NOLS Amazon Tree Ascension Program

Posted by: Brooke Retherford on 10/14/13 5:05 AM

First Ever NOLS Tree Ascension at NOLS Amazon!

by Brooke Retherford

I remember sitting around discussing ideas for NOLS Amazon
at the all-staff reunion at the end of the semester in 2006. NOLS Amazon had just wrapped up a successful first year and we had lots of big ideas and dreams for what would come. Hanging out in the canopy of some really BIG trees was definitely one of the dreams. After all, it is hard not to imagine yourself sitting on the giant limbs of some of the most magnificent
trees that could be somewhere around 2,000 years old. And the more you spend time under the Amazon rainforest canopy the more you want to actually BE in it or better yet ABOVE it.

Seven years later we have been able to realize our dream by running the first ever Tree Ascension program at NOLS. Last year, primarily thanks to Dálio
Zippin, Jim Chisholm, and Jon Kempsey we piloted the program on the semester to see what kind of success it would meet. We found that the pilot program left students wanting more, which subsequently led to developing curriculum and solidifying the risk management procedures.

Prior to this year’s semester heading into the field NOLS Amazon ran a Tree Ascension Seminar to get a handful of instructors up to par and on the same page with the program. Here at the NOLS Amazon base, which we endearingly refer to as The Chacára, we have some gigantic trees to climb--one of which is a copaiba (Copaifera reticulata). On an interesting side
note, the copaiba tree releases oil that is a natural anit-inflammatory and
antibacterial. Some of the documented uses and benefits include external and internal inflammation, respiratory infections, skin disorders, urinary tract, bladder and kidnery conditions, bleeding, sore throats, and insect bites. I have used it religiously on all kinds of cuts since I discovered it.

The goal for this year’s students is to ascend at least three 100-150 foot trees during the 40-day river section. We sent them off with six tree ascension sets complete with ropes, ascenders, harnesses, helmets, etc., but the coolest toy out there with them is the Big Shot slingshot. We won’t hear from our group (hopefully because here at NOLS no news is good news) until October 22nd, but we are excited to get the lowdown when they transition from the river section to the cultural section!

Brooke Retherford -0117
Copaiba Tree at the NOLS Amazon base