Learning the ropes with an expert tree climber

Posted at 7:00 PM, Aug 09, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-09 19:00:56-04

Tree climbing is typically regarded as a happy childhood activity. However, one company is helping people of all ages discover, or rediscover, one of life’s simple pleasures.

Expert tree climber Tim Kovar founded Tree Climbing Planet, a tree-climbing school in Oregon City, Oregon, in 2010. But he’s been teaching people how to climb trees for about 20 years.

He started his career as an arborist with Tree Climbers International, the world’s first tree-climbing school, in Atlanta, before switching to teaching and sharing his passion for trees.

Since then he’s helped countless people around the world climb for myriad reasons. Some need to learn for their jobs as canopy researchers, others want to overcome a fear of heights, and many more just want to rediscover a favorite childhood pastime in a safe environment.

Tree Climbing Planet offers more than 10 classes to meet these different objectives, starting with a daylong introduction to tree climbing for $200. Here, beginners from as young as 5 to as old as 90 are equipped with a helmet and secured with a rope and saddle before ascending as high as 60 feet into the tree canopy.

“Really anybody that wants to be up in the tree, we have a way to get them up there if they choose to go,” Kovar says.

The destination is the journey

Needless to say, the company doesn’t treat tree climbing as an extreme sport, so there’s also no pressure to climb past one’s comfort zone or at a fast pace.

Instead, climbers are welcome to spend the afternoon simply relaxing. “I like to promote tree climbing more as a place to be rather than a thing to do,” Kovar says. “It’s a place to reconnect with nature and drift into that really quality tree time.”

Sleeping high above the ground in tree hammocks is another highlight for many, and the ultimate way to experience tree life.

For those who want to take their tree time to the next level, there are classes that teach everything from how to rescue someone from a tree to how to become an instructor.

Outside Oregon, the company offers training locations across the United States and in select international locales, from India to Costa Rica.

Kovar also leads expeditions to places like Central America, where participants might spot sloths and spider monkeys during the climbs. Expeditions to Malaysia are being planned for the near future. Closer to home, popular events have involved climbing giant redwoods on private property to overnight sleepovers among the treetops.

Kovar and his company are also introducing tree climbing to uninitiated parts of the world. “The canopy is really one of the last frontiers on our planet,” he says, noting that its mysteries haven’t been studied as much as say, the ocean.

Ultimately, whether it’s a class or expedition, Kovar hopes tree climbing provides people with a new perspective on life, along with a greater desire to protect trees. (It’s worth mentioning that no trees are harmed during the climbing process.)

As for Kovar? He simply enjoys watching people rediscover their love for trees.