Going out on a limb, it's safe to say that not many people know about International Tree Climbing Championships. Belle Plaine's Bartlett Arboretum hosted a tree-climbing competitor this past weekend – Brian Brock, 31, of Wichita, Kan.
Brock was at the arb, training for the Mid-West Chapter of the International Society of Arboriculture tree climbing competition, to be held June 8 at the Missouri Botanical Garden, in St. Louis, Mo.
"If you win the chapter, you go to international competition, which is going to be in Toronto [Ontario, Canada]," Brock explained. The climber says he's been scaling trees all his life, and professionally for nine years. He works for Ernstmann Tree Care, in Wichita; this will be his fifth year of competition climbing.
"Five years ago, I was pretty green and didn't know much," Brock said. "I read in a magazine that they had competitions, so I just signed up and went." There are five events that stand between competitors and the tree-climbing crown.
Aerial Rescue, Work Climb, Throwline, Belayed Speed Climb, and Secured Footlock. Of those categories, Brock says his strongest is the Work Climb, which he placed fourth out of 35 a year ago.
The Aerial Rescue event is one of the more challenging on the docket, and encompasses aspects of the four other events. Climbers must ascend up a tree, scale over to an accident victim, secure the victim, then descend from the branches, touching safely on the ground. The goal is to get it all done in five minutes.
As for getting prepared for the competition...
"A lot of it's more strength training, because I climb at work, so I don't necessarily have to climb more," Brock said. "But I do try to do some more technical stuff that I wouldn't do at work, because there's some things involved in these comps that you wouldn't do on a production level."
Robin Macy, Steward of the Bartlett Arboretum, speaks highly of Ernstmann Tree Care and Brock, and says it's a privilege to have them training for contest at the arb.
On Sunday, Brock was climbing a Willow Oak in Belle Plaine. He has no idea what type of tree he will be on in the competition. Last year he didn't qualify for the international contest, but could still be found in Portland, Ore, where the 2012 event was located, to take notes on the best of the best.
"I went, but didn't compete, it's quite an experience just to see the best 30 climbers in the world," Brock said.
For more information on the ISA Tree Climbing Championships, visit www.itcc-isa.com.