World view: free climbing a giant redwood, Eureka, northern California
California’s huge redwood trees are a natural wonder. In these breathtaking shots, climber Chris Sharma scales a 77-metre-tall sequoia. The reason? Red Bull’s Giant Ascent project and a chance for biologists to check the 600-year-old tree’s health
Many of us climbed trees as kids, but the Californian pro-climber Chris Sharma has taken the childhood pursuit to dizzying heights, scaling a huge redwood tree for a project called Giant Ascent.
The 34-year-old climber ascended the 77-metre redwood in Eureka, northern California, without ropes, climbing 50 metres up the bark before reaching the first branches.
Sharma spent three days working on the project with a top rope, though he struggled to learn the route: the repetitive pattern in the bark was more disorientating than a cliff face. To rig the ropes, the support team had to shoot an arrow to the top using a high-powered crossbow.
The climb – which Sharma estimated as “at least a 9a” grade (for non-climbers, that’s pretty damn hard) – sent him high up into the canopy of the ancient forest.
The tree was estimated to be around 600-700 years old. One of the reasons Sharma set up the project was to support the work of Dr Anthony Ambrose and research associate Wendy Baxter from the University of California, Berkeley, who have been studying the trees for 18 years.