Introduction: How to Climb a Tree (using Only Rope!) the Fun/simple Way

Picture of How to Climb a Tree (using Only Rope!) the Fun/simple Way

In this instructable, I will be showing how to climb a tree using only rope, a carabiner, muscle strenght, and time.

I am not an experienced or trained climber. Don't tell me that I'm not either. I'm only showing you how to climb how I like to climb. It is the easiest, most relaxing, simplest way.

WEAR A HELMET (I didn't)

It is divided into 6 steps.
1. Equipment
2. Getting the rope into the tree
3. The harness
4. The knots
5. Climbing
6. Getting back down

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Step 1: Equipment

Picture of Equipment

These are the minimum requirements to climb a tree.

1. Have at least one locking carabiner. Make sure you have one that is made for climbing! The ones that I have cost $7 each, bought at REI. They can hold 25kN (That's about 5,600 pounds)

2. Have about 15 feet of 3/4 inch rope. This will be used for the harness. It is important that is thick, because this makes for a more comfortable, satisfying harness (Unless you have a real harness)

3. Depending on the height of your tree, you will need rope that is as long as twice the height of the tree. (Use equation below) I didn't use real climbing rope, but I recommend that you do. The rope I have can hold 350 pounds. It gets the job done.
My equation!
h = height of tree
r = length of rope needed
r = 2h + 10 (IE. 30' tall tree = at least 70' of rope)

4. A tree of course! Make sure that it is some sort of oak. Oaks are very strong, large trees, with few branches at their bases.
Find a good-sized tree that is about 25-50' tall. My tree is about 30'. (I would also find a tree that isn't over a cement driveway)

Step 2: Get the Rope in the Tree.

Picture of Get the Rope in the Tree.

I'm not going to show you how to get your rope in the tree :-(
But, I will say that is extremely easy if you have a tree in a good location, and the branch isn't more than 50' high (You should start low anyways)

There's a great instrucatable here

Find some sort of weight. (I used a roll of duct tape, but the heavier the better). Tie your rope around it, and swing it until it wraps around the branch you want.

Once in the tree, get slack in the rope and "whip" the rope. You'll know what I mean. It will be your first instinct. You do this foot by foot until the hanging end with the weight comes down to your level.

Step 3: The Harness

Picture of The Harness
This is a very important step, and it is crucial that you get it right.

The comfort really depends on the rope and positioning

I am using a rope harness called the swiss seat. It is a very common harness. If my pictures and tutorial are confusing, you can find it on Google somewhere. It is a very common search.

Follow along with the pictures.

Harness Video

Step 4: The Knots

Picture of The Knots

There are only two knots that we'll be tying.
1. I'm not sure if it has a name, but I didn't make it up. It's a real knot
2. The Blake's hitch. The best climbing hitch for our purposes.

Follow the pictures once again. The first is the noname. The second is the Blake's Hitch

Once again, if you can't figure it out from the pictures, go to Google. There are plenty of sites that show how to make knots

Step 5: CLIMBING(Finally)

Picture of CLIMBING(Finally)

Ok. Let's start to climb. It is very simple. It takes several minutes, but then you start to get in the rhythm.

1. Wrap your hand around the rope that is hanging down. Don't wrap excessively, just once, enough to have a good comfortable grip.

2. Pull down on that rope. The goal is not to have your weight on the rope above you, but the rope you are pulling down. It takes a bit of strength, and it's something that everybody can do easily, unless you're doing it wrong. (There is a video below)

3. You probably used two hands to pull the first rope down. If you did it right you moved up about 6 inches ( after a while it isn't that bad). Now. you need to hold the rope you pulled down held down below your waist, or however far you pulled. Hopefully, it will sort of lock, and you can slide up you're Blake's hitch up with your left hand as far as you can. From there, the Blake's hitch should do its magic, and keep you held in place.

4. Repeat

If you couldn't get it by reading, look at the pictures, and watch the video(The video's focus got a little messed up, but you can see better


Step 6: AH! I'm Stuck! Get Me Back Down!

Picture of AH! I'm Stuck! Get Me Back Down!

Calm down! It's really easy!

Grab the hitch. Pull down in the top. See? Just make sure you do it slowly, and at intervals to prevent the rope from melting, and the branch from burning!

