ITCC 2013

Greetings all,

It has been awhile!  Between travel for work and personal interests, I am just now getting my feet back on the ground.

I had intended to take lots of pictures at the International Tree Climbing Competition(ITCC).  I should have known better!  Between the physical work that goes into setup, helping run an event that hosts 60 of the worlds top tree climbers, the mental work of keeping it all flowing and the social aspects (these I look forward too, but they take time!)  I took no pictures!

One of these days I am am just going to attend one of these events!

The event I am currently involved with is the work climb.  A tree is set with four work stations and climbers start from a selected point in the tree and progress to the stations one by one.  The final act is to land on a target and score possible bonus points for a accurate landing as measured on a target.

This year’s best men’s climb was performed masterfully by Scott Forrest and Veronika Ericcson for the women’s division.  It is rare to see a climb performed close to exactly the way it was designed.  Scott and Veronika did it in spades.

Allow me to expand in talking about setting up competition work climbs and how the winner’s scored points.

When looking at a tree for the ITCC many things have to factored in.  First, is the sheer number of climbers.   This year was 60, but in past comps it has been up to 63 and never less than 48  in my experience.  Designing a climb so it will be the same for this number of skilled climbers is challenging.  Being arborists we do not want to harm the tree through excessive pruning, wear and tear or accidental breakage.  The main tie in point (T.I.P.) also has to be stable and able to handle the long day.  Any change in the climb from a broken limb to even slightly altering the tie in point may fundamentally change the climb for all subsequent contestants.  This is on par with changing the gate at an olympic down hill ski event mid competition!

This year the tree was a siberian Elm.  Typically very flexible and prone to breakage the T.I. P has to be especially stout.

Safety is also a major concern.  The ITCC is a game.  At no point should a climber be subject to an injury from excessive fall or slip.  Often the work climb route must change because the consequences of a misstep or slip would result in an uncontrolled swing.  This was the case in the 2013 tree.  There were other opitons to place work stations in the canopy, but a slip off the limb could lead to the climber swinging back into another branch or limb.  In the 2013 climb, any slip of a limb at the stations would only result in a swing to mid air.  This along with a very thick T.I.P made for a “smaller” climb, but a safer one.

Options are another factor we try and work in.  Generally speaking there is a preferred route, but that has not always been the case.  The climbers are not required to complete stations in any particular order.  Variety of route options allows for more interesting climbs.  While it is not always possible to vary the order of the stations, it is possible to alter how each individual station can be completed.  Generally speaking we try and design a “Great”, a “Good” and an “O.K.” way to position at each station.  The same is true as the climber moves between the stations.  We try and design the climb so the transitions can be made in a number of ways with varying difficulty.  The difference lies in control, safety and fluidity

There are of course many other factors, but these three are the most crucial and prevalent.  Many climbers had very good to great climbs during the day blending a combination of the options presented.  However, as is evidenced by his win in the work climb,  Scott Forrest’s climb in 2013  excelled in that at every station he chose the  best transition and positioning option.  As a result his time was great.

Veronika Ericcson the women’s first place finisher in the work climb also chose all the most difficult transitions and station positions as well.  Her climb was excellent.  Do not be fooled though!  It takes an exceptional climber having a great day to pull it off!  Scott and Veronika certainly fit that bill.

By the time the dust had settled Scott translated his wining work climb win into a win in the Masters’ to become the Men’s 2103 champ.  Veronika climbed well in the Masters too, but was edged out by Nicala Ward-Allen who claimed the Women’s Title.

Congratulations to Scott and Nicola and New Zealand, their home chapter!

I greatly enjoy helping out at the ITCC.  My only regret is I only get to see one event, but what an event it is!

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