Severe damage is inflicted to a tree when climbing with sharp tree spikes - think of it as multiple stabbings - and it takes time to recover. Every time you puncture through a tree's outer layers down to its innards, you inhibit the flow of nutrients, like cutting an artery - and tree climbing spikes can really dig deep into a tree (especially deciduous ones) when they're supporting your body weight. But if you must use tree climbing spikes (in conjunction with a lanyard connected to your waist and strapped around the tree to support the rest of your body), use them responsibly: clean the spikes with alcohol after every use to ensure no fungus or disease is transferred from a sick tree to a healthy one.
"Conifers out west can usually handle the damage caused by the spurs because of their thicker bark," Roach explained. "But I would still recommend climbing without spikes when possible." With that said, he showed me the ropes - literally - of proper recreational tree climbing.
Learning The Ropes
The first rope, the throw line, is a thin, brightly-colored string connected a small sand bag that you throw upwards to loop around an upper branch. Once that comes down, it is tied to a climbing line - a "dynamic" rope, as opposed to the "static" kind used in rock climbing - and then pulled so the climbing line loops around the supporting branch. Add a tubular friction-saver at the loop, and you prevent rope burn on the tree.