This weekend 25 arborists will take part in the Western Tree Climbing Championship, sponsored by the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA).
“It’s to bring professional arborists and tree care workers together for some healthy competition and to learn some new techniques along the way,” said Matt Erb, Director or Urban Forestry at Tree Pittsburgh and Chairperson of the Penn-Del ISA Tree Climbing Competetion.
The event in Pittsburgh’s Arsenal Park will feature five climbing contests. One is aerial rescue, in which a climber must rescue a dummy in a tree. There’s a “throw ball” contest, in which a climber throws a light string with a weighted ball into a tree. They’ve got to get the rope through crotches in the tree efficiently and will lose points for knocking off any leaves or branches.
Erb said the competition raises public awareness of what arborists do.
“Arborists basically take care of trees in people’s yards, along city streets, and in public parks, and so a lot of the skills that they use in competitions are skills they use to help keep the public safe,” he said.
The safety comes from making sure trees are properly pruned, removing dead and dying branches and making sure trees are healthy and don’t pose any hazards. Saturday’s competition will also feature a free Kids’ Climb, where both children and adults can learn and test their skills as tree climbers. But, Erb cautioned it’s not as simple as using just your body to scale a tree.
“These are professional climbers. We have a lot of safety that goes into this event, and even the Kids’ Climb follows all the same safety standards, and even more,” he said.
An earlier competition in the eastern part of the state featured 35 arborists, with five coming out on top. Five top climbers will be chosen from the western competition, and the 10 from the state will compete in a climbing competition in State College in June. The top climber from that will compete in the ISA International Competition in Portland, Oregon in July.