^This beautifully gnarled tree would be a fun climb but only earn about a T2 rating. I can’t wait until we start taking pictures of all the trees on campus for our book!
“Hey, what do you call bouldering on a tree?” -Some guy crossing the South Oval while Suds and I were working on new routes on our favorite tree, Mother of All.
Unfortunately, at the time I didn’t have a better answer for him at the time than just “tree climbing.” But what we’re doing really isn’t just tree climbing anymore, it’s evolved into something more. Tree climbing goes two ways, three if you count lumberjacking: forest tree ascents using arborist techniques or just crawling around in branches like we all did as children. We set out to make a guidebook on the latter, but as we’ve played with the idea, challenged ourselves with more difficult climbs, and equipped new gear and defined new terms for our problems and solutions, we’ve stepped away from the nostalgic view of tree climbing into something wholly new and curiously sport-like.
So Trunking. It’s a name Suds and I brainstormed up about an hour after that questions was asked. We’ve been halfheartedly considering developing a new name for a while, but the specificity of that question kicked us into action. If we’re really trying to define a new and fresh climbing style for climbers of all skill levels, why not sell it with a clearly novel name? (That said, if its not novel for some significant reason, please, by the love of the internet, call us out on it so we can reconsider.)
Trunking fits because it focuses the sport on getting up the trunk section of the tree in a half bouldering, half tree climbing style. In general once we’ve attained the crown or first point of significant branching or splitting in the tree, we’ve “completed” the route. Of course, recreational climbing in the branches is never discouraged.
Trunking draws heavily from both bouldering and tree climbing while clearly distinguishing itself from either, even to the casual observer. We’ve fully integrated the practice of using crash pads and climbing shoes into trunking, although we’re considering trying out approach shoes as an alternative. We also regularly use chalk while climbing under the assumption that it does not significantly harm the trees or their appearance and will be washed off easily enough with rain. We’re likely to change that perspective if we find significant evidence otherwise, but with our current limited following and the advantages chalk provides, we’re sticking with it.
More than clearly exceeding the equipment usually associated with tree climbing, the style is completely different. Most people climb trees knowing they can grab a branch and haul themselves up. We regularly find trees much more challenging than that and throw ourselves at them 110%, refusing to believe anything is impossible until we’ve tried every single possibility AND convinced one of the most skilled climbers in Oklahoma to try it out as well. Even then, impossible for us right now doesn’t mean it’s impossible for us in the future or others. That’s the spirit of trunking. Never back down. (Unless it’s a sapling or rotting tree you shouldn’t be climbing anyway.)
Anyway, I’ve rambled enough. Stay posted for updates on the development of trunking. If you’re really feeling it, grab a friend and a crash pad and go climb a tree. Tell me your own experience with this newly emerging climbing style!