From the Treetop: Tree Climbing Competitions

January 26, 2019

By Adam Larson, Regional Manager

I was first introduced to the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA)’s International Tree Climbing Championship (ITCC) in 2002 in Minnesota. I attended as an observer and remember being surprised and overwhelmed at the knowledge, gear, speed and talent displayed at the event. Climbers flew up the trees, moving safely and strategically between branches, trying to gain as many points as possible before time ran out. The crowd of arborists, families and judges watched from below, occasionally shouting words of encouragement and support to the competitors. Everyone in attendance was excited to be there. As an added bonus, the events are family-friendly and often have opportunities for children to safely climb trees using a child-sized saddle.

The next year, I attended as a competitor. I learned a lot from the judges and other competitors. In the following years, I was able to participate in various ITTCs as an assistant judge, head judge, promoter, bucket truck provider and financial sponsor.

During the competition, climbers participate in five preliminary events, which are scored using a point system. The climbers with the highest combined points move on to the master’s challenge round. Each of the five events test the different skill sets required for professional tree climbing. The five preliminary events are work climb, aerial rescue, throw line, belayed speed climb and ascent.

I recommend anyone in our industry to get involved in ITCC. These events help us to stay knowledgeable about the industry, push us to test our skills against our peers and allow us to make friendships with people from all walks of life. The events are also a great place to learn more about climbing and arboriculture from other arborists, because although it is a competition, it is also an environment that inspires comradery and support. If you want to get involved, I strongly recommend reaching out to your safety supervisor for more information. All WTS safety supervisors are required to attend at least one ITCC event per year, so they serve as a great internal resource to help guide you on participating. You can also talk to your GF or visit