Tree-climbing is emerging as a recreational sport, similar to rock climbing.
Local instructor Guy Mott says tree-climbing builds muscles and can lead to improved fitness and weight loss.
“If you engage in a tree climb, it is a full-body workout. It is much more interactive and therapeutic to be outside as opposed to a gym,” said Mott. “It helps people to gain an appreciation for nature.”
Because of the rope and harness system, participants need only basic physical ability, such as being able to easily climb a flight of stairs, he said.
Mott is a certified arborist who teaches a class in climbing that has been offered since last fall through St. Louis Community College.
Each class is three hours. Students get one hour of orientation during which they learn about trees, procedures to climb them and the gear that is required. With the help of a rope and a harness, participants spend the next two hours reaching great heights and accessing parts of the canopy typically unreachable.
Heather Allen, 34, is a St. Louis Community College staff member who took the course in April. “We learned about tree biology, how to tie various types of rope knots and, of course, how to maneuver through the tree branches,” said Allen. “With the help of the harness, we were able to get really high up in the trees. It was amazing.”
Climbing begins by carefully placing ropes over branches in tree crotches, providing strong anchor points. Each rope goes through a leather sleeve to protect the tree. Students then don a tree climber’s saddle and helmet. Participants also have the option to wear gloves, which improves grip and guards against rope burns.
Mott has a lot of outdoor experience and a master’s of education degree in adventure learning from Clemson University. Through his business, Adventure Tree, he has been teaching tree climbing and orchestrating ground-based outings for five years.
He organizes team-building activities for corporations, camps, schools and other groups.
Bill Henske, 42, is a teacher at Maplewood Richmond Heights School District whom Mott trained to work with his students. Tree-climbing, he said, “acts as a powerful metaphor teaching students to conquer challenges and their fears.”
Mott also provides training to entry-level arborists.
Mott started out as an electrical engineer but decided he wanted to direct his energy toward helping others directly.
By teaching tree-climbing and being an advocate for exploring the outdoors, Mott aspires to be a positive influence.
“My focus and mission is education and therapy,” he said.
Markia A. Holt is an intern at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.