Watch the video once again.
And there are two other video's that I just decided to dump on this step.



husamwadi (author)2011-08-17

and what if the branch breaks?

nice Instructable

dimitris1 (author)husamwadi2017-06-07

...same like if the you are not careful and instead to choose a pool with water to dive in, you choose one with no water in, dive in, ...common sense is mandatory in every action of our life.

NathantheGray (author)husamwadi2016-12-09

I think it's kind of implied, that one who would want to climb a tree would choose a sturdy branch. ;-)

Teslaling (author)husamwadi2012-01-16

1. You yell ahhhhh!
2. You hit the ground with a thump sound!
3. You DON'T hit the ground with any snapping or crushing noises!
4. You say OUCH!
5. You find a bigger branch or lighter climber!

CharlesChristopher (author)2014-03-13

Isn't this harness tie also called a "Swiss Seat?"

Yes, it is. He said so in the second step of the instructable.

i HAVE no clue

sco97 (author)2014-02-08

This is a very good instructable and I think it awesome that your getting into ropes. I'm a rope access tech. and I think it is great that your getting into this type of activity. One thing I would recommend is using an some type of anchor knot instead of a girth hitch (the unnamed knot). A figure 8 is usually the standard because it is very strong (won't untie itself) and effecient (doesn't weaken the rope much. One thing to note is every knot will weaken the rope to some extent you just need to do some research) it is also easy to inspect. Also props for using a swiss seat as those are not the most comfortable harnesses in the world. One thing you might want to consider is using tubular webbing to tie hasty harness instead if you don't want to buy one. It's more comfortable (in my opinion) and when tied with a water knot very strong.

Keep up to good work dude and happy climbing!!!

bill2believe (author)2009-05-28

Momentum will make a weight 6x more in 1 foot. Therefore, if you weight 100 lbs, you will generate 600lbs of force on a rope with a 1 foot fall. I suggest you get stronger rope. Most rope accidents happen with 1 meter falls.

louieaw (author)bill2believe2009-05-28

I agree. My rope can support 500lbs, but now that you say that... I looked up on eBay. You can get 90' of climbing rope used once for about $60. I think it's worth the money.

maestro8 (author)louieaw2009-05-28

It appears you're using static rope in your video. This is good for hauling yourself since you don't have to deal with a stretchy rope. This is bad for falling, however. Once you reach the end of your fall, the entire force of the fall is transmitted to your body via the harness. People have died from falls on static line as short as a few feet. If falling is ever a possibility, you should be using a dynamic rope. This rope will stretch in a fall, absorbing a lot of the force of the fall. I wouldn't recommend trusting your life to a used rope. You don't know if the rope has been used or stored properly, and it could end up breaking in a fall. Is your life not worth the $120 cost of a new climbing rope?

roth_wyatt (author)maestro82013-10-07

89 for 150 of arborplex

jtpoutdoor (author)louieaw2009-05-29

There's a whole lot of techie stuff about ropes. What you are doing in the video is fine on a static (less than 5% stretch) rope. There is no chance of you falling whilst doing what is shown in the video. If you are doing anything where you could fall (eg climbing onto the tree branch once you get up there) then a fall onto static rope could indeed cause either the rope, your harness or you to fail catastrophically as Maestro8 says. Bear in mind that as soon as you tie a knot you weaken the rope- best to allow 1/3rd off the rope's strength for the knot (there are specific values for different knots but this makes it easy) You only take the 1/3rd off once. If you are interested I suggest you go to the Petzl website and look at their very good details on what to and not to do with gear. They used to have some good stuff on fall factors which would fill you in on a few basics. I'm not sure I'd go for a pulley tho. While it would make going up much easier it might make coming down too fast! Also you then get into issues of attaching the pulley gear to the tree which is probably best avoided until you have more knowledge. Why not join a climbing or caving club in your area I think you might enjoy it and you could learn some stuff from existing members? NEVER buy used rope, EVER. You have no idea what it has been subjected to and there has to be a reason why they are selling it! Used climbing ropes (especially from an unknown source) should only be used for towing your car, tying down gear or destruct testing.

ducktape.mac (author)jtpoutdoor2010-10-20

ha, pretty weird that something as simple as so complicated!!

Speedmite (author)jtpoutdoor2009-06-06

You basically just said exactly what maestro8 just said, with a little bit more filling of your own and you put it in your own words.

