The 2019 International Tree Climbing Championship united more than 20 countries, 74 competitors, vendors, partners and countless volunteers under the canopy of Lakeshore Park in Knoxville, Tennessee (US) for a weekend of competitive tree climbing.
Throughout the weekend, climbers competed and were scored individually in several events – Aerial Rescue, Work Climb, Ascent Event, Belayed Speed Climb and Throwline – but, ITCC proved to be about more than competition. As arborists worked through the events, other competitors gathered on the sidelines cheering and offering up helpful advice.
“That’s probably the best part about ITCC,” said Jordan Dyck, a first-time ITCC competitor from Winnipeg Manitoba, Canada. “Yes, it is a competition, but at the heart of it, everybody is here to have fun and learn a lot. So, everybody helps each other out because we all want each other to do well.”
Although most sports encourage good sportsmanship, they typically advise against helping out the competition, but according to Melissa Duffy, a volunteer from the New England Chapter ISA, “teamwork” is a big part of tree climbing.
“The people that are here are humble and eager to share what they know to help others do well in the industry,” said Duffy, a former tree climbing competitor.
For other competitors, like Reginald Copes, a climber from Indianapolis, Indiana, ITCC creates an opportunity to reconnect with friends. “I’m one of the guys that comes out here to have fun,” he said. “I love what I do, and it’s good to get around a bunch of people that feel the same way about it.”
Copes credits the nature of the business and the bond between tree workers and arborists for the team oriented spirit of the competition. “This kind of work is not meant for everybody,” he said. “We all have a relationship and passion for the industry that creates a family bond. We’re willing to put our life on the line every day and go out there and have fun doing something we love.”
As the weekend continued, the overwhelming feeling of camaraderie sustained through the masters’ challenge which takes place after the aforementioned preliminary events. After completing the various events, the climbers’ total scores for all five events are combined, and the male and female competitors with the highest combined score from the preliminary events move on to compete in the Masters’ Challenge Championship. The masters’ challenge consists of one event, and competitors are scored on technique and skill.
Aneesa Winn, a masters’ challenge competitor representing the Rocky Mountain Chapter ISA, said she’s felt that camaraderie every time she’s competed. “It’s absolutely a fantastic thing, and I think that’s what keeps a lot of people coming back — that camaraderie between everyone,” she said. “I have all of these friends and all of these people who want to see me do well, and that makes me feel like I want to do better.”
After completing her climb, Winn said she was able to see how she’s progressed not just competitively, but as a tree worker as well, and that it’s the supportive nature of her friends at competitions that pushes her to improve her skills.
“I think part of it is proving yourself and seeing where your skillset stands,” Winn said. “I think a lot of people who are in the tree industry, and who are committed to it, want to learn new skillsets and share what they have learned with other people.”
However, there can be only one winner
The 2019 Men’s and Women’s Masters’ Challenge champions are Scott Forrest from New Zealand, and Josephine Hedger from the U.K./Ireland Chapter ISA.
“It’s a fantastic feeling to come here and win for a fourth time. It really is unbelievable,” Forrest said after receiving the trophy during the awards ceremony.
Both Hedger and Forrest have each won four Masters’ Challenge Championships at ITCC. “To get it again after such a long period of time is an amazing feeling,” Hedger said. “I love this sport, and I love the community. I’ll keep climbing for a couple more years, and when I’ve had enough, I’ll come back and volunteer.”
For more information visit www.isa-arbor.com. This article is reproduced with the permission of ISA.