How To Climb A Tree With Spurs & Spikes

Climbing tree with spurs.

You most probably want to try spur climbing for a change because you’ve seen some arborists tackle a tree with ease and without flinching. Yet, before you even try to imitate the professional arborists and do spur climbing, it will help if you first enroll yourself in an arborist course. The knowledge you would gain from such an accredited arborist institution will help you engage in spur climbing the right way.

Spur climbing differs from other types of tree climbing because it uses climbers, spikes, hooks, or spurs. Spur/spike climbers wear spurs that they strap on their lower legs with the spikes protruding from their foot’s insteps. This type of climbing facilitates the ascent with lower risks of injuries.

Spur climbing is one of the oldest tree-climbing techniques. It is the traditional method used by service technicians and spar pole climbers. Moreover, even loggers make use of this method. Besides, this climbing method has not changed much over the years, but some recent innovations in the spur’s designs made this technique safer and less risky.

Steps on Climbing trees with Spurs

As a caveat, you should not engage in spur climbing if you are not adequately trained in the correct steps on how to spur climb. It will help, therefore, to be cognizant of the following simple steps and tips when spur climbing:

Step 1: Make the Preparatory Inspection of the Tree

The primary thing you should do when spur climbing is to engage in the pre-climb inspection. You don’t scale a tree without this pre-climb inspection unless a boar or a crocodile is chasing you. At the onset, inspect the worksite. Look for anything that could pose a danger or hazard to yourself and others. Check for the structural integrity of the tree, like any damage or weakness near the tree base. 

Check for cracks, conks, or any cavities that may indicate structural weakness. You should also inspect the tree crown from your vantage point to figure out if there are stinging insects or dead branches. This pre-climb inspection will enable you to make a master plan on how you will tackle the lofty tree. 

Your plan should include the determination of the climbing spots. Then, check your gears and recheck if the spikes, flip lines, pads, and gaff guards, and other equipment are in perfect condition. Then, set the schedule for climbing the tree and make sure that your scheduled day is free of rain showers and thunderstorms.  

Step 2: Prepare the Essential Gears

Half of the time you would spend in spur climbing should be spent on preparation. Hence, it will be useful to make a checklist of your essential gear and complete your equipment at the onset. The necessary equipment you must have should include pads, harness, helmet, gaffs, belts, flip lines, adjuster, protection glass, climbing boots, and a pair of durable shirts and pants. Ensure that your gear is of top quality to ensure your safety and minimize the risks involved in spur climbing.

Step 3: Finalize Your Plan and Roadmap

Based on your ocular visit and inspection of the tree, you are now in a better position to finalize your roadmap. Don’t ascend the tree without finalizing your roadmap. Don’t be too excited to set your first step towards the top of the tree. Lean back and assess further the tree and delineate your roadmap. 

Double-check the branches and the tree’s barks for unseen damaged and cracks; otherwise, you may end up in a trap that may cause you injury. For this reason, I admonish you to double-check the tree and make sure that you leave no space for chance or mishaps.

Step 4: Begin Your Ascent

Once you have finalized your plan and your gear and equipment are all set, you can start ascending the tree. Begin by strapping on the spurs, your saddle, and your other equipment and by throwing around the tree one end of your flip line. Catch the rope end with your other hand. Then, connect the end to the D-ring on the saddle’s opposite side from the adjuster. 

Gain purchase on the tree trunk using the spurs. Make sure that the flipline keeps you from falling backward. Stab the spur’s gaff onto the tree and make the first step onto it. 

It will be useful to ensure that the gaff has the correct angle with your knees around six to eight inches away from the tree trunk. If you don’t do it right, the gaff will latch out of the tree trunk as you put your weight on it. You should advance the flipline after every two steps to keep pace with you by releasing the tension on the flipline and flipping it up. 

You will surely encounter branches as you ascend the tree. You can cut off these branches for ease of passage or your flipline, or you can use an alternate flipline to bypass them. You can skip the twiggy branches via a good flip. 

Moreover, it will be useful to shorten the flipline as you get to the tree’s smaller diameter part. You can use the adjuster to keep your torso’s distance from the trunk right.

Step 5: Know the Perfect Angles

You should not forget nor ignore the perfect angles, for it can save you from danger and accidents. If you set the angle of the gaff wrong, you may accidentally fall. Hence, in your roadmap, you should include figuring out the right angles and make sure that you maintain these angles. 

Experts agree that the 30-degree angle is the perfect angle for setting up the spikes on the tree when ascending. This angle is, of course, adjustable depending on the demand of the situation. The point is you need to know the perfect angle when placing the spikes to ensure that you ascend the tree in a comfortable and relaxing manner.

Step 6: Descending

Once you have completed your purpose or work up the tree, you need to safely get your feet back to the ground. If you have installed a climbing line, the descending process becomes easy for you. However, if you did not install, then you must use your flipline and spurs to back-climb. Back-climbing is not easy. It can be even more challenging than going up.

On the other hand, if you have installed a climbing line, the going down process becomes easy for you. With the climbing line installed, you can self-belay utilizing a friction hitch, or you can also rappel down. You can also ask someone to belay you from the ground.

Additional Tips When Spur Climbing

When spur climbing, always try to minimize risks, and not be overconfident when you reach the apex. Remember that spur climbing is fraught with risks, and if you lose sight of these risks, you may end up falling into these risks. 

You should also select the pads carefully, for poorly fitting pads may discomfort you and defocus you. It will also be helpful to choose spikes that you can easily position on the trunk. 

Climbing the tree using spurs may hurt the tree. Hence, you should not climb a tree using spikes if you only intend to prune the tree. As a caveat, you are only justified to climb a tree with spikes if you are to cut or eradicate a tree. Lastly, it will help if you never play down the importance of safety tips and warnings.


Spur climbing—as a method for scaling a tree—is an effective way of ascending a tree. It is also one of the safest ways. Yet, you need training and conditioning to mount a very high tree safely. Moreover, it will be useful to be cognizant of the right techniques and tips on spur climbing before you even attempt to spur climbing. 

As a beginner, it will help to have a mentor who can demonstrate the proper way of spur climbing to you. Reading alone on how to spur climb may prove not enough, for the written tips may not capture the nuances and actual situation you will face when you spur climb. Thus, it will be useful to have a good mentor who can guide you and remind you of the proper way of spur climbing.

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