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Information for converting a dead tree into a climbing wall

This page has a lot of graphics, if you get bored waiting for the photos, click my


This page shows how my chains are set up, read the construction story in the

Construction Page

My tree in the backyard. That is my neighbors house behind the tree, their garage is a few feet to the right. You can see why this was a major pain to cut down to this point (the tree originally extended at least 20 feet beyond all the stubs). I invented a system of ropes to cut the tree into small pieces and lower them slowly, but probably only avoided disaster by luck. Now I understand why arborists don't have how-to books, this sort of work should be done by pros.


View from my porch roof. The branch that I use for overhanging roof routes extends 15 ft. up from the main trunk. This is probably rare to find a branch of this size, I expect most people will only have the main trunk to climb, or short overhangs.







Closeup of one of the chains. Notice that the chain goes over the top of a lag screw eye, not through it. The theory is that it will transfer more of the pull to the back of the tree as the chain squeezes the trunk. I can't prove this is true, but it makes sense that the chain would put more downward pull on the eyes if it went through them. Note the screw link holding the tails of the chain together, the rope uses the ends of the chain for pulleys (the other one can't be seen in this photo). A screw link attaches the chain to the eye on this side, another eye 180 degrees around the trunk is the same. This system has lots of redundancy, and the chain is rated for much more stress than this setup can generate.


Climbing the overhang. There is a hook, made out of a bent open screw eye, on the right side of the trunk by the fork above my arm. The rope needs to be hooked while climbing on the bottom of the tree to prevent swinging back into my carport. I have to spend too much time swinging and whipping the rope into the hook, but I can't come up with a better system. My local climbing gym has the same hooks, and I have the same problem .


Some of my woody holds. This route is for the kids and has big, positive holds. The top two holds have a 3/8 screw inset into the center, and a deck screw to the side of it to prevent turning. The rest of the tree has smaller holds held with two deck screws, use a band saw and get creative. The overhang has some buckets made by layering two pieces of wood.


My attempt at using natural rock for holds. Considering the time I spent drilling and carving, I would have done better buying a hold.





My tree has some natural features that are fun. There are some small bumps and cracks on all sides, but most are beyond my skills. Each of the main branches had a large hollow underneath that was nearly filled with bark. After the bark was cleaned out it makes a great slot, allowing practice hand jams without the scrapes.

Wall Links

Atomik Climbing Holds has the perfect set of screw-on holds for a climbing tree, and they are priced right for a cheap-o climbing project. Instructions for building a wall will soon be on the site, lots of regular hold sets too. Tell Kenny that the Dead Tree Guy sent you!

Metolius has instructions for building a plywood wall.

The Climbing Wall Resource has very detailed instructions.


I had some e-mail conversations with a few people on rec.climbing a year ago. Robert Ternes was helpfull, he had worked as an arborist. Jay Hills risked his life to help me trim the tree, Bob Schopis took some of the photos. I am always open to help, e-mail me at