The International Tree-Climbing Championships The International Tree-Climbing Championships

The International Tree-Climbing Championships

by Zach Dundas

July 24, 2010

Ah, to climb a tree. Treeclimbing might seem like the sort of faux-naïve, arcadian adventure that modern kids disdain in favor of video games and Goth music, or whatever it is they’re into. But among professional arborists, tree-climbing—competitive tree-climbing—is not only alive and well, it borders on deadly serious.

G: Your own career stats seem fairly impressive. So how are you hoping to do this time?

MC: Well, this is my 21st year competing at some level or another. At the state level, I’ve won the championship 18 times. I’ve been in the world’s top five 16 times and I’ve won two world championships. I set the 15-meter footlock record in 2007, and I held the record in the old distance, which was 40 feet, before they retired that category. So, yeah. At the same time, I’m 39, and I separated a shoulder in a hockey game fairly recently, and then I tore an MCL climbing. I’m just coming back from all that, so while I’m hoping I’m competitive, I don't think I’ll be setting any records this time.

G: What’s the importance of this competition to you—and other arborists, for that matter, in your work life?

MC: You honestly can’t stress it enough. As a professional, this competition gives you a window to see the cutting-edge technology and techniques for safety, and that’s really the main point. You learn the stuff fast, too, and with a lot of motivation, because if you show up at the competition with the wrong gear or wrong technique, they’ll just disqualify you. It also fosters a great feeling of camaraderie amongst the business—people sharing ideas, looking at equipment, talking about their work experiences. It’s great. And for spectators, it helps them see what an arborist does, what he or she looks like, how they talk, all that.

G: Why do you keep competing after all these years?

MC: In the beginning, when I was just a young kid, the state competition was a chance to see how I stacked up against the guys who were my mentors. Then, when I started to win, competing basically became my chance for free vacations. Now, it’s what makes me part of this close-knit community of other arborists, people who I maybe only see once a year but who are close friends. And, you know, last year I lost the world championship on a tiebreaker, so that keeps me motivated. And the guy I lost to [Jared Abrojena, United States], I consider him almost like a brother. His family is like my family. My parents like his parents. So part of me was as excited for him as I was disappointed for myself. It’s just a unique feeling.

UPDATE: Congratulations to Mark Chisolm, who won the 2010 championship.


Photo via the International Society of Arboriculture

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The International Tree-Climbing Championships