101 Urban Tree Climbs

From Ginkgo to Elm, from street-side to urban forest style, from 3 to 80′ tall, Eric Tartter and Dave Katz achieved their first urban tree climbing expedition: free climb more than 100 trees in one day!

Starting around 10am and climbing continuously until around 5PM, we challenged our climbing techniques, strength and endurance. We climbed with no ropes, or harnesses, and mostly stayed less than 20 feet of the ground. There were some falls, but mainly just sore muscles and shredded skin.

In an attempt to inspire a connection with trees and urban-type-natural areas, Eric and I set out to climb 100 different trees in Manhattan.  We figured that since there approximately 1 billion people in the city this time of year, we could share the love and respect for trees with a lot of people, just by climbing up and hanging out in the branches. We started out climbing up some street-side Lindens, but by the time we got to central park, Eric decided to kick it up a notch on a Chestnut Oak. While previously we climbed trees with lots of branches, Eric started employing rock climbing techniques and scaling up the trunks of numerous trees: bouldering style. For a few of the trees, I stood at the base pondering his amazing strength and abilities…unable to repeat his moves with my huge boots!!

Around tree # 35 (English Elm) Eric wanted a harder challenge. He found hard “problems” on some London Plane trees and worked the sequences of the moves until he sat high in the crown of the trees. Unfortunately for me, I had to follow suit in huge winter boots! It wasn’t until tree #73 (Red Oak) that the police tried to stop us by attempting to guilt-trip us “This Isn’t wilderness, this is A man-made Park” and “Only Children Climb Trees…” For the following three trees we were a little discouraged, but by #80 the spirit was revived. # 80-88 was all trees that hung over the frozen pond near the Brambles in central park, key word “Don’t fall!” 90-95 were tall white pines with a billion of ladder-rung-type branches that were easily climbed to 35 feet. By tree 100 I was sufficiently tired but Eric pulled off a hard sequence of moves on an Elm tree. I almost feel out of the tree, completely exhausted, but managed to hang on. 

The trees we could identify: Red Oak, Chestnut Oak, English Elm, Ginkgo, White Pine, Red Pine, Hawthorne, White Ash, Crabapple, American Beech, Red Maple, Sweet Gum, London Plane tree, Black Locust, Little Leaf Linden, Black Cherry, and Sweet Birch.

Although we’ve climbed almost all of the species before, the individuals in central park had unique characteristics and some interesting blundering opportunities. I think a handbook to tree climbing in central park is on the horizon…