Published April 20, 2013.

Tree climbers start another season at Thompson Park in Longmont

By Whitney Bryen Longmont Times-Call

LONGMONT — Eliza Svolos, 9, swung upside down with her arms stretched wide from a 90-foot green ash while her mom, Julianna Lochte, waved from the ground.

Lochte said her energetic daughter climbs trees at home but has never made it this high before, thank goodness.

“She’s always rigging up a jump rope or bungee cord at home to help her get up our trees,” Lochte said, staring up at one of the largest and oldest trees in Thompson Park.

The Boulder residents were two of about 15 participants at the season’s first introductory tree climb in Longmont on April 13.

Mackenzie Hill, 8, gets a different view of Thompson Park while tree climbing on April 13. (Lewis Geyer/Times-Call) ( LEWIS GEYER )


Harv “Ponderosa” Teitelbaum hosts tree-climbing sessions around the state, including Longmont and Lafayette, between April and November through his company Tree Climbing Colorado.

Teitelbaum, the company’s founder, begins with safety instructions and a quick warmup before helping participants climb a tree, which, in most cases, does not include actually touching the tree.

Five ropes between 120 and 150 feet hung from various branches, most of them several feet from the tree’s trunk. Participants used the ropes as a pulley system to lift themselves off the ground with the help of the green ash, which Teitelbaum named The Jolly Green Giant.

“In many cases, the only thing touching the tree is the tube protecting the tree from the rope,” Teitelbaum said. “There is very little or no damage to the trees.”

Longmont resident Brecken Corson, 7, was the veteran climber of the group climbing for the second time.

Brecken’s mom took him to a class last summer but this time he brought his dad, Tom Corson, to try the activity.

“Brecken is an outdoorsy kid, so he’s always asking to climb trees in our yard. But we only have small ones and we don’t have the technical equipment for him to do it safely anyway,” Corson said.

Julianna Lochte tries tree climbing for the first time at Thompson Park on April 13.(Lewis Geyer/Times-Call) ( LEWIS GEYER )

Brecken is a little gutsier than his dad, who said his fear of heights had his adrenaline pumping before he even left the ground. Eventually, Corson made it to the top of his rope, pulled himself onto the branch above him and laid there, 50 feet above the ground, taking it in.

“It’s like 100 percent adrenaline with pure meditation mixed in,” Corson said. “Now I understand why rock climbers do what they do: It’s a rush.”

Longmont resident Killian Hill, 7, is also afraid of heights, which is exactly why his parents decided to enroll him in a tree-climbing class.

Killian’s mom, Heather Rutkowski, said she’s hoping her son will grow out of his fear by facing it head-on.

Killian didn’t make it as high as his sister Mackenzie Hill, 8, who flipped upside down when she reached the top of her rope at about 50 feet. But Rutkowski was happy that Killian even attempted the climb, which she said is a step in the right direction.

Teitelbaum’s classes are hosted through various recreation centers across the state and cost between $25 and $40 per person depending on age and residency. The classes are open to all ages, he said. For more information, visit treeclimbingco.com.

“Some people are really happy to have done it, but there are always a few who are really struck by the experience,” Teitelbaum said. “There’s something very reconnecting about climbing up into the canopy. It’s a totally transporting experience.”

All of the climbers at the April 13 class said they would be back for another session with friends and family in tow.

“It’s worth at least trying it because there’s a real possibility it will change their lives,” Teitelbaum said.

Whitney Bryen can be reached at 303-684-5274 or wbryen@times-call.com.  

Tree Climbers start another season at Thompson Park in Longmont” by Witney Bryen.