PKTraceur (author)bill2believe2009-05-31

So, gravity is a weight multiplier of 6 times in one foot? (Cool beans!) -PKT

jtpoutdoor (author)PKTraceur2009-06-01

in metric 10m/s2 I think if I remember rightly. Which means that if you fall (starting speed 0) in the end of the first second you will be going at 10 metres per second (well about 9. something but 10 to make it easy). In the next second you will gain another 10 metres per second velocity and so on until you reach terminal velocity (125km????) or terminate by hitting the ground. I learned it in metric so not sure what the imperial measure would work out at.

louieaw (author)jtpoutdoor2009-06-01

gravity. 9.8 meters per second SQUARED.

Speedmite (author)louieaw2009-06-06

Other wise know as 9.8 meters per second per second. Its just less confusing squared.

roth_wyatt (author)Speedmite2013-10-07

why not just if you fall your rope breaks? unless of course you use a climbing line for arborists

(Physics! What would we do w/o it?) Great Instructable!

lasersage (author)louieaw2011-08-18

not to be pedant but acceleration due to gravity is 9.8m/s/s

Technophile (author)bill2believe2011-07-18

The issue is when you fall a few feet and then get to the end of the rope: there's a sudden high-force jerk on the rope (and you).
Experiment: tie a piece of thread to a brick and lift the brick gently by the thread. The thread can hold the brick up. Now tie the other end of the thread to something solid, then lift the brick and drop it a few feet. >>SNAP<<.

Schmal (author)bill2believe2009-06-01

Actually it would be 320 pounds of force. Someone weighing a hundred pounds would have a velocity of 9.8 meters a second. Momentum = Mass * velocity, 9.8 meters (32 Feet) * 100 lbs = 320 pounds of force.

DesChamos (author)Schmal2010-08-02

Reading these comments I feel like I should put in my two cents, even though it is a little late.

That is not how you calculate what the rope experiences. First of all, momentum is not a force. Momentum is defined as a mass times a velocity, while a force is a mass times an acceleration.

I would also recommend using metric values, due to the fact that pounds mass and pounds force don't go well together. (The mass unit for US cust. is the Slug and is 1 slug = 1 pound/32.2)

Next up, that's not how you calculate what the maximum force the rope experiences is. You're almost there though (Minus the unit stuff. You needed to convert your 100 lbs to slugs). The force the rope experiences would be Force = Momentum/time. In this case, the momentum is at of the falling person and the time is the time the rope takes to stop you. You can't easily get this time value, but, as you may have noticed, larger is better. This is why rope meant for climbing has a bit of stretch to it. This increases the time spent stopping you and, by doing so, decreases the force you, the rope, your harness etc. experiences.

duck_tape_ (author)bill2believe2009-05-31

That's also what i was thinking, one that holds 350lbs is probably not strong enough to be safe.

sokamiwohali (author)2012-01-16

Food for thought and constructive criticism:

Use the Figure Eight Follow Through...not the Cat's Paw (the knot that was unnamed). it is a more secure knot for climbing, and commonly used in the climbing business.

Use the Prussik knot for climbing with a slit knot. because it is a loop type knot as well as a slip knot, you can hook it into your carbiner. you can also make the loop as big/little as you want.

Otherwise good instructable.

roth_wyatt (author)sokamiwohali2013-10-07

an anchor knot which is what most arborists call it is an industry standard, or using a spliced end

Linuxuser (author)2009-06-06

I've given the Blake's Hitch a trial run with a real climbing rope, but found that it didn't bind, and would slowly slip, lowering me as I tried to climb. This means there was no 'hanging around' to rest. Any ideas why this might be? I did this with a Prussik (and modified it for weaker people, adding a foot prussik), but can't get the Blake's hitch to work. My first thought is I failed to tie the Blake's Hitch correctly; From the 'no-name'/girth hitch/ cow hitch, I should wrap the rope around the standing end of the line (which hangs from the tree branch) 4 times. Do I then pass the running end over the line that leads back to the cow hitch (before passing it through the two bottom loops around the standing end), or do I pass it under the line running to the cow hitch? Perhaps better (i.e., wider framed) pictures of this step could be posted? Cheers,

roth_wyatt (author)Linuxuser2013-10-07

you need to set it by pulling the tail

DirtyBrit (author)Linuxuser2012-01-14

One of the problems with using dynamic rock climbing rope for this kind of thing is that they don't tend to be as flexible as the semi-static ropes used in tree surgery and some other applications.

