The Future of Urban Forestry

Improving the human habitat by promoting backyard Ecology.

You are here: Home Resources Climbing spikes/spurs
  • Decrease font size
  • Default font size
  • Increase font size
Climbing spikes/spurs PDF Print E-mail
Written by Dawn   
Wednesday, 11 March 2009 13:35

What are climbing spurs?  Should they be used on my tree? 

That’s a good question and the answer is – it depends.   

Climbing spurs, also called spikes or gaffs, are used as a method of ascending and descending a tree.  Here is a picture of what they look like:   

Climbing Spurs

They fit over boots and are strapped to the climber’s legs.  The tree is climbed by jamming the spikes into the bark.  Each impact point causes a wound on the tree.  This series of wounds follows the climber up and down the trunk.    There could be dozens of these wounds.  Thin barked trees are especially vulnerable to the damage.  Imagine a Beech tree with its beautiful smooth gray bark - marred with spike wounds all the way up its trunk.  It is a sad, sad sight. These spike wounds must be healed by the tree.  This healing process requires significant resources – detracting from a tree’s ability to grow and thrive.  The wounds are also points of entry for insects and disease.  For a tree that is already struggling to survive, or in less than ideal health, this could be the last nail (or spike!) in the coffin. 

So why would anyone use spurs on a pruning job?   

Spurs are traditionally used by loggers who remove trees.  The loggers don’t have to be concerned with the injury to the tree, because the tree is being removed anyway.  Unfortunately many tree care companies have adapted this technique not only for removing trees, but also for pruning them.  This is a big no, no!!  If you are having a tree pruned for structural safety and health of the tree, why would you want to cause injury to the tree in the process?   Climbing trees safely requires significant training and physical ability.  The most talented arborists use ropes to climb a tree, with no use of spikes or heavy equipment.  Climbing in this way creates minimal disturbance and does not injure the tree.  Unfortunately, many tree care companies do not have this special training and ability.  From what I see, these companies who use spikes on healthy trees either have no idea spurs are injuring the tree, or they are in the business, not for tree “care” but for profit.  Either way, in my opinion, these companies have no place caring for the health of any tree!  Ask for credentials. Know who you are hiring.

In summary, climbing spurs should only be used on tree removals or in emergency situations where it is absolutely necessary.  Never let anyone spike your trees otherwise!  

Please find a qualified, certified arborist to care for your trees!  It may cost a little more, but hiring the wrong company may cost you your trees.  A very high price to pay. 

How can you make sure you hire a qualified tree company? 

Go to the International Society of Arboriculture or ISA consumer website.  

Learn the difference between an arborist/tree care worker and an I.S.A. Certified Arborist/tree care worker(http://www.treesaregood.com/faq/faq02.aspx). 

Then, to find a qualified Arborist in your area: (http://www.treesaregood.com/findtreeservices/FindTreeCareService.aspx)    

 Kevin Bingham - climbing champion


Kevin Bingam is a certified Arborist from Detroit, MI.  His company Singing Tree specializes in pruning and removals - and boy are they good at it!  It's not just me at Urban Arbor Care who thinks so.  Kevin is the state tree climbing champion - the last two years in a row!  He also competed in last year's International climbing competition in St. Louis, MO.  There are no spikes on those feet for a pruning job and you will find no better climber.  Email Kevin at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it