Extreme Tree Climbing In Sweden’s Skåne County | The Editor’s Column - Outdoors Magic

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Extreme Tree Climbing In Sweden’s Skåne County | The Editor’s Column

Discovering a remarkably easy-to-access part of Scandinavia, and a slightly bizarre outdoor activity

I reckon I’m about 20 metres off the ground here. The person further up is probably at around 30 metres – I can just about see them through the leaves and twigs that are falling down onto my head. I sense that I’m sending my own amount of debris onto the people below, but I’m not going to look down to check as I’m slightly concerned about the knot in front of me. Actually, that’s an understatement – I’m greatly concerned about the knot in front of me. This tangled material that my life depends on, which is somehow arranged so that I can pull myself up the rope without sliding down it (yet), looks like it’s getting loose – like it’s kind of unravelling.

“Is my knot supposed to look like this?” I yelp to a woman dangling above me. No reply. “Excuse me, does this look OK to you?”. She casts a confused look back at me. “I do not understand. English not good,” she replies. Great.

“I think I finally get what people mean by ‘Type 2 fun’ now…”

I’ve trad climbed before, and I wasn’t very good at it. Tree climbing is something new, and I’m getting the sense I’m not very good at this either. Here I am on the southern tip of Sweden, a long, long way up a beech tree. I guess you could say this is one of those, ‘how did I get here’ moments.

Our guide Kristina explains the tree climbing method.

Logistically speaking, getting here was actually rather easy. First, my partner Hannah and I got a flight from London Gatwick to Copenhagen airport. From there we jumped on a 30 minute train to Sweden across the huge 8km-long Øresond Bridge, and then, after a very short bus journey from Malmö station we were with Kristina, a former biomedical analyst turned arborist and now tree climbing guide with Embla. We’d gone from the rush and noise and smog and moody tube passengers of London to the wilderness of Sweden in a single morning. It was a strange, almost bewildering contrast in such a short time.

The area is Skåne, a small province with three coastlines and a varied interior where you’ll find open, flowing countryside and areas like Söderåsen National Park that are made up of sprawling beech woodland. Those into the niche sport of tree climbing are certainly spoilt in this part of Sweden.

 

The climbing induction from Kristina prior to my ascent up this beech tree had, in my opinion, been surprisingly brief given the scale of the task that was at hand. In fact, I’m sure I once went on a bouncy castle that required a longer safety briefing. 

The method we were shown was very different to the kind of tree climbing everyone will have done in their childhood. It’s actually more similar to the type of climbing you see skyscraper window cleaners do, but with less metal carabiners – zero carabiners actually, just knots – and the added challenge of branches to negotiate. You sit down in a harness which is tied to a rope slung over a high branch, and then, with your feet slipped into two looped ends of rope, you kick your legs down while using your hands to slide that scarily loose knot – the one I had mentioned previously – upwards to sort of winch yourself up the rope. 

It’s surprisingly easy actually, quite satisfying even, and the branches add an interesting extra challenge to proceedings. They’re useful as well: when you want to take the slack of the harness off your waist you can just pick a nice thick one to stand on and have a breather. We even had a thermos flask winched up to us so that we could enjoy a cup of coffee at 65 foot off the ground.

There are obvious differences between rock climbing and tree climbing, but what I hadn’t been prepared for was just how different hanging off a branch instead of a fixed anchor feels. You can sense it bending with your weight, and wobbling with each gust of wind. It’s nerve-wracking, that’s for sure.

 

I’m finally touching the branch I’ve been hanging off and have discovered how alarmingly skinny it is. Now I have to try out the descending technique. Kristina had explained this at the base, and I’m having doubts about whether I’d actually listened properly. All I need to do, I think, is take my feet out of the loops and push that knot, that dreaded knot, upwards and supposedly, I’ll drop down. How fast will I drop? Will the knot be able to handle this? It definitely doesn’t look like it can…

I hit every branch on my way down – but at a fairly pleasant, controlled pace I hasten to add. The knot had pulled through for me, and at the very moment my feet touch the ground, despite feeling like a lucky survivor, I suddenly realise that actually, what I just did was quite fun. I think I finally get what people mean by ‘Type 2 Fun’ now.

Am I going to take Kristina up on her offer of going up again though? Maybe when my knees haven’t stopped shaking and the blood has returned to my head.

 

Do It Yourself


Activity provider: Embla Tree Climbing
Location: Skåne County, Sweden.
Getting there: Malmö, the closest city, has an airport with regular flights from the UK. It’s also only a short train journey from Copenhagen airport. Speak to the provider about transport from Malmö.
Where to stay: Try Nyrup’s Naturhotell who offer yurt camping deep within Skåne’s beech woodland.

 

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