Climbing for a Smiley


Looking down, there is nothing for 30 feet and then the leafy floor of the Potsdam forest in Germany. My head is red from exhaustion. When I look at my hands, they are shaking. I try to write my geocaching username in the small logbook, but the letters are scrawly. “At least I did not forget the pen down there,” I think to myself.

Do not forget a pen, before going up!

Do not forget a pen, before going up!

“Now you have to come down” Ralf (Geocaching username: DeepdiverBerlin) calls from below. Ralf’s specialty are T5 caches. Geocaches with a terrain 5 rating require specialized equipment. That can be a boat, a vehicle with 4 wheel drive, or in this case, climbing equipment. Ralf brought his experienced friends Karsten (Karsten & Co), Gisela (water&sun) and Michael (Vista-Freund) to show me the ropes (pun intended) when it comes to finding geocaches hidden high up in trees.

“Pull!”, they yell and laugh and I carefully remove my hand ascender from the rope and pull the trigger of my descender to slowly let the rope slip through. And I come down, a lot quicker than it took me to climb up.

A little shaky I land back on the soft forest floor. I feel thrilled, excited, and very accomplished, but before too long, we pack up our climbing gear and go to the next geocache that is placed high up in a tree.

tree2We tackle 5 trees that day. Each with a different shape, height and technique. At one geocache location, we have to build a so called “ropeway” between two trees to get to a far out branch too thin to support anyone’s weight. Another time we have to pull the climber to the geocache from the ground. Tree climbing seems to be a great combination of physical and cerebral strength, as we often ponder over the best technique before getting the ropes in the trees and making our ways up to the geocaches.

I am glad to be able to learn from experienced climbers. Gisela is close to her 1000th geocache, she got while climbing a tree. “We thought, these kind of geocaches are for other people. That we will never get them,” says Michael, “But then a friend of ours took us and taught us how to do it and now we are hooked!” I can understand why. The physical exertion, making it way high into the crown of a tree is so adventurous, but being guided with experience and secured with good climbing gear, I feel very safe.

Gisela and Michael also took tree climbing classes to further their knowledge about tree climbing and also about tree types. It can be dangerous for inexperienced geocachers to climb a tree, because they don’t know enough about the sturdiness of different tree types, or cannot distinguish sick or dead trees from sturdy, healthy ones.

“This is my kind of adventure,” I think in the evening at a local geocaching event in Berlin. My legs are hurting, I can barely keep my eyes open, but I am happy and proud to have added five T5s to my geocaching statistics today. And I am looking forward to the next tree, and to my next geocaching adventure!

What geocaching experience made you feel proud and accomplished? Let us know in the comments below!