Thirty-five Utahns competed in the 22nd Annual Tree Climbing Championship June 5. The competition, put on by the Utah Community Forest Council, was a two-day competition that took place in Ogden’s Lester Park.
“This is like the Olympics for people that work in the tree industry,” said Mike Marett, event coordinator. “The climbers are people who work for tree companies such as Trees, Inc., or Atlas Trees. We also have climbers that work for power companies, Provo City Power in particular.”
These athletes don’t just go to the gym to train for game day, like any other athlete would. “The competitors are athletes in the fact they do this every day for their career,” Marett said. “They get in really good shape by just going to work. Their training is on the job.”
Ryan Torcicollo, this year’s champion and owner of Great Western Timber Company, competed in Utah for his third time last weekend. “I have climbed in different chapter’s events in other states that I was living in, and the atmosphere in Utah is just super cool; it’s super laid back,” Torcicollo said. “Any tree climber that you meet loves their job and are all about it.”
There were five different events ranging from climbing the tree as quickly as possible to a simulated rescue of a dummy set high above the ground in the tree. Climbers had about six to seven minutes to scale the entire tree while more than 25 judges stood on the ground below looking up with clipboards and score cards.
“It’s not even always a competition; it’s just fun. Everyone out there is cheering each other on and helping each other out,” Torcicollo said. “You don’t usually see the opponent cheering the other guy on in your standard sporting event. It’s something that you won’t find in anywhere else.”
The competition was held in a location that attracts people to stop and watch simply out of curiosity. “We have all kinds of passersby that stopped and asked us, ‘What in the world is going on?’ and we talk to them and tell them,” Marett said.
The competition encourage some level of collaboration among contestants. “The championship events simulate working conditions of professional tree climbers. Arborists from around the state can learn advanced techniques from each other and get a chance to see new and different equipment,” Marett said. “The championship is always a crowd pleaser. It brings the best of the best together to compete, share knowledge and experience.”
The title of best in state, however, isn’t the easiest title to achieve for the tree climbers. “The top four climbers of the competition will move on to the master’s challenge,” Marett said. “Those four climbers will then compete against each other and do all five events again.”
Torcicollo was awarded with best in state and will advance to the International Tree Climbing Championship that will be held in San Antonio in 2016.
“I think I just pulled it together and was able to climb at my best during all of the events,” he said. “I went in with a plan, executed it, and it all worked out. To my surprised, everything just kind of came together.”