Will Climbing a Tree with Spikes on Kill It?


Climbing a tree is something that is surprisingly common depending on the job, situation, or circumstances. Tree spikes are a fairly common piece of equipment that are often seen when being used to climb trees, but that brings up a good question: will climbing a tree with spikes on kill it?

In general, using tree spikes while climbing a tree is never recommended. Spikes won’t destroy a healthy tree by themselves, but the damage they cause is substantial. Damage from tree spikes can lead to further damage, as well as vulnerability to disease and damage. The damage from tree spikes can indirectly kill a tree.

For those thinking about climbing a tree, it’s best to focus on alternatives when put into this position. Here are the main details to think about when it comes to climbing your tree for pruning purposes.

climbing tree with tree spikes
Picture originally appeared at: http://www.treeclimbercoalition.org/using-tree-climbing-spikes/

Defining Tree Climbing Spikes

Let’s begin by understanding why amateurs will often use spikes to climb trees.

In most cases, it’s difficult to find a grip on the trunk, which can cause a person to slip with tools in their hands. It’s also challenging to move around in different directions without having firm footing.

This is why most professionals will use ladders and/or other similar equipment to find a way to the top of the tree. Otherwise, they are not going to start using spikes as an alternative because the damage isn’t worth it.

Focus on tree climbing spikes, these are attached to a person’s leg as they start climbing up. They tend to come with specific parts that can grip into the trunk along with leather straps and padding.

With smaller trees, these aren’t always necessary, but some will look to use them when the tree is significantly large and will take some time climbing. This includes when the branches are substantially long and reaching over is difficult without stability.

Damaging the Tree with Spikes

When it comes to climbing a tree with spikes, you are not going to kill it directly. However, that can change with repeated use and in some

The main issue has to do with the amount of damage you are going to do to the trunk, especially while moving up and down repeatedly. Even if it doesn’t get damaged the first time, it is going to break down after you dig in again.

This is why climbing spikes are generally not a good option and one that should be avoided when it’s time to start pruning.

This isn’t an issue if the tree is going to be cut down for lumber purposes. However, for maintenance or general climbing they should definitely be avoided.

Why Does the Tree Get Damaged?

The outer layer of the trunk is supposed to protect the inside of the tree. If this starts breaking down, it can do quite a bit of damage as the inside of the tree becomes exposed.

When the bark is punctured, you are going to start noticing the tree decay from that area depending on how extensive the piercing is. With something as sharp as stainless steel, you are not going to have much of a chance in protecting the tree’s integrity.

Instead, the tree is going to have a substantial hole and/or slash in it that is hard to fix. If you go deep enough, you are digging into living tissue, which has serious negatives.

When you start adding all of the punctured spots on the tree, it leaves quite a bit of damage behind that will ruin the tree’s health. As a result, all of the work you have done “maintaining” the tree goes out the window!

A person that is going to be working on the tree has to be careful about their equipment. This is the only way to feel certain about what you are doing without having the opposite effect.

What if the tree is thicker than the average tree?

Does this mean you can use tree climbing spikes?

In general, you should avoid doing this because steel-based spikes are still strong enough to pierce all the way through. This amount of damage is just not worth it.

How to Properly Use Tree Spikes Video

Times to Use Tree Climbing Spikes

Now that you know tree climbing spikes are a bad idea, it’s time to pinpoint when they are a reasonable option that can be kept in mind.

The best time to use tree climbing spikes is when you are trying to remove the entire tree. This means you climb up, chop branches, and begin clearing out excess before chopping down the tree. In this case, you don’t have to worry about the tree’s health at all.

This is why they are commonly used with certain types of cutting for lumber

Another reason has to do with having a lack of options to get up the tree.

Depending on where the tree is positioned, you may not be able to get up to where you need to be safely. In this case, it’s time to put on the tree climbing spikes and remain as delicate as possible while heading up.

Diseases Due To Using Climbing Spikes

It’s one thing to puncture the bark but another to leave behind new diseases that are going to ruin the tree’s health.

This happens when the living tissue is exposed.

Studies have shown climbing spikes creating large wounds that will become home to pathogens. These will destroy the tree from the inside and make it unable to ever recover the way you want it to.

This is reason enough not to use climbing spikes if there are any other options available.

Other diseases that tend to pop up include things such as bacterial blight, which happens when bacteria enter the wound due to a lack of sanitization.

This is quite possible when steel spikes dig into the tree and stress the living tissue inside. This is when the bacterial blight has time to settle in and do quite a bit of damage.

Another disease that is mentioned by professional arborists includes cankers. This is when a fungal infection spreads throughout the tree due to a wound in the bark. This causes that part of the bark to break off and expose the rest of the tree.

The final disease that is possible with the use of tree climbing spikes would be fire blight.

Fire blight happens when a tree is exposed to wounds and then the leaf becomes infected. This causes the other leaves to start breaking down and falling off as the disease begins to spread.

You will often notice this as the leaves start changing colors without rhyme or reason. They will often go black/brown before falling.

This means the disease is spreading and it may have to do with the wound you created while using spikes.

Final Thoughts

In the end, tree climbing spikes are a horrible idea and the last resort when it is time to start maintaining a tree.

In most cases, you should be looking for a normal way of getting up to the tree that doesn’t revolve around creating wounds in the tree, which open it up to mold, fungus, disease, pests, and environmental damage.

Tree spikes can absolutely hurt trees and in certain situations can open up the tree to dying from other causes.

Outdoor Shane

I've been in love with the great outdoors since I was a toddler. Grew up in many parts of rural America, spent my youth camping and in Scouts, and years adventuring in Alaska. I know, love, breathe, and live the great outdoors.

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