Port-Orford Cedar (Chamaecyparis lawsoniana) is some of the rarest and most valuable lumber in the world. The combination of this tree's small geographical range, value as timber and susceptibility to a deadly introduced root rot (Phytothphora cinnamomi) have made old-growth Port-Orford Cedars a rare sight. Phytothphora spores are commonly spread by humans that inadvertently track infected mud from one area to another on boot soles or car tires. For this reason Ascending the Giants planned the trip during the driest month of the year, August.
Waking up early, Brian and Will hiked down to the tree and set a line over a branch approximately 170 feet from the ground. Will was the first to ascend the line. Upon reaching the branch, he noticed extensive decay hollowing through the branch's connection to the trunk. After a thorough assessment and a brief discussion, it was agreed that before Brian clipped into the access line, Will would need to relieve the branch of his weight by tying into another branch. This proved to be difficult due to the awkward angles and great distance between the branches. Once this was accomplished, Brian could head up the access line and advance his climbing line near the top of the tree.
We measured the tree to be 242 feet tall. From high on the tree's rotten, dead top, it was easy to survey the surrounding forest. Although there was great diversity of conifer species around us, the Port-Orford Cedars were relatively scarce here, in the central portion of their small range. We also noted that for every green, living Port-Orford Cedar there was a sun-bleached skeleton of one that had succumbed to Phytothphora.