Canopy Tree Climbing on Whidbey Island, if you haven’t heard of it yet, it’s a new adventure sport offered by the Seattle-based company AdventureTerra. They offer guided tours up towering old growth trees using harnesses, ropes, and a hand pulley system. And the experience is unforgettable.
The adventure is amazing. Canopy Tree Climbing on Whidbey Island in Deception Pass is a must try for anyone interested in seeing the world from a bird’s eye view. It’s something not even 0.001% of the population has done!
This climb is located in Deception Pass state park at the northern end of Whidbey Island in the state of Washington. With a climb into an old growth Coastal Douglass Fir tree that’s about 300-500 years old and about 200 feet tall.
From the top of the tree you’ll get a fantastic view of Deception Pass Bridge, as well as the ocean, the surrounding beaches, and the beautiful forest.
Who can climb?
No experience is necessary, and that’s why I could go on this adventure. I’ve never been climbing of any kind, not rock climbing or tree climbing (unless you count the tree climbing I did as a kid).
They teach all skills required in the introduction so each person can start climbing as soon as possible.
There are a few restrictions like age and medical conditions that might prohibit a climbing adventure. Kids must be 7 years old to climb. And please let them know of any medical conditions. Also, there are no size restrictions, however, they cannot guarantee plus sizes will be able to do everything, and for some their physical ability may be the limitation.
There is definitely no harm in trying something new and having the opportunity to do this new and unforgettable experience.
When can I climb?
The canopy climbing season is usually from mid-spring, about May, until the end of fall in November.
The climbing season, however, is very dependent on weather. As soon as the weather becomes mostly rainy and windy, the season stops for safety reasons. And as soon as the weather becomes enjoyable and safe they start the new season.
The set up
They get you all started with everything you need for climbing. You’ll get a full set of climbing gear, including helmets, harnesses, safety glasses, foot holds, and ascenders, along with complete and detailed training on how to wear it and use it.
You need to wear athletic clothes, long socks, long pants that cover ankles, and athletic shoes. All other equipment will be provided.
These canopy climbing techniques that they teach you, and the gear that you use are same as mountain climbers do.
I felt that the equipment was completely secure, and wasn’t worried one bit about the safety of it. The instruction was also basic and understandable so that I felt safe and secure using the equipment while having fun doing so.
Techniques and Climbing Methods
They use a technique called “single rope technique” (SRT).
A single rope is anchored to the trunk of a tree. Using mechanical ascenders, you climb the ropes. With this system you inch yourself slowly and safely up the rope using mostly leg strength.
Training for Tree Climbing on Whidbey Island
After getting geared up, they train you on how to use all of the equipment. Each session begins with a safety discussion and equipment demonstration, where you learn about the equipment, how to use the equipment, and then you get to start climbing on the practice tree.
The practice tree is located right in the parking area of the North Beach parking lot. It works as a good advertisement for the company as well when other people can see the climbers doing cool things!
Oh, and to park and gain entrance at Washington state parks like Deception Pass, a Discover Pass is required. Passes can be purchased online or in person at the park.
They teach you the basics on how to ascend the tree using the gear, and you get to climb up the practice tree one person at a time, so there’s one on one training with the guides.
The climbers get to go up about 30 feet on the practice tree, and then the guides teach you how to safely go down the tree.
How Difficult Is Tree Climbing?
Tree climbing was more exercise than I expected it to be. I got a great workout while having an amazing time.
This kind of climbing uses your legs, rather than your arms. But, I felt it all over when we were done. It’s a day full of squats. I also got a few bruises from the gear (nothing that won’t heal though).
But, one of the things I really liked was that if you get tired, the climbing gear lets you stop and rest. And, besides, you want to stop and take in the view and the amazing experience you’re having. Don’t just rush to the top to be done right away!
After the training is completed and each participant gets to practice on the practice tree, the guides then lead the climbers to the main attraction tree in a more secluded area, requiring approximately a 15-minute walk in through the woods.
Each climber gets his or her own rope to climb on the main attraction tree, so you aren’t waiting for anyone to finish, and it doesn’t matter how quickly or how scenically (slowly) you climb.
In our group, one person didn’t want to go up very high, so he stayed towards the bottom, and that was just fine for him. One kid made it to the top, lickity split, and she stayed up top for a long time just hanging out.
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How to get involved and what to expect
Make your appointment online here.
On your climbing day, a guide will meet you at the North Beach parking lot and help you get started.
Climbers usually ascend 150 to 200 feet to reach the top of a beautiful old growth Coastal Douglass Fir tree, taking anywhere from 30 minutes to 90 minutes. The entire experience lasts about 4 hours.
If there’s time, they do have an additional tree that can be climbed, but we didn’t have time to do that.
You’ll climb in a group with instructors who will be right with you every inch of the way. There’s no pressure to make it to the top, and even if you don’t climb the full distance, you’ll have a great view of the park and the satisfaction of learning a new skill.
I want to touch on this a bit, because I could tell they cared a lot bout the trees, and they wanted to express their concern for the forests and the animals. And, I know my readers care about the environment as well!
Their tree climbing practices and techniques do not harm the trees.
They have no rope that runs over the trees and no anchors that dig into the trees. In addition, they do routine checkups on the trees to make sure they are safe, healthy and not being damaged.
There is also a lot of wildlife that live in the trees. As climbers we need to remember we are in their home and respect their space. Because of that they check all the trees, and do not climb in any trees with inhabitants. They also told stories of eagles and owls flying near to the climbers, which would have been amazing. That didn’t happen for me though.