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Sunday May 27, 2012:

Graduation day at last! After the graduation festivities, I said goodbye to Yan and Emma, finished some last-minute packing, ate dinner at Ciao to celebrate, and my family drove Sean and I to the Marriott Residence Inn by SYR. Packing involved packing for the entire summer, which I’d be spending at work in CA again.

Monday May 28, 2012:

A travel day. Sean and I woke up to catch separate 5:40am indirect flights to Fresno, CA. I didn’t sleep that night due to a cold and thus spent my entire first flight asleep, as well as part of my second. I killed the four hour layover in the Phoenix airport by getting food with the young German woman sitting next to me when I woke up on the second flight. When I arrived in Fresno, Dave and Colin were waiting to pick us up. We drove to the Gross Out (formally the Grocery Outlet) and bought a 48 pack of snickers bars, a cart full of vegetables and staples, six cans of peaches, and a gross of eggs before beginning the long drive up into the mountains.

Tuesday May 29, 2012:

Today we were up early and eager to get into the trees. By order of DKatz, everyone was required to eat two eggs and two snickers bars a day in order to make quota (be on track to finish all the food). After a safety and personal check-in, we piled into the rented SUV and drove up the Whitaker Forrest Rd to our target trees. DKatz and I started from scratch on tree 274, while Colin, Tammy, and Sean pulled a rope through the pulley on tree 186, which was already rigged. (Note that I am not liable for getting any of the tree numbers correct as there are thousands of Sequoias on the property). Ken waited to clip and sort seed cones coming down from tree 186 in the afternoon. DKatz and I landed a successful big shot limb within three tries (the crossbow had broken), and started to project the rest of the tree (from the 150 ft. mark) after lunch on a limb.

Surprisingly, the heights did not faze me at all during this, the second year, of climbing giant sequoias. DKatz was even sprightlier than me, rocketing up the initial 150 ft. ascent before I could start my lunch. For the second half of the tree, I started flip flopping up the smaller branches on the North side, and DKatz swung over to a 100 ft. reiterated trunk and attempted to gri-gri direct aid up it. Let’s just stay I had an easier time of it. DKatz could be heard shouting his catchphrase “heinous” and his modified catchphrase “hatefully heinous,” as he tried to throw his daisy chained flip line around the 8 ft. diameter vertical branch. He succeeded after much effort and stretching. Eventually, DKatz and I reached the same height, and he was able to throw my line up a 30ft. gap with not branches. In the process, he dropped his daisy (which we use to tie ourselves to the tree). Since he still had a lanyard (rope used for the same reason), we continued upward. At about the 250ft. point we called it a day and rappelled to the ground.

Wednesday May 30, 2012:

On day two of climbing I finished leading tree 174, bringing Sean up as my follower. We finished ascending the 50ft. to the tree’s summit at around 1pm after starting climbing at 9:30pm. The top of the sequoia was half dead, with a live trunk and branches fused to a dying spire. We climbed on the separation line of the two, taking our time to put more than body weight on each thigh-sized branch before tying off to them. Finally, only blue sky remained above us at almost exactly the 90 meter point. Sean tagged and photographed six bunches of first-year seed code and marked the branches with spray paint, which will likely fall off with the brittle will bark before we return next year. I moved the full circle climbing system to a rescue pulley at the top of the tree, ate a very late lunch, and then descended with a new very turquoise Sean to the ground.

Thursday May 31, 2012:

Today was a big push to finish seed collection. Terri left for home around 12pm and Ken left just three hours later. DKatz wok up early and was climbing back up tree 274 by 7:30am. I followed him at 8am with Sean and Tammy not far behind. DKatz had already started seed collection when I began to climb, so small twigs and the occasional seed cone plummeted past me as I ascended. As if I needed a reminder of my height above the ground.

I set up a haul system and delivered seed cone to the ground while the other three collected. Eventually, DKatz rappelled down to say goodbye to Terri and I swapped jobs with Tammy. In total we collected close to 17 bushels of cone for the CALFIRE seed bank. Unfortunately, some seed did spill out while lowering the burlap sacks to the ground.

Friday June 1, 2012:

Most of Friday was spent experimenting with rescue techniques and rope systems in a small tree near the cabin. I sat in a harness so long that my legs went numb, but I think we made some progress is developing safer rope systems for students. We pushed hard to finish all the snickers bars, and did astrophotography at night, which is posted in the photos tab.

Saturday June 2, 2012:

Today we took a hike and photography session to Kings Canyon national park. DKatz and Colin were super excited for me to learn how to adjust exposure on DSLRs and the two spend many hours compiling HDR images and astro timelapses. As a team we also managed to fit all of our bags in/on top of the Nissan Xterra I rented for DKatz, which was impressive.

Sunday June 3, 2012:

Another travel day. I rented a car at the Fresno airport, and hauled my stuff to Santa Clara, my home for the summer. It’s going to be another great summer!

Ground to Crown is a short-form documentary about four young tree climbers and their journey to climb old growth Giant Sequoia trees in California. Scaling the dizzying heights of some of the tallest trees in North America, their efforts not only assist researchers from University of California at Berkley, but also give them a unique perspective on the forests and their place in it.

This video collaboration project is a collaboration by:

David Katz
Colin Crilley
Jake Rudin
Rob Moore
Dan Rudin

With support from:

Cornell Tree Climbing Institute

PMI Climbing Equipment
Center for Forestry at UCB

Special Thanks to:

Mark Holton @ Cornell Outdoor Education
Ken Somers @ Center for Forestry, University of California at Berkeley
Teri Griffis, L.A. Moran Reforestation Center, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection
Ken Hauser @ Pigeon Mountain Industries