Because they become rigid in these tight bends the knot won't grip in the same way and so it slides. Try using a short length of softer rope for the tie off to the line.

Alternatively you might be tying the incredibly similar "sui-slide" knot, so called because many people who try to tie a blake's dont loop the rope back around and under the standing line before threading it through the wraps. You end up with a knot that looks almost identical and will sort of hold but then with little warning will just fail to grip and let you slide right back to the ground...

sokamiwohali (author)DirtyBrit2012-01-16

not true. youve got it mixed up. static rope is more stiff and is used more for rappelling. Dynamic rope is used for climbing (aka belaying).

The best know to use for this would be taught-line hitch, OR the prussik knot. the prussic would be better for using as it is simple.

DirtyBrit (author)sokamiwohali2012-01-18

Sorry, I'm not mistaken, though I understand why you might think i was.

I've been a professional arborist for six year and rock climber on and off for longer. You'll note I specified "semi-static ropes used in tree surgery" and not "static ropes", which you are right are more rigid, but are not the same thing at all.

The Blakes hitch is a much better knot than the taut-line in every aspect other than that a taut-line can be tied one handed. The taut-line is a great, very old knot that serves perfectly well for this kind of job but has a tendency both to roll and to jam and so isn't totally ideal for this, though granted some veterans in the industry swear by it. The blakes hitch has superior grip/release qualities and doesn't tend to roll, unlike the taut-line, but a stopper knot is still always smart.

A prussic works great but you need rope of a thinner diameter to the climbing line for it to work optimally and it really needs to be a loop or it will both roll and jam which means it wouldn't work with this system in the instructable.

I personally climb with a french prussic (valdotainne tress) tied with a closed split tail and a hitch-climber micro pulley. But then I'm up trees every day and that system works pretty well for me personally, everybody in the tree climbing game has their own preferences.

jtpoutdoor (author)Linuxuser2009-06-06

Try this link for heaps of friction hitches including Blake's.

louieaw (author)Linuxuser2009-06-06

I'd say that if it is slipping, it never hurts to add an extra wrap or too.

raykholo (author)2012-04-10

First off, nice work, You've figured out some good technical skills for tree climbing. As an experienced climber myself, I feel that I should point out several things about this guide. The swiss seat is a secure harness. However, it is meant to be tied with webbing, which has a much higher breaking strength than the accessory cord used here. However, if the climber does not experience any falls and is always a static load of slightly more than his body weight, the cord should be enough. I still encourage the use of webbing, or better yet, get an actual harness.

The Blake's Hitch is a suitable friction hitch for tree work, however I find that it causes the end of your rope to wear out much faster and because of this I recommend typing the Blake's Hitch with a separate piece of cord known as a motion lanyard.  I prefer a prusik (2 - 3 wraps depending on main rope diameter).  

If using a dynamic climbing rope, know that it is much less durable when it is running over the branch it is "anchored" in.  You should either treat it as a "top rope" setup taken from rock climbing and anchor one end on the ground to the base of the tree and ascend up the other using either mechanical ascenders or two prusik knots, OR

[Awesome Method] install an anchor in the crotch of that branch, and run the rope through that.  One of two things will happen at this point.  If your anchor is lower than half the rope length, you can make a top rope setup and anchor one end of the rope on the ground to the base of the tree.  If your anchor at the top is higher than half a rope length, you will need to rig up a "knot block" on one end of the rope and haul that up to jam into the anchor at the top using the throwline (paracord might work).  You will then need to ascend using two prusik knots or mechanical ascenders. When you get to the top, an ATC, Figure 8, or GriGri can function as your rappel device.  
Watch this:  Link The "friction saver" can easily be homemade with some webbing tied in a loop and two rappel rings or steel mallions.  Be very careful if you use rappel rings, the rope must not move through them while weighted.  

The Cornell tree Climbing series is really informative and covers most of the info, and I agree with most of it.   Link here.  

