Why Using Climbing Spikes When Pruning Trees Might Not Be the Best Idea


Climbing spikes are specialty devices that climbers can attach to their legs via leather straps and padded supports to get a better grip on a tree. They feature sharpened steel spikes that dig into the bark, so climbing spikes should only be used under extremely limited circumstances. If used incorrectly, they can cause unnecessary damage to living trees.

How Damaging Are Climbing Spikes?

Every puncture wound made by climbing spikes creates not just tissue death but also a convenient entry point for fungi, bacteria, and pests. While isolated wounds usually seal over without issue, the groupings of holes found all the way up the trunk after multiple climbs with spikes can cause far more significant damage. Even on large trees with thick bark, the spikes almost always pierce the cambium and leave behind deep wounds.

The problem is, a lot of tree care providers don’t realize how damaging climbing spikes can be. Homeowners should avoid working with arborists who rely excessively on climbing spikes. They can find new tree care professionals by searching for tree services near me and choosing one that utilizes less destructive methods for reaching higher parts of living trees.

Climbing Spikes Are Not Designed for Pruning

At this point, property owners may be wondering why tree care providers are trained in using climbing spikes, at all. The thing is, these tools are extremely helpful in a limited number of situations. Standard pruning of shade, fruit, and ornamental trees just isn’t one of them.

Climbing spikes are perfect for taking down trees. Since the tree will be removed anyway, it doesn’t matter if the climber punctures the bark repeatedly. Climbers may also need to use them when other techniques such as using ropes and harnesses or aerial lift devices won’t work. These circumstances often include:

·  Climbing trees with no branches lower than 50 feet.

Climbing trees with branches that preclude traversing because they are more than a throwline’s distance apart.

Climbing trees that cannot be accessed via aerial lift device or crane.

Climbing trees that are growing too close to power lines to be accessed safely by other means.

Reaching injured climbers when time is of the essence.

Using climbing spikes just one time is unlikely to cause significant damage to an established tree. If an arborist is confident that it’s the only way to access difficult-to-reach areas, homeowners should respect that.

Alternatives to Climbing Spikes for Tree Pruning

Tree care providers have a wide range of tools and tricks up their sleeves when it comes to pruning difficult-to-reach branches. Climbing ropes and harnesses allow them to get into trees without causing damage, and aerial lifts can eliminate the need for climbing entirely. On smaller trees, most arborists use pole saws to reach branches above head height.

Hire a Professional for Tree Pruning

Some homeowners assume that they can save money by pruning their own trees, but that’s rarely the case. The use of climbing spikes is just one of the common mistakes that can lead to branch dieback or tree death. Professional arborists know how to prune trees safely so they can enhance the specimens’ aesthetic appeal and increase their health without putting workers, residents, or the trees themselves at risk. Even for smaller trees, it’s always worth hiring a skilled arborist.