T5 Tree-top Challenge


Weeeeeeell... I was up this way to buy a ukulele (long story) and it would have been rude not to scoop up a couple of big 'uns on the way back, eh?!

The whole enterprise was slightly overshadowed by the pervading guilt that I'd spent an unholy amount of money on what amounts to a pretentious toy guitar, and this may have knocked my confidence slightly but..... nevertheless!. I arrived at Stage 1 having seen the spoiler image and expecting it to be child's play. Nyope. What appears to be a straightforward stroll up a fallen tree is very much not that - especially when the moss is so slippery. I wandered around planning various angles of attack until eventually giving in and just running up the tree - although I did take a rope so I would not have to gingerly pick my way back down. A satisfying leap/rappel saw me back at ground level with the coords for Stage 2.

Stage 2 proved conclusively that I am a bloody awful shot with a throwline. It must've taken me 30 minutes and probably twice that in throws to get close, and even then once aloft I needed to do some terrifying balancing to shift from rope to an improvised web of slings for the final little push. However, coords grabbed, and then an awkward prusik failure saw me down in a fairly unplanned way.

It seems to be going... acceptably.

Stage 3 took me ages to spot, but miraculously I managed to get the throwline through the exact two branches I wanted on throw TWO! The bad news was that once ready to set off it was clear that I'd positioned the rope between the branches I wanted and in fact over a cruddy 5cm dead-looking branch. I decided, ill-advisedly, to ascend anyway, calculating that if the dead branch were to give way, I'd fall about six feet. Of course it didn't, and had the effect instead of merely filling me with dread as I ascended.

Stage 4. Stage 4.... It took a lot of spotting and after a couple of abortive throwline attempts, an increasing sense that I should be at home facing the ukulele music, fatigue (I'd been up since 5am) and an increasingly-significant awareness that I was climbing solo, I decided to call it a day for today.

So I've got the coords for 4. Spotted it in the tree. MIGHT find a second rope for the return visit as although Blake's Hitches are my preferred method for re-rigging, they're a pig to set up in a complex tree.

See you next time!


I was up a few weeks ago grabbing stages 1, 2, & 3, and that time arrived at stage 4 without really the time or the body-warmth to attempt it. So I very sensibly called it a day to return today to clean up.

Stage 4 was great fun. Challenging and using a variety of ascension methods and a splendid rappel down to earth too. Whereas Stage 5...... JEEEEEZ! How did you get that there...?

I was at GZ at 7/8ish this morning and the sun was exactly in the wrong place to be able to clearly see the geography of the tree. I could not for the life of me figure out a workable route to the cache (beyond coming back with a bow and arrow and a very long rope...) I climbed up to the Obvious Fork to see if I could get a better handle on things from there but, inevitably, it was harder to work anything out from the single point, albeit further up, than it was from pacing around on the ground.

Had I come with a climbing partner perhaps I'd have stuck around and figured something out or learnt a new arboreal skill but as it was, I descended dejectedly and came away from this my first arboreal cache defeat! Though saying that, I was later defeated by DizzyPair's Hit The Beech too, so it's been a very poor show all round!

Three months. Eighteen hours in the car total. A couple of audiobooks. And this last one, stage five, an unbelievable four hours in the tree!

It started so well... After all, I've been here before(!) I had a good idea of what to expect, and had been practising my throwline technique to such a high standard that I'd all but given up on saving for a Big Shot. Not only that, but I'd perfected a technique of re-siting the throwbag mid-way along the line to ensure a good pathway for both sides of the rope. So I'm all confidence.

It took fifteen minutes to get the throwline near the cache, but finally like a god I (completely by chance) managed to get the throwline EXACTLY where the cache was. Not only that, but neatly above the helpful side-branch to stop the rope dropping down the limb to the Black Hole Of Throwlines - about which more later. After making use of the mid-line throwbag strategy I had what looked like the idea setup for hoisting the rope. Rope up, and curses the ends were hanging at eye level meaning, of course, no way of setting up a rig.

However - never fear! - I've also been working on a patent pending system for using and retrieving the full length of a rope. I... need to... just... tweak this... throwline... as it's not in the right plaaAUGH! The line, snagged on a small springy branch, perfectly catapaulted the bag OFF of it's amazing place and sent the entire thing down to a neat pile by my feet.

'Rats. Let's just go up and have a look. I'll take the throwline and bag with me and try to position it from aloft.' I bundled the rope and just slung it over a handy low limb and began the ascent (the first ascent... hmm...) with the old hitch-climber setup and 3m lanyard. Neat. That got me to within TEN FEET of the cache. But... once there it seemed to be extraordinarily difficult to set the throwline. Or shimmy the remaining ten feet thanks to an abrupt lack of lateral growth. I spent a long time looking at it before realising that I was spending more time planning an alternative route than it took me to chuck the line from the ground before, so down I jumped for a second crack at that.

This was when I fully appreciated the awfulness of The Black Hole Of Throwlines. Right in there. SO tightly that it wasn't going to move in either direction. A bloody great bright orange throwline hanging the full length of the tree, pretty much.

I'm a big boy. I can leave a cache if it's too much. I've done it before on this very tree! However, I can't leave that there. So once again it was up again with the hitch-climber and lanyard until I was almost, but not, at the Black Hole. And now I felt more of a moral imperative to solve the problem of lack-of-lateral-growth. Happily this time inspiration struck in the form of memories (painful ones, but memories nonetheless) from Hang 'Em High... and slowly - forty five minutes slowly - with a couple of slings, I inched my way to the dodgy and optimistic little knot in the branch just south of the cache over which I reckoned I could sling my rope. And did.

And on the way I found evidence of THREE other jammed throwlines in the same spot.

Then all that was required, HA! "all" that was required, was for me to drop off of the limb at 50m and trust the rope, my Distel Hitch, and the little knot. And then, the cache being at fingertips' length and still unopenable (albeit pokeable), to toss the lanyard over the branch upstream of the cache and tow myself in a hammock formation closer to the container. Adjusting. The. Lanyard. Prusik. With. My. Teeth.

My teeth...

... But this is a geocache. A 5/5. It's very important. It's vital, urgent, critical... indispensable... essential... there... er... just a geocache... with no meaning, at all, pointless. Stupid. What am I doing? I got out of bed at 4am and have spent an hour throwing a beanbag at a tree, four hours in the tree, and now here I am dangling from a rope that I know will not reach the ground for my descent, gripping a biro lid in my teeth, writing a name that is a made up name onto a small slip of paper.

And that's about it. Other than the prusik seizing up halfway down and almost needing cutting out. Beyond that it was plain sailing.

I had a list of DizzyPair climbs to do today. Didn't get to any of 'em.

Thank you Ambles for a great challenge. It escalates quickly, and has rather conveniently mirrored my gradually increasing confidence and knowledge of the various strategies and pitfalls. Brilliant. Obviously a favourite.