Expert tree climbers scaling championship ladder in Regina this weekend

·2 min read
More than 30 tree climbing arborists are in Saskatchewan this weekend to test their work-related abilities, including rescuing fellow stuck arborists. (Richard Agecoutay/CBC - image credit)
More than 30 tree climbing arborists are in Saskatchewan this weekend to test their work-related abilities, including rescuing fellow stuck arborists. (Richard Agecoutay/CBC - image credit)

Close to three dozen competitors from the Prairie region are expected to converge in Regina's Wascana Park this weekend to climb their way to the international climbing championship.

The Prairie Chapter Tree Climbing Championship will host an expected 32 tree-climbing arborists from Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba after a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"It's stellar stuff going on at the park," Dave Lutes, a 60-year-old ambassador for the competition, told Stefani Langenegger, host of CBC's The Morning Edition.

"You've got to remember we're here to compete and look good cuttin' wood.… So what we have to do is find a way to demonstrate to the general public how we climb around the trees daily to get stuff done to keep the trees healthy."

Richard Agecoutay/CBC
Richard Agecoutay/CBC

Lutes explained that on top of competing for a top spot, the championship is an opportunity to educate the public.

Matt Vinet, the chairman of the tree-climbing competition for the International Society of Arboriculture's Prairie chapter, also said it's a good opportunity to educate and refresh arborists on good safety practices — a high priority for the competition.

The preliminary events will simulate real-world work tasks around pruning or caring for trees, including some rescues like retrieving a stuck arborist from a tree.

"It doesn't happen very often, but if it did happen, it's really important to know how to remove an arborist from a tree safely if they're hurt," he said.

The top two climbers at the end of the weekend — one man and one woman — will move on to the International Tree Climbing Championships in Albuquerque, N.M., in 2023.

Charlene Scott is among those competing for a spot, and has been a tree-climbing arborist for about 18 years. She's also the director of setup for the competition and a climbing arborist teacher in Alberta.

Richard Agecoutay/CBC
Richard Agecoutay/CBC

"What got me into it was being outdoors and having a physical job. We get to climb trees all day and get paid for it — that's a bit unique," Scott said.

She encouraged people to join the industry if they have "a love of trees, the love of the outdoors and preserving our urban forest environments."

The competitors who scored the highest Saturday will compete Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the masters' challenge championship round for the Prairie chapter championship title.