Out on a limb

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They looked up — way up, in fact — towards the sky, but it wasn’t a bird, or even a plane. Those who saw the machinery, safety tape and upward gazes at Carmichael Park but refused to give into curiously missed out on the unique blend of athleticism and on the job skills known as the Atlantic Tree Climbing Competition.

Comprised of members and competitors from Newfoundland and Labrador, PEI, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, the Atlantic Chapter of the International Society of Arboriculture took to the maples of Carmichael Park to stage their five event competition Saturday morning. The day was then capped by the Master’s Challenge, which saw the top three climbers move on to the International Tree Climbing Championship in Columbus, Ohio.

From the secured foot lock, speed climb, work climb, throw line and aerial rescue, these events all assess and draw upon much needed, well-honed skills in the arboriculture industry.

“They all have their challenges,” event judge Matt Wishart explained. “The foot lock is very physically demanding. That would probably be one of the tougher events for sure.”

Wishart said 18 climbers took part in the competition, down slightly from last year. Those taking part are all employed by private arboriculture firms, or work with municipalities or utility companies.

This was the first time the event was brought to New Glasgow.

“We’re trying to get out to some of the smaller municipalities as well,” Wishart said, “not just the large urban areas – Halifax, Fredericton, Moncton, Saint John — we’re trying to get out to some of these smaller areas and get the word out that there are trained professionals out there who care for trees. It’s becoming so important these days, with the increase in storm activity.”

Wisehart said, “We typically look for mature areas. Height and species plays into it, condition is a big factor. We try to stay away from any areas that have been hit by windstorms or ice storms.”

Aside from some “inevitable” storm damage, Wisehart said the maples in the park were in good shape, and due to the preparation needed for the competition they’ll actually be in a better state than when they found them.

The ISA International Tree Climbing Championship will take place August 3-5 in Columbus, Ohio.

Joey Peters of Greenwood, NS, competes in a challenge as part of the Atlantic Tree Climbing Competition.

(Cameron photo)

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