A forest-friendly sport takes root in the Front Range
On fair-weather weekends along Colorado’s Front Range, chances are Harv “Ponderosa” Teitelbaum is literally out on a limb, safely swaying 60 to 80 feet above the ground with a small group of students. It’s all in a day’s work for the self-nicknamed Coloradan: He’s the state’s only certified recreational tree-climbing instructor.
Treetop views are no longer limited to the birds, thanks to Teitelbaum’s Tree Climbing Colorado as well as Tree Climbers International, founded by arborist Peter Jenkins as a way to share the safe, tree-friendly techniques now used in the sport.
“We don’t use anything that would hurt the tree, and we primarily climb on ropes, not the trees,” Teitelbaum says of the technique that has students suspended in midair, beneath branches. Outfitted with a special arborist rope system and tree-climbing harness, climbers are secure even if they’re upside down. “With a little wind, you’re going to sway, and that’s all right,” he tells students as they explore the airy canopy of a big cottonwood. “We call it tree surfing.”