Trees Are For Climbing

Reprinted from Eikestadnuus 2008

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Some people run for fun, others cycle. Leon Visser (46) climbs trees for business and for pleasure.

Trees Unlimited is the name of his business and also very much epitomizes his vision. No tree is too high or too difficult for him to scale. He and co-adventurer Charles Green will be climbing two of the highest trees in Africa tomorrow and on Sunday.

Accompanied by Prof Brian Bredenkamp, professor of Forest and Wood Science at the University of Stellenbosch and Mr Izak van der Merwe of the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry, they will measure two of the tallest and biggest trees in Africa. These trees are included in a list of 24 that a panel of experts have nominated to be added to the existing 20 champion trees – some of which are in Stellenbosch – that were proclaimed in 2006.

Their expedition is sponsored by the tool company Stihl.

Today they will fly to Gauteng, and then travel to Limpopo, where they will set up their gear and climb a Saligna gum the following eikestadnuus2008vissergreenmorning. Then back on the ground and off to OR Tambo Airport and to KwaZulu-Natal. There they will tackle a Mountain Ash which is considered the biggest tree in South Africa, if height, crown and trunk size are combined – at the Benuvie near Howick on Sunday.

And then the Stellenbosch Big Tree Challenge awaits Leon. He will scale the ten most impressive, although not necessarily the highest trees, in Stellenbosch next Saturday (15 November). Altogether 300 meters, all in a single day!

How does he do it, when just looking at his photographs with their “birds Eye” view of the earth down below makes ones stomach turn. “It’s the Freedom of being in a space where others are not going to be.”   Scared at all? “I’m cautious, not frightened, a bit nervous, yet confident and sure of what I’m doing”

The Big Tree Challenge will begin with Paul Roos Gymnasium’s lemon scented gum at 08:00. He will then advance to Devon Valley’s sweet gum at the Muslim cemetery and red river gums at Wilgenhof, Bergzicht Square and on the Helshoogte Road and Jonkershoek Road. Then he will scale the Norfolk pine at the Theology faculty in Dorp Street, ending with the English Oak in Ryneveld Street.

“I want to heighten people’s awareness of the wonderful trees that we have in this country, especially in Stellenbosch. Just as landscape artist Strijdom van der Merwe’s wrapping of Dorp Street’s oaks in red cloth enhanced their beauty, I climb trees to illustrate their importance in our environment.” Leon concluded.

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