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Tree-climbing gains popularity as a full-body, outdoor workout

| Friday, June 28, 2013, 8:57 p.m.

Tree-climbing is emerging as a recreational sport, similar to rock-climbing.

St. Louis instructor Guy Mott says tree-climbing builds muscles and can lead to improved fitness and weight loss.

“If you engage in a tree-climb, it is a full-body workout. It is much more interactive and therapeutic to be outside as opposed to a gym,” Mott said. “It helps people to gain an appreciation for nature.”

Because of the rope-and-harness system, participants need only basic physical ability, such as being able to easily climb a flight of stairs, he said.

Mott is a certified arborist who teaches a class in climbing through St. Louis Community College.

Heather Allen, 34, is a St. Louis Community College staff member who took the course in April. “We learned about tree biology, how to tie various types of rope knots and, of course, how to maneuver through the tree branches,” Allen said. “With the help of the harness, we were able to get really high up in the trees. It was amazing.”

Climbing begins by placing ropes over branches in tree crotches, providing strong anchor points. Each rope goes through a leather sleeve to protect the tree. Students then don a tree-climber's saddle and helmet. Participants also have the option to wear gloves, which improves grip and guards against rope burns.

Bill Henske, 42, is a teacher at Maplewood Richmond Heights School District whom Mott trained to work with his students. Tree-climbing, he said, “acts as a powerful metaphor teaching students to conquer challenges and their fears.”

Markia A. Holt is a staff writer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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