“He who likes cherries soon learns to climb” (German proverb)

“I did cut it with my hatchet” (George Washington)

Imagine you are washed up on a tropical island: thirsty and hungry, you look up longingly at the tree_climbingcoconuts hanging high above you and try to work out 1) how to get them and 2) how to open one if you do.

The quickest way of getting to the coconuts is to climb up the tree and twist them off, but is this the best way to do it in a survival situation?  As in most situations like these the answer is a lawyer’s favourite (“It depends…”).  If the tree isn’t too high, has an accommodating lean to it and if you are good at climbing then it probably is the best thing to do…however, the last thing you want is to fall or cut yourself, so you’d need to weigh up the risk-reward equation and consider whether there are other ways of getting that coconut down which reduce the risk of injury.

[In case you are wondering, to open the coconut, assuming you don’t have a knife, you simply split the outer green husk by smashing it against a rock, pull away the outer husk with your hands and look for the three eyes that are in a triangle at the top and are the weak points of the inner core.  Use a stick to push through and then enjoy a refreshing drink]

The ability to judge the pros and cons of the many different options you have in a survival situation is something that is sometimes lacking in TV survival shows; Bear Grylls, in particular, is often shown taking unnecessary risks that would be foolish indeed in a real survival situation.  Why does he run through the jungle when he could walk?  Why climb down the side of a waterfall when you could go round the side?   It is risk taking for the sake of TV melodrama and presents a somewhat misleading picture of the reality (there are safety measures in place to ensure he doesn’t get hurt and to rescue him if he does), whereas if you are alone in a survival situation and fall and break your leg you’re pretty much stuffed.

So why learn to climb a tree?  Going back to the scenario of the tropical island, if you are suffering from dehydration and have no other option, then you have to take the risk and climb the tree – in which case it’s good to know how to do it.  Similarly,  if you want to harvest fruit in the jungle and don’t have a parang, then you’re probably going to have to climb that tree….

…but if you do have a parang, the George Washington option is open to you and you can simply cut the tree down.