Tree-climbing antiques dealer in marathon ascent

Laurence Mitchell, 68, climbed a Trent Park tree 100 times in nine hours, reports James Cracknell

Laurence Mitchell pictured during his training for his epic tree-climbing challenge
Laurence Mitchell pictured during training for his epic tree-climbing challenge

An antiques dealer who took up tree climbing as a hobby during lockdown has helped raise more than £1,000 for Greenpeace by taking on a unique challenge in Trent Park.

Enfield resident Laurence Mitchell climbed 11.5 metres up an American beech tree 100 times in nine hours – more than a kilometre in total – without any safety equipment.

Laurence, who is 68 and describes himself as “an extreme fitness junkie”, told the Dispatch that his love of climbing trees began during the pandemic. “I made use of all the trees in Trent Park during lockdown,” he said. “After a bit of time I realised there was a lot of potential in climbing trees and I decided to write a book about it – a guide to tree climbing.

“It is not just about climbing trees, it is about respecting trees and knowing that there are some trees you shouldn’t climb.”

As if his climbing challenge wasn’t tough enough already, Laurence was born with a condition that limits the range of motion with his arms. And his ascent was not without incident, either – at one point he fell from a branch that gave way, but fortunately was able to cling to one immediately underneath.

“It was my own complacency,” he admitted. “I put pressure on a dead branch and unfortunately it gave way.

“It is not just about grabbing hold of a branch, I look at every branch and measure it up and look at the angle of it. The central branches of a tree are extremely strong – you see gorillas on them in wildlife documentaries.”

How does a 68-year-old stay fit enough to take on such feats of endurance? “I have always been interested in fitness. I started to do a bit of bouldering and gymnastics and I made use of various outdoor gyms. I started to do some exercise you would normally do in a gym, like hanging upside down doing stomach crunches, but I was doing it in a tree.

“I met a personal trainer who thought it [climbing trees] was a great idea and I have had a lot of support from a strength and conditioning coach.”

Laurence completed his 100-climb challenge on 24th October. Explaining why he choose an American beech tree, he said: “It has very smooth bark – you don’t want to climb on a rough branch because you can cut yourself.

“There were other trees I could climb but I wanted to give myself a challenge – I want to see how much endurance I could handle. Another tree I climb is Douglas fir, which is easier because the branches are spaced out.

“In the book I am writing I am exploring a lot of the exercises older adults can do with trees and simple exercises that help them with balance and posture. There will be no other book quite like it.”

Laurence’s Trent Park challenge won’t be his last. He says he is now planning a one-mile tree climbing feat and hopes to enter it into the Guinness Book of World Records.

Support Laurence’s fundraising appeal for Greenpeace:
Visit gofundme.com