May 29

Australian Tree Climbing Championships 2012: Tasmania

I was fortunate enough to be able to represent Queensland at the 2012 National Tree Championships at St David’s Park in Hobart.

Professional tree climbing competitions are held around the world to provide a platform for arborists to learn about the latest in tree climbing techniques and innovations in equipment. They showcase the highest level of professional skills and safety, providing a competitive learning environment for those working in the tree care industry.

The end result is better tree doctors taking care of trees and less tree loppers butchering and hacking trees in our industry.

The competition simulates real working conditions for working arborists in the field of tree care. Male and female competitiors perform five different events during preliminary rounds. Each event tests a competitior’s ability to prefessionally and safely manouver in and around a tree while perforing work-related tree-care tasks in a timely manner. None of the trees get damaged in the running of this compeition as all climbing is spikeless.

Competitive tree climbing also introduces the public to the skills of professinoal tree climbing arborists, as well as how we use different pieces of equipment (ropes and harnesses) to stay safe in the tree while conducting professional tree work.

Held over three days, this competition is designed to test competitiors who come from Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore and other Asian countries to compete for the Australian and Asian Pacific titles. We were all fighting for first place as the reward was a ticket to represent Australia at the world’s this year held at Portland, USA.

The first prelminary rounds were held on a beautiful sunny Friday. From the park there was a great view up to the rock face of Mount Wellington. It was like it was tempting me to leave the competition and go rock climbing for the day as I have never known the weather to be so nice in my many visits to Tassy.

I started the day off with a good footlock and I also scored well in the throwline. There is always a good vibe around the competition as everyone shares new techniques and just has a good time watching and cheering other competitiors on. I had a long break while I was waiting for my turn at the work climb which was set up in a beautiful elm tree. This work climb had a great flow and I was able to pull off some really good swings which made moving around the tree look effortless.

After the work climb it was straight over to the speed climb which was set in a giant Sequoia tree; the speed climb is basically a hand over hand technique going up the rope to start, and finishing with climbing through the breanches of the tree to a height of 22 metres.

Last was the aerial rescue where the injured climber (an 85kg dummy) had a chainsaw cut on part of his right leg, which made for an interesting simulated resuce.

At the end of the day we  were all just chilling out in the park to wait for the results to see who qualified for the final Masters Challenge to be held the following day. They were going to take five male competitiros from Australia and also women competitors to showcase their skills and ability in a time pressured event, where you get marked and critiqued on everything you do. The pressure is on to perform and I try to think “It’s just another day at the office, right?”…

I was chosen to compete in the Masters, so for me there was no party to celebrate the end of a great competition with all of my friends from around Australia and the world. I was straight back to the unit to get cleaned up and to organise my equipment for the next day.

It was another perfect day, a little colder than the day before with snow on the top of Mount Wellington. It was also a little windy. I chose to compete first out of the males so that I would get to watch the other competitors. I had a great climb with a lot of variables going my way and making very little mistakes. I just ran out of time at the end of my climbing but felt happy overall with my climbing. Now I could relax and enjoy myself as I watched the other competitors climb through the tree.

We wouldn’t get to know the results until that night at the annual dinner. What I did know is that I qualified for the Asia Pacific Titles which were to be held the day after, on Sunday. So here we go again straight back to the unit to get cleaned up and organise my equipment, then go to the presentation, then home to bed.

The presentation was an awesome night where I placed a few times in the preliminary events and placed second overall in Australia in the Masters Tree climbing challenge.

Making it into the Asia Pacific Titles throws a spanner in the works as we had planned to go out to The Obsever Tree to visit conservationist Miranda Gibson who is protesting about logging in the old-growth forest not far from the Styx Valley.

I did think long and hard about whether or not to compete but thankfully a few of my mates convinced me to compete and I could catch up with them in the Styx Valley a little later in the afternoon.

The next morning I was extremely keen to get the climbing under way as quickly as possible to maximise my time out in the Styx Valley. With a slow start and the duty judges running late on the cold morning, we didn’t kick off in time and I pleaded with everyone in my group to let me go first again. Nothing really went well in this climb with getting my throwline stuck and having to change my plan on the spot. I did however finish the tree and felt okay about my climb.

Knowing that my climb was not going to win me the Asian Pacific Championships, I quickly organised my gear and shot out to the Styx Valley to catch up with Ben and the other boys at Camp Florentine. Watch this space for the story about visiting The Observer Tree.

As a result of doing so well in this competition I earned a wildcard entry into the European tree climbing Championships held in Germany. I must thank Nick for his understanding of me travelling the world to compete in comps as it does eat into the amount of work I can do for Evergreen Tree Care sometimes.

Having said that, the wealth of knowledge, experience and exposure to techniques which make us work safer and more efficiently is generally worth the sacrifice of a few weeks off. Nick, I can’t thank you enough for your support and understanding.

All in all I must say I was extremely happy and proud of my performance at this year’s climbing championships and look forward to competing again next year in Melbourne.

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