Pushing Limits: Rock Climber Chris Sharma Scales Giant Redwood

Everyone has climbed trees, but nothing like renowned rock climber Chris Sharma as he scales the trunk of a 253-foot Redwood.

He doesn’t climb the tree the way a child might, from branch to branch, because there are none. And he doesn’t climb it the way an arborist might with lines and pulleys. Instead, he free climbs it straight up the trunk, grip by grip.

With barely any handholds and even fewer footholds, every finger hold is what rock climbers call a crimp. And the old tested adage about memorizing your route is almost impossible here because the bark looks virtually the same. Sharma used chalk to mark his route, but it kept disappearing in the mist and humidity.

Nonetheless, he gets it done in this spectacular video from Red Bull. Growing up in Santa Cruz, California, Sharma travelled the world on rock climbing adventures that made a name for himself as one of the world’s top competitors in the sport. National Public Radio called him the world’s best in 2007.

After he returned from these trips, Sharma describes coming back to the Redwood forests of California, where he’d always had a connection growing up.

“I started looking up seeing more than just trees and actually seeing lines that would be awesome to climb on, getting back to the essence of climbing and being a kid again and climbing trees,” he says in the video.

Sharma brought along a tree biologist to choose the best tree and make sure he didn’t damage the ecosystem in anyway. Trees, unlike rock faces, are living beings. The arborist took samples from the tree as part of their studies on the effects of Redwoods to the California drought.

In an interview with Outside Magazine, Sharma said Choosing a sturdy tree with solid bark was also very important. 

“I wanted to be sure my holds were going to stay connected to the trunk and be reliable throughout the entire climb,” he told the magazine. “A lot of bark is crumbly or unstable, but the tree we found was fire hardened and strong. Still, I spent a lot of time figuring out the best route”

Childhood friend and climbing partner Justin Vitcov said he never imagined someone could climb a tree trunk.

“Almost 25 years of my life has been spent watching people on stone,” he said in the video. “There was something in my imagination for what it would be like to see that same sort of movement on a tree. This is legit climbing.”

© Flyingdolphin | Dreamstime.comRedwood Forest Photo