Arborists Skills on Display in Illinois Tree Climbing Championship

Arborists will display their skills and speed during the Illinois Tree Climbing Championship at The Morton Arboretum, June 7, from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

“It’s amazing when you watch it,” said April Toney, Illinois Arborist Association (IAA) spokeswoman. “I get all excited seeing how fast they can get up a tree. It’s just like they’re taking a ladder up, and not a rope.”

Up to 30 professional tree climbers — mostly IAA members — will vie for the first place prizes of $1,000 in climbing gear and all-expense paid trips to St. Louis for their version of the Super Bowl: the international championships July 26 and 27. Men and women compete in separate divisions.

During “Aerial Rescue,” climbers must retrieve and safely bring to the ground a 110-pound “Rescue Randy” dummy by going through all the steps that an arborist would undertake in a real rescue — even simulating a 911 call prior to entering the tree. In “Work Climb,” contestants must travel to four stations in the tree and ring a bell. In “Secured Footlock” and “Belayed Speed Climb,” climbers must ascend a rope 40- and 50-feet respectively within 60-seconds, and ring a bell. Contestants often complete this task in only 16-20 seconds. In “Throwline,” competitors must throw a rope and hit two of six targets 35-feet to 60-feet high.

The top 4 male finishers proceed immediately to the Master’s Challenge, which combines three or four of the earlier events into one final competition. The event is scored on safety, tree entry, fluidness and skill, and must be completed in 20-minutes.

Additionally, there is a “corporate challenge” in which three to five contestants from a company compete against a group from one or more other companies. The winning company gets its name on a large “cup” which circulates year after year.