High above the Willamette Valley in the Willamette National Forest, follow the roadway that traces a trail along Fall River, near Lowell, Oregon and you could discover adventure that’s guaranteed to take you to new heights.
I met a group of climbers along this roadway near Fall Creek Reservoir. As I discovered, they were a small corp of climbers that was a breed apart from typical rock or mountain climbers. Just like rock climbers, these folks used gear that included harnesses, ropes, mechanical ascenders and even helmets. A hearty collection of people had gathered to meet guides with the Eugene-based Pacific Tree Climbing Institute who don’t climb tall mountains; rather they ascend Oregon’s tallest trees.
Jason Seppa, co-owner of PTCI and a lead guide in my adventure, coolly showed each of us the correct way to wear the harness and how to handle the ascenders; the main mode of movement up the giant trees.
The team had gathered to climb three of the tallest giants in the forest. Trees that had been nicknamed “The Three Musketeers” because the trio of 600 year-old Doug fir had grown so closely together.
Robb Miron, Seppa’s partner in PTCI, explained the advantages of climbing these big old trees: “They are really climber-friendly with a lot of limbs and a lot of architecture. When you’re up in them, it’s the kind of a feeling that you get being inside a grove of trees.”
PTCI operates under a special use permit from the U.S. Forest Service and their climbing techniques and equipment do not damage the trees. Seppa and Miron called it “eco-friendly” climbing as they teach both newcomers and experienced how to reach for the tallest heights of the trees without hurting the trees they climb.
They employ the same equipment and skills that each had learned on their jobs as full time arborists in Eugene, Oregon. The trained arborists turned their attention to recreation climbing six years ago and agreed that the forest has much to offer people.
There was a genuine rush of energy and excitement at the doing of the thing and the unmatched view of the surrounding forest.