Rainy Day Thinking
Rainy days and cold weather are conducive to deep thought and philosophizing. I have decided to use the time to jot down some thoughts that define my approach to recreational tree climbing. Note: I say MY approach! I am in no way suggesting that anyone else see things the same way as myself. Although this was done as nothing more than a rainy day activity to pass the time I have decided to pass it along. You dont have to agree with all of this, but I do ask that you show tolerance and respect for someone who may not climb for the same reasons or in the same way as yourself.
The thoughts presented here have no relationship with the way that I climb when working at the formal or program level. This is me, on my own, out in the forest with my gear on my back and climbing on my mind.
First and most importantly: "You have your way, I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, the only way, it does not exist." Friedrich Nietzsche
I have always been seriously aggravated by other climbers who suggest and even sometimes insist that I climb their way and who imply that I am doing things wrong simply because I am not imitating their style. I am always willing to watch how others climb and sometimes I will borrow from what I have seen if I see an opportunity to improve on my own style of climbing. Your way is as valid as mine, neither of us is right or wrong, we each do what works for us.
Second: I will examine and research and learn as many different techniques and ways to climb as possible. The bigger my figurative kitbag the better I will be at taking on those challenges that present themselves to me as I climb. However, while climbing I try to keep things at the simplest and most basic level possible. It has always been a belief of mine that the climber who can successfully climb the most challenging trees while using only the simplest and least complicated systems is a better climber than those who cannot or will not climb at that same level without more advanced and more complex gear and technique. My favorite quote comes from DaVinci: "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication."
Third: Climbing at the basic level allows for carrying minimal equipment. While I am just as much of a gearhound as any of you, I will leave behind what I dont need when heading out for a climb beyond the end of the road. There are tools that are necessary in order to climb, then there are gadgets that are fun to own and can, in some instances, actually help with climbing. The tools are a necessity, the gadgets are not. For the most part, I leave the gadgets behind; they help satisfy the lust for gear but they do little to actually help with the climbing.
Fourth: My favorite place to climb is deep remote forest. The farther I move away from the figurative end of the road the happier I am. Being in deep forest intensifies the freedom mentioned below. My favorite trees to climb are the really challenging trees that lie within such remote areas. Notice that I did not say big or tall; I said challenging. A tree does not have to be the biggest or highest tree in the forest to allow me a wonderful climb. I am past the idea that one has to climb big and high in order to have had a great climb. Nevertheless, I do quite often go for the biggest and the highest! And yes...I have climbed a redwood.
Fifth: My favorite way to climb is solo, alone. While alone I can choose any tree that takes my fancy and I can climb it as slowly or as quickly as I like. I can climb it however I like. I am on no one elses agenda. I am free. While climbing solo it is easier to find the zone and to lose myself to the climb, the tree, and the forest. Sixth: I try to be self-reliant. If I get myself into trouble I want to be able to get myself out of trouble. Having to call for Help! is a cop-out! In many of the places where I climb, being able to call for help is not an option; 911 does not live there. While climbing I like to maintain a state of escapability, meaning that I try always to make sure that I am able to back out of wherever I find myself, that I am able to go into reverse and climb away from whatever situation I may have climbed myself into: Being able to take care of myself trumps being able to call for a rescue.
Seventh: Being in the top of a tree in the middle of some really remote place is what its all about for me. Lengthy discussions about the systems I use, the physics involved, the gear, the technology, all of these take second place to the simple reality of being there. Those things are important; I wouldnt be in the top of the tree without them. But those things are nothing more than the tools that I use along the way to where Im headed. Its all about the journey and the destination, not about the systems, gear, and technology that take me along the way and to the top.
Eighth: For climbing in my favorite placesremote wilderness, swamps, rainforest, along rivers etc.it is necessary to have good wilderness skills and to exercise a wilderness ethic. Simply being a good climber is not enough. Knowing how to climb the tree is one set of skills, knowing how to find the tree and return safely from the climb is another set of skills. Both are necessary. Wilderness ethics asks that I leave both the tree and the forest as I found it. Those who cannot or are unwilling to climb in this manner should, in my opinion, stay out of the forest!
Ninth: While on a personal climb (ie: alone, solo, wilderness, wild tree, etc.) I climb quietly, gently, softly while trying to be part of the forest. This is not done to hide from authority; this is not Ninja technique. One secondary outcome of this style, however, is that you do not attract attention to yourself and that includes authority figures who might not appreciate your presence. I reiterate: This is not done to avoid authority but rather to become part of the forest.
Tenth: Climbers have different reasons for climbing. Some climb because its their job; others because its fun. There are those who climb because they like playing with the gear or trying to experiment with new systems. Some climb just to see how high and how fast they can climb. There are climbers who go into the canopy to collect scientific data and do research. Some climb purely for a thrill. These, and most other reasons for climbing, are all totally acceptable and valid reasons for going into the treetop world.
My personal reason for climbing (at the informal non-program level) is to expand my enjoyment of wilderness. Climbing into the canopy allows me to view the forest from a perspective unavailable to those who remain below. It raises the experience of wilderness to a higher level, providing a unique view of the forest. Very subjective approach, I admit, but just as valid as everybody elses reasons for climbing.