The giant Karri tree towers over all who stands before it. At 75 metres tall and more than 250 years old, it must have some stories to tell – particularly when it comes to the people who’ve climbed it.
The spindly metal pegs – all 165 of them – ascend up and around the trunk of the tree like a spiral staircase. With no harness and only a run of flimsy ring-lock wire attached to the outside edge, it’s a tourist attraction you’d expect to find deep in the forests of South East Asia or South America. At first glance, you’d have to be mad to climb it – but each year, many adrenaline lovers do.
The Dave Evans Bicentennial Tree is located in Warren National Park, just 15 minutes out of the township of Pemberton – south-west WA.
It was first pegged in 1988 as part of Australia’s Bicentennial celebrations and was designed to mimic the historic fire lookout trees that were pegged in the Karri Forest during the 1930s and 40s. The Bicentennial Tree forms a trilogy of climbing trees spread across the region, with the 61 metre Gloucester Tree and 51 metre Diamond Tree (both pegged and climbed by thrill seekers in the same way) also popular tourist attractions. These two slightly smaller giants were pegged back in the 1940s and are two of the original eight fire lookout trees.
As far as extreme sports go, Pemberton’s climbing trees are certainly something out of the ordinary. At Rap Jumping we let you abseil or rappel from a seven-storey building – which is approximately 24 metres from the ground. However, participants are fully harnessed and supervised; we’re with you every step of the way. Conversely, the climbing trees range between 51 metres and 75 metres high and are public attractions – you complete the climb entirely unharnessed and unsupervised. Apart from standard national park entry fees (which are $12 per vehicle), you don’t have to pay to climb these giants.
The Pemberton climbing trees could be considered part of the final frontier; relics from an era where public liability insurance took a back seat. As you gaze up into the branches, you wonder what would happen if you reached the top but were too scared to come down. Does the fire brigade have a ladder that extends even halfway up that trunk?
Despite their less-than-safe appearance, no one has died while attempting to climb these trees – and as you place mind over matter and scale the pegs, you begin to realise that it would indeed be hard to fall between the firmly-rammed metal rods. Upon reaching the tree house in the crown of the canopy, you come to the conclusion that it’s (mostly) in your head; once you’re over that inner turmoil that screams ‘should I be doing this?’, it’s a matter of putting one foot in front of the other and not looking down. The climb certainly isn’t for the faint-hearted; there have been two cases where climbers suffered heart attacks upon reaching the ground.
So is the climb worth it? With 360 degrees view of old-growth Karri forest, you better believe it. The feeling once your feet reconnect with the earth is unbelievable; although a much slower descent compared to rap jumping, the adrenaline rush isn’t all that dissimilar! If you’re an adventure seeker heading to Western Australia’s south-west, Pemberton should be on your list of stops. Whether you visit one climbing tree or all three, it’s well worth it – if not for the views, but to experience something that you would never expect to come across in the modern era.
Testing and conquering your fear of heights before tackling these trees is a wise idea. Backwards abseiling is a great way to cut your teeth, and Aussie-style rappelling is sure to get you use to the feeling of adrenaline running through your veins! At Rap Jumping, we’re proud to offer an adventure sport that this both exciting and 100% safe – however we must admit we’d love the chance to tackle Pemberton’s giants!
If you would like to find out more about Western Australia’s climbing trees, visit the Pemberton Visitor Website today. If travelling to WA’s south-west isn’t on your radar in the near future – or you are looking for a taste of adrenaline closer to home – why not book a rap jumping session with us today!