches… and all of this was possible just using the skills I learned in a BTCC!

Beyond the Basics.
-What is it?
We learned how to use a positioning lanyard, and we learned how to lift loads safely (backpack, lunch, treeboats, etc). Climbing somewhere that is easy to get to is one thing, but setting up a treeboat really puts your climbing to the test! The treeboat can only fit where it can fit, so you have to climb out to places that are tricky to get to but make great treeboat anchors. I needed both ends of my rope, the load-lift system, and my lanyard to set up my first treeboat, and it took me forever to get everything just right. But what a rewarding place to lay down when it was done! We also learned how to rescue a cat, although I have not done that yet.
-What did I do with it?
On some of those 51 DRT climbs, I have pulled my backpack up to get my lunch and a jacket, I have lowered my backpack down when I was done. I have fallen asleep in a treeboat 40 feet off the ground to the gentle sway of branches, spent the night comfortably, and then I woke up to the sound of songbirds as the sky slowly lit up while the world was still. I think I could safely rescue a cat, and I could also do a pretty sweet job of hanging lights in a tree with the skills I learned in this class.

Intro to SRT.
-What is it?
We learned how to fire a Big Shot, how to tie a base-anchor, how to climb using the Texas system, how to use three different kinds of rappelling devices/techniques, and how to safely switch from climbing to descending.
-What did I do with it?
I have logged 22 SRT climbs in the last two years in eleven individual trees representing five species. I have climbed into a redwood using SRT, hauled up a second pack, set up a DRT system, and then climbed DRT in the canopy until it was time to get back on the SRT rope and rappel down. I have taken pictures of lichen, and I have noticed how different the needles look at the top of a redwood compared to the understory. I have heard a hawk land in my tree and then watched it fly away BELOW me.

Climb a wild tree!
-What is it?
This was our opportunity to practice everything we learned in Basic Tree Week, but in a wild and unexplored tree! Shaggy branches in your face? You bet! Unexpected ants? Not for me, but Brandon found some! Small dead branches to avoid breaking and avoid getting scratched by? Yes! A whole tree all to myself, for the first time!
-What did I do with it?
I use my tree inspection skills before and during EVERY climb I do now!

In the two years since my Basic Tree Week, I went on to take more classes…

DRT Rescue.
-What is it?
This was a very intense two-day class. We learned how to help other climbers who may be stuck, injured, unconscious, or all three. In my opinion, rescue training is what separates a true climbing buddy from someone I have to—well, I'm sorry, but—babysit. Multi-pitch DRT rescue of an unconscious victim? Very challenging, and good to know!
-What have I done with it?
Thankfully I have NOT had to rescue an unconscious climber! But after I had rescue training and gained enough climbing experience, I was eligible to become a TCI Reviewer. (Remember? That means I can run the final exam for people who take the online "AHBTCC.") I have practiced rescues with my friends who are also rescue-trained. And, while climbing together, we have even said, "Hey! I need a pizza delivery over here!" Which is our code for, "Come do a practice rescue on me! I called it first, so you've got to do it, sucker!" (We don't say, “Hey! Come rescue me!" unless we mean it. We don't want a stray hiker or neighbor to hear us and call the fire department unless it’s necessary.)

Advanced SRT Training.
-What is it?
This was a custom three-day class where we learned how to set aerial choke anchors, how to climb up SRT in multiple pitches using both ends of the rope via the Texas system, and how to rappel back down in multiple pitches safely. We also learned a few ways of doing single-pitch SRT rescues. (More rescue training to separate a true SRT climbing buddy from a fellow climber who probably can't rescue me in an emergency.) We also learned how to climb using a Rope Wrench. Some people love the increased efficiency and speed, but I prefer the versatility of Texas. My buddy, Gary, likes the speed of a Rope Wrench, but always carries all the parts to set up Texas in case things get hairy.
-What have I done with it?
I climbed a 200+ foot tall redwood tree. The LOWEST branch was 120' high, and it took me six more pitches to get to the top. It took me three pitches to get back down. I was off the ground for five hours. Good thing I had snacks and a full water bottle! That was an amazing long climb. I have also practiced SRT rescues with my rescue-trained buddies many times. Sometimes it goes smoothly, sometimes we laugh hysterically at how slow we are, but we always do it safely, and we always learn something.

Facilitator Training.
-What is it?
This was a week-long class where we learned how to help people climb for their first time. We learned even more about rescues and inspections, about how to clear out small deadwood, and about getting a certified arborist to inspect a tree for us. We learned about adjusting gear for different body types, and we learned two assisted DRT systems for climbers who have a hard time climbing the standard DRT system. We learned about the equipment and insurance necessary to start a small business of taking people climbing.
-What have I done with it?
I have taken 106 people on Facilitated Climbs for their first time: 21 events, 72 adults, 34 kids. Ages 6 to 81. I have helped entire families climb together, more than once! I helped take the board of directors from the Academy of Sciences out for an evening climb, and I took friends climbing who went on to take classes of their own.

I am now an Assistant Instructor. I helped teach one class, and had an amazing time listening carefully, taking notes, and watching a BTCC being taught. I wasn’t a climbing student, and I wasn’t a climbing instructor… I hovered in between, as a student instructor. Honestly, I knew—from my very first day in a tree—that this is what I wanted to do: to teach others. I will be an Assistant Instructor, taking on a little more responsibility at each class, until I am ready to teach classes alone.

There are a number of excellent, careful, and sincere instructors out there in the world! They each have their own style and emphasis, but I am pretty confident in saying they all teach tried and true techniques. Yes, techniques and equipment have changed slowly over the years, and will probably continue to do so, but new techniques and equipment are subjected to extensive testing and hundreds of hours of field use by experienced climbers in our community before you'll see instructors begin to incorporate them into classes.

I haven’t told you anything you couldn’t learn just by clicking on the Education tab at the top of this TCI page, or by looking at the descriptions of classes offered by Tree Climbing Planet or other certified instructors, but I hope you enjoyed reading about my experiences.
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