I feel like I need to consider making an instructable to address some of the issues I've seen with a bunch of these guides.  If I get enough comments and demand, I will definitely do it when I get climbing outside within the next month.  
Keep in mind that the techniques I have described (especially the last one) are equipment intensive and can easily set you back $100 more than the techniques in this instructable.  The rope is a big cost factor to begin with, but a harness ($55), prusik cord ($10 for 30 feet), an ATC ($16), webbing ($13 for 30 feet of 1 inch wide webbing), and locking carabiners at around $10- $13 a piece easily add up to $100.  REI carries all this.  Also, get a helmet.  A bike helmet is not a great idea, get a UIAA approved climbing helmet if at all possible, but a bike helmet is better than nothing.  

Disclaimer: As anyone who has read a climbing-related article on the internet will know, the information I have presented is not intended to teach a beginner how to tree climb.  I am not liable for any misuse of this information that may result in injury or even death. Seek instruction from competent persons prior to using any of the techniques mentioned here.

Again, comment if you're interested in an instructable from me on this topic.  

roth_wyatt (author)raykholo2013-10-07

drat Im late to the party. A better cambium saver is flexible ridged tubing in a bright color. much cheaper and more durable

roth_wyatt (author)2013-10-07

This is actually a sport known as RTC or recreational tree climbing and you should take alot more care in setting up your system. a friction saver will save the tree and a climbing rope will catch you incase of falls. I would recommend a good quality arborist rope like arborplex or xtc 12 strand, both dev-d for the purpose of this as well as an arborists harness or a rec tree climbing harness. New tribe sells the best of the rec climbing harnesses at great prices. A cambium saver should always be used because the actual living tissue is easy to wear through being only 40 cells thick and then the branch dies. more from Dan over at on the topic, I would recommend checking him out. If done properly tree climbing can be more than climbing up a rope and can be used to walk on branches thinner than your thumb!

kevinkennedy (author)2013-03-27

looks good but id say always use a actual climbing rope. those 350lb ropes from fleet farm are not safe to climb on, they are not resistant to heat, mold or anything. you already have a few biners so get a few bucks together and check out
while your at it pick up a recreational tree climbing harness. I think you can get a rope, harness and a split tail (the heat resistant chunk of rope used to tie your climbing knot) for less than $200. they also have a great learning center.

Kelticpaddler (author)2011-09-22

Hi Louieaw

I also work in the outdoor industry, am (or have been) a winter mountaineer and sports climber.

This is the very kind of thing that got me into the outdoors, playing with ropes, experimenting etc.

You have come under some criticism over various safety measures, but all in all, good for you!! Take it all on board, but KEEP GOING!

Better this than, xbox or Playstation.

Well done for posting this and stay safe.


lasersage (author)2011-08-18

I liked the instructable and I love climbing. Some people have raised some valid safety points. I'm not going to try and tell you how to do it in this little comment box, your method seems to be working great so far. But it remind me of this video and I thought you might want to see how rock climbers do it. Might give you inspiration for easier ways up and down. Using a second prussik for your feet/foot is massive help

scigeek96 (author)2010-03-23

no name is not a larks head knot its a prussik (larks head is unstable and just one wrap prussik is 2 or more wraps and doubles in stability every wrap)

ParacordJedi (author)scigeek962011-07-22

jt is right. a prusik has 1 more wrap on either loop

jtpoutdoor (author)scigeek962010-10-20

the knot he's calling a no name is a lark's foot (girth hitch) he's using it to attach to the carabiner- the other one (Blake's hitch is a prussic

zydicious (author)2011-06-27

Like Llama, I'll add in my two cents worth from my Army experience. You don't really need 15' of rope to make the seat. The ones we tied at Ft. Jackson only used about 6' of rope. Primarily I'd suggest experimenting with it to have the least amount of excess possible so you don't have to keep track of extra rope around branches.

teche (author)2011-06-15

a ladder is very use full to get the rope up there of course you lose the point of climbing?

teche (author)2011-06-15

i tie a hammer it the rope and run for your life when you miss and it comes back down to your face

Zachintosh (author)2010-08-18

wow the harness is SO uncomfortable. i mean, if your a girl, the harness won't give you a problem. if you're a guy, this is going to hurt a certain part of the male anatomy pretty darn bad.

scarabdrowner (author)Zachintosh2010-12-22

We learned the Swiss Seat harness in basic training in the US Army. If it's tied right it doesn't hurt.

the key is to make it unconformable on the ground and then in the air it works out fine.

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