The Campus Walker and I were having a short, awkward conversation. She'd waved from half-way across the mall and, as I got closer, whispered the chain of friends with whom we were connected, so that I wouldn't have to feign acquaintanceship. But, even so…

"You can answer questions because you know me," I stated.

"I can," she replied.

"And you can forget that said questions were asked?"

"That can happen too," she replied.

"Slacklining. Two bike police kicked me off some trees a couple of years ago. What's your stance on that now?"

"It's been in the news more, so we know what it is now. I just warn not to crack your skull open and tell you that you can't sue the University of you get hurt. It's too bad I only see it when I'm in uniform."

"What would you say about tree climbing?"

"I don't think that's a problem… I'd probably tell you the same thing."

And there it was, a kind of tenuous, tacit permission to climb a campus tree that I'd been staring at for weeks. Just for kicks, the next day I called the Minneapolis police department and they told me that I couldn't climb in Loring Park—previously the site of an international tree climbing competition, I imagine it to have the most perfect of all possible trees in Minneapolis—so that really left only one choice.

Reactions to the prospect of joining me tree climbing have ranged from positive (Jusko) to lukewarm. My friend Bripi was visiting from New Orleans and we hadn't yet hung out, so I gave her a ring and asked her how she'd feel joining me. I don't remember the exact response, but there were more than a few exclamation points.

But, without Jusko around to donate equipment to the cause, I needed a few more supplies. Thus ensued a $70 trip to Midwest Mountaineering. I'm not a fan of these trips any more than I am of grocery shopping: I don't like the sorts of choices involved. You're staring at a rope that will hold 1000lbs and costs less than half the price of a 3000lb-rope. Is it worth spending twice as much? There's never a situation I want to use this rope in where it's going to hold more than 200lbs, and yet…

I walk away with the 3000lb-rope. The same choice comes up for every piece of equipment. Thankfully, your standard 23kN (5000lb) carabiner is just $10, but the 51kN (11,500lb) model is tempting, despite being $23.

The first ten minutes are spent in repeated attempts to get the lead line into the tree. It repeatedly entangles itself in dead branches, some of which are already loose and others of which snap of as I try to get it loose; the net result is a raft of debris floating uncomfortably above our heads. Should probably look into helmets and dig out my squash glasses. Luckily, the actual ascent will take place closer to the trunk.

I give Bripi a brief run-down. The system involves a number of different knots and it wouldn't be cool if she had to tie those cold her first time, since they simply cannot be tied wrong, so she's going to ascend first on my knots and then send things back down.

The move at the top of the line is athletic. Bripi has to stand into the footloop, hug the branch above her, and swing both legs over another limb. After a couple of run-ups, she commits and is soon tying herself in. A few minutes later, I join her.

Which is when M.dB. walks by. Neither of us have seen him for probably two years and yet, here he is, staring up at us in seemingly the oddest of circumstances and, apparently, completely unsurprised. We all exchange well-wishes and couchsurfing agreements and then he wanders off and we continue wandering up.

At this point there are two options: throw the lead line higher and risk spending a goodly amount of time getting it tangled in more branches, both living and dead (I've since purposefully dislodged the raft and sent it thumping to the ground, it'll be safer to sit beneath this tree now), or climb higher up in the tree and look for another opportunity to anchor the ascent line. I opt for the latter option.

Given that the the 3000lb safety lines are essentially static, it would be ungood to actually fall on them. For sitting on, leaning against, and holding you to the tree, they're fine. But they don't have a lot of shock absorption; construction workers have harnesses with a very large, specially-designed rubber band to deal with this, I'm going to have to think more on the best way to do this.

Going up, the branches are spaced closely enough that I can generally peak over the top. A few seem to have hollows inside, which makes them poor choices for bearing weight. The larger ones, however, all seem intact, and there's enough new growth to continue upwards.

Another twenty or so feet higher, I find a good anchor branch with a (relatively) clear drop to Bripi. Which, of course, is when I realise that I never taught her how to tie the foot loop onto the line. That loop's never unintentionally in position to prevent falling or injury, so explaining it across a twenty foot gap is possible, if frustrating for the both of us.


Check out that hollow branch!

The woman stared up at us from below and had to shout to be heard: "I've never seen anyone climb so high in the city before!"

We didn't have long to enjoy the view. The climb had taken a while and we both wanted to get to shape note singing.

So that's one way to spend three hours of your day.



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