Climbing trees is a popular pastime for many children. But a group of competitors took the hobby to new heights in a statewide competition.
Seventeen professional arborists competed in the Illinois Tree Climbing Championship at Cantigny Park. All are actual experts who scale trees just about every day for trimming and maintenance.
“Everybody climbs a tree when you’re a kid and this is just a professional way to keep that kid in you,” said competitor Trent Commer. “It’s just an infectious thing, being outdoors, climbing the trees.”
Besides friendly competition, the championship is an opportunity to hone their skills in the field.
“They see new climbing techniques, new innovations, new gear. They come out here [and] they compete [and] they network,” said April Toney, Executive Director for the Illinois Arbor Association. “We also put it on in a public area so that the public can see what tree climbers have to do every day and witness just how extensive tree work can be.”
During the competition, these arbor athletes raced against the clock in five qualifying events, including The Secured Foot Lock, Throw Line, and Aerial Rescue.
“It forces you to put yourself in a situation that you might find yourself in but it also promotes your cognitive skills in the industry to promote safety in that if you have a victim or one of your co-workers might be hurt, you can then have the capacity to bring them out of the tree safely,” said competitor Brandon Dobnick.
The Work Climb is an obstacle course that has climbers completing five job tasks in a large oak tree.
“This tests your agility, how smooth you’re working, how much slack you’re generating in your system and keeping your system really tight so you don’t take a fall,” said competitor Todd Kramer. “It kind of simulates day-to-day work challenges that we have.”
Lastly, in the Belayed Speed Climb, contestants ascend up a tree and ring a bell as fast as they can.
“It’s fast. It’s quick [and] no endurance [is] necessary and it’s an adrenaline rush,” said competitor Tyler Wallace.
“A lot of it’s upper-body,” said Commer. “Most of it’s just ergonomics, knowing how to move, how to move your feet and your arms all in unison to make it easier. It is difficult and physical but once you figure out the ergonomics of it, it get easier.”
The top three competitors overall then went on to tackle the Master’s Challenge, which combines elements from all five previous rounds.
Coming out on top and earning the title of Illinois tree climbing champion for his 10th time now was Kramer, who’ll go on to compete in the International Tree Climbing Championship in Toronto, Canada in August.
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