06 Dec Europe’s Tallest Tree
Measuring Europe’s Tallest Tree
There is something quite humbling about standing at the base of a huge tree. To stand next to something that grew organically and was not constructed can put us tiny bipedal humans into perspective. There is also another feeling that some may have and that is the fundamental need to reach the top of such structures! This was the feeling when standing at the base of Europe’s tallest tree Karri Knight, thankfully that was in fact our intention and with all permissions signed off we began the task of rigging, climbing and measuring the standing giant.
Karri Knight, a Eucalytus diversicolor is found in the Valle de Canas, Coimbre, Portugal. This towering beauty is thought to have been planted around 1895 and survived the large scale forest fires in 2005 which reduced most of the surrounding eucalyptus forest to ash. The tree was previously measured by Dean Nicolle in 2012 at 72m and as part of an ongoing survey of the tree, Coimbre University asked for various measurements to be taken using good old fashioned climbing methods to keep a record of the trees growth patterns and health.
At her side stands the worlds largest Araucaria bidwillii pine which despite its incredible size is unfortunately slightly overshadowed by its neighbour. After inspection of the impressive pine needles which likened it to a giant cheese grater I was relieved we were there to climb the more amenable eucalyptus.
We spent the morning using a high pressured air launcher to get a throw line over a branch we later measured at 60m and began the initial set up stages of getting into the tree.
At 30m we met our first substantial branch. A welcomed point of rest to catch my breath since after an enthusiastic start to the climb it dawned on me that there was quite a bit still to go!
At 50m we were level with our cheese grater neighbour and the canopy expanded offering a perfect opportunity to set up our Tentsile Trillium. This brilliant tree hammock acted as base camp and provided the means to sleep out the night before an early, misty morning summit.
At 65m, four arb lines and four access lines later we were ready for the ‘ascent’!
Until this point the steep forested valley that surrounded Karri Knight had provided a sense of cover and protection whilst climbing, now however, perched on a slim branch in the outer extremities of the trees’ canopy looking down there was the similar humbling perspective experienced when standing at the base looking up, the height being that little bit more realistic when watching the tail of your climbing rope swinging around in oblivion below.
The tree was measured at 72.9m almost a metre higher than in 2010 and is currently the tallest reliably measured tree in Europe. There are rumours of others that may be taller but nothing has been measured or confirmed as of yet……
It was an experience, privilege and adventure.
Special thanks to Andrew Walmsley www.andrewwalmsleyphotography.com our climbing photographer who captured the event from the tree top and Sam Strauss www.sam-strauss.com who shot the ground based perspective both offering exceptional photos and memories. Also to Tentsile (www.tentsile.com) for our tree top Trillium experience.
For a more detailed account of the climb please have a look at Syd’s account on the Tentsile Blog :