Extreme tree climbing

“Been climbing trees, I’ve skinned my knees…”  – this is the start of one of my favourite Elbow songs, Scattered Black and Whites. And, incidentally, mostly what I’ve been doing today!

I reluctantly left Bridgetown this morning, having remembered I bought a 4 week National Parks pass last week that I’d like to use as far away as the Stirling Range before it expires in mid August. So today I made good use of it by visiting the Southern Forests’ three fire tree lookouts, two of which are in national parks.

First up – Diamond Tree, just south of Manjimup, the top platform at 51m. It had been raining on and off this morning, so I was wondering really how wise it was to climb the metal rails sticking out of the tree. But I took a deep gulp and started climbing anyway. About 3/4 of the way up there’s a platform where you can rest, and a sign asking that you reconsider whether you want to continue, because “that was the easy bit!” I continued – sucker for punishment. It was worth it – for the feeling of achievement, the view, and the historic connection with all those from the 40’s to the 70’s who spent whole summer days at the top of this and other towers on bushfire watch. After taking in the moment, I descended, letting out a whoop of joy on reaching the ground again – witnessed only by the trees and the thoughtful shelters and interpretation panels provided by DEC.

Next – the famous one, the Gloucester Tree, just north east of Pemberton and standing proudly at 60m. I little more challenging – a lot further from the ground to a resting point. But again well worth the climb once I got the top. Although I was surrounded by blue sky, I could see south across the forest roof that a rain storm was slowly advancing toward me, so I didn’t hang around too long up there. This time on reaching the ground I had a small audience who had apparently watched my whole climb with great interest. I had a good chat with a middle aged couple and a mother and daughter, then enjoyed a picnic lunch in the excellent nearby bbq shelter. The birds were so cheeky – sitting on the table right in front of me waiting for me to drop crumbs!

After a brief stop in Pemberton for a coffee and to invest in some top quality wool thermal socks and leggings (hooray! sick of cold feet and legs) I continued to the pinnacle of my day’s achievement – the Dave Evans Bicentennial Tree, south west of Pemberton. As the name suggests, this climbing tree was created in the year of Australia’s bicentenary 1988 rather than being historic like the others which mostly date from the 30s or 40s, It is named after a local teacher and politician who wrote a history of the fire lookout trees. With it’s top platform at 75m, this is by far the most challenging! It probably didn’t help that my legs were already fatigued from the two previous climbs, or that there was much more open space around this tree, making me feel far more exposed.

On reaching the second platform I heard a shout from the ground – it was the couple I’d talked with after my second climb, Leonie and Greg from SA, who recognised me in my hideously bright blue waterproof jacket. After a brief shouted conversation I continued to the top and enjoyed a long stay up there taking photos, watching birds flit in the topmost branches, gazing across to the inland Yeagarup Dunes. And reading with interest the list of couples who “did it” up there. Good for them. 🙂  I can only hope it wasn’t windy – the top platform can sway up to 1.5m each way!

On climbing back down to the first platform, 25m from the ground, I had a good chat with Greg, who had made it that far but didn’t want to risk the exertion of going any further, while his wife Leonie was watching and taking photos from the ground. We were joined by a young woman who debated for some time whether to continue, before eventually taking the plunge just after I started my final descent leg. I later found out on chatting with her as we returned to the car park that she had recently chucked in her job, bought a van, attached a bike to the back and hit the road. That sounds familiar…

Finally back on ground I had the first opportunity to see what it was like to watch someone else climbing a tree (at both of the other trees, I was the only one climbing it in the time I was there). It was far more scary than being up there my self!

Anyway, I do feel a pretty immense sense of achievement tonight! It was quite some exercise, so I also feel very virtuous! I think my thighs are going to be complaining bitterly tomorrow tho, and I must have some absolutely awesome bruises developing on my knees and shins from knocking them against the rails as a went. Oh well… 🙂

Photos to come soon…


About Yvette Hollings

Writer, born-again cricket tragic, rookie cricket player, occasional musician and songwriter. I love inspiring stories that empower everyday people.
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