12 Jun 2013 Australia: The Climb

Australia: The Climb

My neck hurts from looking up so much.

“It’s high,” I whisper to my husband standing next to me.

“It is,” he says more confidently than me.

My shaking hand grips the cold metal rebar and I start to climb a tree that is higher than Niagara Falls, a twenty story building or the Statue of Liberty.

There are no ropes or nets to catch me if I slip through the bars and there is no guarantee I will make it all the way to the top or back down to the bottom.

Prior to coming to the South East forest of Western Australia I had no idea that fire tower trees even existed. Instead of cutting down trees to have the space to build fire towers, the Australia Forest Service decided they would embed metal pegs into the trunk of the tallest tree in the forest, the Kari Tree. In doing so they created a living adventure for those whom wish to free climb the highest tree in the forest.

Walking up to the base of the massive Dave Evans Tree for my first climb I felt my stomach tighten, hands sweat and breathing increase. I questioned if I were ready to ascend this giant, not freeze half way up nor succumb to the fear of slipping through the pegs. The top is so distant I cannot see it from the ground. With a deep breath and intense focus I stepped up onto the first peg and away from the security of the ground. Numbness soon overcame my hands as they tightly gripped the cold steel pegs. Despite the early morning dampness, sweat ran down my back. I found myself leaning into the tree as I developed a slow yet steady rhythm of removing one hand to pull myself up while the other hand remained firmly grasped to the peg. Not wanting to look down my shaky leg would then search the air until it found the next unevenly spaced peg. It was as if the physical touch of leaning into the tree provided me an illusion that my entire body weight was not suspended by one piece of metal stuck into the tree.

I was less than half way up the tree when my foot failed to find the peg on its own. Some of the peg distances were so far that it required my body to be fully extended reach to the next peg. With hands grasping tight I looked down to find the peg. I distinctly remember not wanting to look down until I had reached the top, yet in that moment I felt as if all time had stopped as I stared down this massive tree trunk to the ground below. There was such an energizing stillness to the forest. There was no one else in the forest, no sounds of cars, streets or shops. I was privileged to be suspended in this giant tree with this unique and amazing perspective.

There were three climbable trees and the final assent was slightly different for each. The top of the fire towers had a basic metal floor, wire mesh on the sides, a roof and enough room for a maximum of six standing people. The branches came out from under the metal floors like the arms of an octopus extending their reach for maximum sunlight. Yet each top offered an almost unobstructed view of the forest surroundings.

Although I had some anxiousness before each climb I was surprised at how quickly my confidence and ease of heights steadied as I climbed the third and final tree. My stomach gave me little to no butterflies other than a healthy adrenaline kick to remind to stay sharp and focused. My hands firmly grabbed each peg and my legs did not shake as they found each peg to stand on. I had now transformed into a tree climber. I was reminded of how much experience and repetition can bring confidence to life activities. Whether the action is to play the guitar, think positive thoughts about oneself, or in this case climb to the top of a fire tower tree – repetition and habit play a huge role in how we react to the world around us.

To me traveling parallels the act of climbing those kauri trees, an unknown challenge with no guarantee of success; a calling that I must try to answer or I will be burdened knowing I did not try. Travelling to new places and pushing my boundaries gives me the biggest freedom I could hope for: freedom of my mind knowing I tried to achieve a goal I set forth with no guarantee of the outcome.

About the Author: Tiffany Soukup is a freelance writer working her way around the world with her husband Chris. Together their goal is to live on all seven continents. Follow their stories at www.vagabondway.net.

Please comment below and enjoy these related articles

Independence

We hope you enjoyed this entry in the We Said Go Travel Independence Writing Contest. Please visit this page to learn more and participate. Thank you for reading the article and please leave a comment below.

10 Comments
  • Megan
    Posted at 20:58h, 12 June Reply

    Ooh, I had no idea something like that existed! I have a hard time with heights when I’m bouldering, but I could get on board with this sort of non-technical climbing.

    • Tiffany
      Posted at 06:19h, 19 June Reply

      I didn’t know these trees existed either. I’m not a technical climber, but ascending these trees was so interesting. What I love more is that the forest service made it possible to climb the trees instead of cutting them down. Thanks for the comment!

  • India Backpack Motorbike
    Posted at 23:54h, 12 June Reply

    Would love to do something like this, which I never knew even existed. Great write up! Makes me want to pack my backpack and leave immediately.

    Cheers
    Venkat Ganesh

  • Tiffany
    Posted at 06:24h, 19 June Reply

    Thanks Venkat. These trees are awesome. Glad you enjoyed and hope you get a chance to climb them as well!

  • Jim
    Posted at 17:26h, 22 June Reply

    Wonderful seeing and reading about an experience I could never hope to have personally. Something way off the beaten path. Nice…

    • Tiffany
      Posted at 17:00h, 23 June Reply

      Thanks. It was quite an experience!

  • Gary S.
    Posted at 19:55h, 23 June Reply

    Wow, Great story! Something I would love to see, with both feet firmly on the ground.

    • Tiffany
      Posted at 06:20h, 24 June Reply

      Haha…I must admit I felt like leaving my feet on the ground before climbing the first tree. Thanks for the comment!

  • Laura S
    Posted at 06:59h, 24 June Reply

    What an amazing experience! I was getting dizzy and the butterflies in my stomach just from reading your story!

    • Tiffany
      Posted at 12:56h, 24 June Reply

      I definitely had some jelly legs on the first climb. It was such an awesome experience to be able to go through the process of climbing all three trees.

Post A Comment