It looks different from up there!

That’s what my roommate, Lila, said after climbing up the big pine our backyard with ropes and a harness and ascenders. I felt the same way the first time I climbed up 20 or 30 feet using just prussik knots.

Have you ever wondered exactly how activists, scientists, and anyone else crazy enough to climb that high get up to the rainforest canopy or redwood trees? These aren’t your backyard branch-scrambling venture. The first branches might be scores of feet above the ground, and the trunk too wide to reach around. One of my friends in grad school is about to embark on some research doing just that – and fortunately a few other grad students have some experience in this department and volunteered to show her the ropes, as it were. Even more fortunately (for me), I have a rather large tree by Tucson standards in my backyard, so I got to tag along and do some climbing too. While climbing with ascenders is not too different than prussiks (just a lot smoother and faster), I especially enjoyed learning techniques to free-climb the rope and the Munter hitch for emergency rappels without a rappel device (like an ATC or GriGri).

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