Arboreal Admiration

I spent a late May Wednesday afternoon taking pictures of trees. Trees’ trunks, specifically. I began the first of several trips to catalog the trees I’ve climbed and will climb for this guide/collection. I’ve never pretended to be a good photographer, but this project continues to push me outside my comfort zone. I thought it might be embarrassing, walking around taking candid shots of these immobile giants, but it quickly became a very relaxing walk. OU’s campus is prettier in summer without the currents of student cortisol coursing between classes. I talked with a nice old man who was feeding the squirrels.

When I started, I just wanted a picture of each tree for the record. That evolved to include bark types and examples of holds, so the project grew, as with all my projects. Here’s a ton of pictures of trees:

King Tree, No FA, center of the courtyard east of the library


I started with the King Tree, because why not. It’s massive, offering at least twenty feet of quality trunking. I haven’t tried climbing it yet, because it’s incredibly intimidating. I think I’d want at least four crash pads in case of a fall. It is the most “highball” route OU has to offer. However, its bark is sturdy, rugged, and all-around fantastic for a brave climber.


Duckie, FA: Suds, just south of the library, on the left if facing the south oval


Duckie, or Lil’ Duckie begins with a fun throw to a sloper for us shorter fellows (the bottom edge of the stump pictured above), followed by a short but delicate traverse to the right limb.

Foie Gras, FA: Matt, just across the library entrance walkway from Duckie


Foie Gras has an easy line under the lowest branch or more difficult lines on the other side. A traditional trunk.

DSCN0610 The bark of Foie Gras has a typical oak-y pattern. Tough with just enough edge for a few choice crimps (Thumb for scale).

What’s for Lunch?, FA: Suds, due southwest of Foie Gras, across the east-west walkway


What’s for lunch? has a fantastic set of gnarls just above the first limb.  It has two good lines: directly under the lowest branch, swinging to the right to top out, and up the south face.

The next set of images were of an unnamed tree, a hackberry whose bark is too rough and fragile to be practical for trunking. It had a very photogenic squirrel. . .

School-bus, FA: Suds, near the northwest corner inside the south oval

School-bus is one of my favorite trees. It has giant features, durable bark, and plenty of ways to ascend. It is an easy trees to climb, but it remains charming. It is among the few climbing-friendly hackberries.

Mother of All, FA: Nate, stands out as the largest tree on the south oval

Mother of all is the beautiful behemoth that got me started on trunking. It stands tall near the center of the south oval, with clear routes on the east and southwest faces and a trickier path on the northwest face. It features deep crack features and grippy branch stumps. Its thick bark makes it near-impenetrable to harm from trunking.

Two Stumps, FA: Matt, due west across the south oval from Mother of All

Two Stumps is the patron tree of slacklining on the south oval. It also features a fun technical problem where you can only hold the lower stump and a stump off the first large branch to ascend. Its metal placard was recently destroyed, but it is a Shumard Oak.

Just south of Two Stumps we have the other patron tree of slacklining. It’s unnamed because its bark is not appropriate for trunking, but it can be climbed with a running jump to the first branch.

Huecos, FA: Nate, a ways south of Mother of All

This beautiful tree features two rotted-out “hueco” stumps perfect for some dynamic throws to get up the trunk. It’s a sweetgum tree with very dense, almost spongy bark.

Barkfoot, FA: Nate, between the Glitch and the architecture building

Barkfoot is a nasty route that convinced me not to climb hackberry trees. It has rough and brittle bark. Climbing it will hurt both you and the tree, and the tree is already in a questionable state.

Uncle Alligator, FA: Suds, across the walkway from barkfoot, inside the south oval

Uncle Alligator defies its species as an excellent route with some flavor. The knobs make for interesting slopers, and the proudly extending lowest limb, like a ship’s prow, makes for a challenging top-out.

Huckleberry, FA: Nate, large tree beginning the south half of the south oval

Huckleberry, like school-bus, features absurdly friendly holds around its base and trunk. It really demonstrates the bouldering-like features available to trunking, demonstrated by the undercling and pocket pictured above.

A previously unclimbed tree caught my eye on this photographic adventure. Whatever prompted its trimming, it reminded me that these trees are living, changing beings, For better or worse. That means the routes change too. Once these cuts heal, this may prove to be a fantastic new trunking route.

Stumplestiltskin, FA: Nate, beside Gaylord College in the south oval

Last but not least, Stumplestiltskin demonstrates perfectly just how interesting a trunk can be. With crimps, slopers, and edges to spare, plus plenty of height to the first crown, it provides a healthy challenge that just feels good to climb.


That wraps up my first collection of tree-pictures. Most of these trees I’ve climbed, and I’m itching to try the rest. These trees are beautiful in themselves, but they also have so much potential for climbing. They’re all conveniently collected on campus, too, with plenty of grass around them to set up crash pads and manage falls safely.


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