Spiral staircase built around a 75' tree

A reader writes, "A man on Hornby Island, BC built a spiral staircase around a 75-foot cedar tree. He put a platform on the top to get a view of the ocean. This video shows what it's like to climb up and then down the staircase."

My Dad's Treehouse


  1. That is an impressive undertaking … but I wonder a few things (perhaps watching it on mute took away from the experience? :) )

    1) Is this person named Ranger Gord, by any chance?

    2) It’s hornby. This usually means the person is a hippy. Why the heck would a hippy dippy tree fort builder be tossing out birds nests? I mean, even if the original species didn’t use the nest more than once, other species might re-use it.

    3) Not much of an ocean view, really. Hornby’s a fairly small island (I live on vancouver island) … it has much more spectacular views available than that.

    Example: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ecstaticist/2673818096/ (I’ve been here, although that isn’t my photo)

    That could just be a personal preference, though. I’m too lazy to climb so many stairs. :)

  2. i really bugs me that he didn’t let those birds nest’s stay there!!!! what were they bothering?!?!??!

  3. My head is now full of plans to expand to nearby trees with hanging bridges and to build secret storage rooms in hollow trunks.

  4. Jesus Christ, I have vertigo just watching that. The bit where he’s climbing the ladder and the camera moves to the right, showing nothing but blue… that’s scary stuff!

  5. I’m completely baffled about the nest throwing portion of this video. I have no idea how someone could build and climb a tree staircase in order to view nature in its most peaceful state, then collect and throw the bird nests to the wind along the way. It’s Crazy! Just Crazy!

  6. Vertigo watching!
    I can’t imagine the vertigo climbing.
    And I don’t even want to think about the vertigo building.

    But then again, I have a problem with heights.


  7. I would have a panic attack climbing back down that thing! Not to mention, is it me or does it look a little sparse and rickety? I wonder how long it’ll hold up.

    And what’s he have against birds? It is a tree, after all, and it’s not like the nests are really in his way or anything.

  8. The questionable building methods here are compounded by the wet habitat on Hornby. I would hesitate to set foot on this thing after one rainy season. Climbing holds and a good top rope anchor would have been a lot safer and a lot more fun. The whole tree climbing gym thing is catching on here, in France it’s called “accrobranche”.

  9. That’s a neat dad. And a neat project.

    In my area, he’d have had to leave off at least the bottom 10 feet to keep it from being labelled an “attractive nuisance”. (Basically, if kids can just walk onto it you’re liable for any accidents; if they had to bring a ladder then whatever happens is their fault.)

    I’ve climbed a few decommissioned firetowers which were about that tall… but those were nice strong (if rusting) metal, with handrails on both sides so if a tread broke I’d be OK. For this… I’d want to know a bit more about the construction techniques, though it looks like he’s pretty clueful in that regard.

    (Heights don’t bother me much if I trust what I’m standing on or hanging from. It’s the “are you sure this is going to hold?” which might get me. Were I constructing it, I’d have wanted a clip-in cable, Just In Case.)

  10. That looks like very scary construction techniques. Nails are great for keeping wood in place and taking loads in shear, but I wouldn’t want to hang on them. I’d want a rope belay, thanks In 1986 I climbed the 60 meter Gloucester Tree in Pemberton, Australia, that was more exposure but metal drilled into the tree.

    1. Nails are traditional for treehouses… though I’d have been tempted to go with screws on this one. They actually hold up pretty well if the forces are kept mostly in line with the nail rather than across it. If you’ve got a wood-frame house, it’s all nails, and it’s taking more stress than this is.

  11. That’s amazing! I’d love to see a video or photos of him building it. I can’t imagine how he built that…having to haul each 2X4 up those stairs, intall it, climb down, back up…repeat. Quite an undertaking.

    The bird thing…I understand it if it’s something he climbs regularly and doesn’t want a mama bird suddenly divebombing him as he’s climbing because he’s too close to it’s nest.

  12. Re: the gloucester tree – I climbed that a couple of years ago, and it’s Much bigger than this pine, and it’s open to the public. At 60 Metres it’s over 195 feet tall.

    There were 8 of these giant karri trees set up like this in the 30’s and 40’s as fire lookout towers (they have incredible views over the surrounding bushland) of which three are now open to the public to climb.

    Video of a guy climbing it, and the view from the top, here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r2gy9g-RG90

  13. For everyone who questions the tossing of the birds nest:

    I am fairly sure he got rid of them because they will rot the wood very fast. The urine, feces and whatever else decomposing matter will eat through those stairs like a hot knife through butter, and cause a safety problem.

    Not that the stairs aren’t already sketchy enough as is!.

    I have seen the same problem many times over with nests and decks.

    1. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head there, plus if another bird takes over the nest he may chase her off a clutch of eggs, meaning a nest full of dead baby birds, and tossing an empty nest off your stairs now is better than killing a family of birds later.

  14. This tree and other more complicated and creative structures can be found in Lloyd Khan’s “Builders of the Pacific Coast” (ISBN978-0-936070-43-8) shelterpub.com
    I started this project in 1996. Sometimes I’d build only one step a month. Usually taking a day to build each step. Just finished the platform this year.
    Each step was a chess move. Keep the mind alive!!
    I don’t hate birds. All the explanations above are relevant.Those nests had baby birds in them in the spring, so I was prevented from going up the tree until they fledged. Robins can build a nest toute suite and they seldom if ever use the same nest.

  15. Also bird feces are pretty unhealthy to be around; if he climbs the tree often he might be concerned for his health.

  16. I’m not afraid of heights, but the higher he climbed, the more nervous I got even though I’m safe in my living room. I think it was the look of the stairs more than anything else, with the steps at odd angles with large gaps. My wife says, “They’re going to find him dead at the base of the tree one day.”

  17. You can tell it’s a grownup’s tree house because if I ever built something that cockeyed with the odd step lengths and poor railing my parents would have torn it down.

  18. Whoa! That made me feel quesy lying in my bed, just doing research on spiral staircases! Very impressive he must of had an amazing head for heights and creating those steps. Handling the wood and hammer nails all at that heights without a ladder or fixing above!
    I take my hat off to him a great achievement!

    Sharpened my day a little burst of fear filled adrenalin, I am building or actually have fouled up a 3.2 meter iron ring and wooden steps ready made 30 year old staircase so something that high and more stable is an eyeopener. Well done how long did it take to build?


  19. Nests get dirty and birds don’t like to reuse them. Mites and diseases can persist in them. Google it.

  20. When I was a kid there was a house built inside a tree, it had four stories, spiral footpath, and gabled windows.
    They kept their car parked inside another Redwood tree which was also a garage.
    Made me feel like a bug.
    I’m sorry bugs, but it must suck to be you…..just sayin..

  21. Mr. Buzzkill reminds us:
    “In 2-3 years, one of those stairs is going rot and that structure becomes a deathtrap. Just saying.”

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