Tree climbers make their way to the top

IT’s a long way to the top in the sport of tree climbing.

A total of 52 of Australia’s best arborists will tackle the gums, pines and elms of Ballarat’s North Gardens today for the Victorian Tree Climbing Championship.

The prize is $8000 and the top three competitors will go on to contest the Australian title.

There are five disciplines that must be mastered on the way to the final: work climb (which involves reaching for a number of targets in a tree), footlock (climbing 20m up a rope in around 13 seconds), throwline (climbing and lobbing a weight over a fork in a tree), aerial rescue (removing a dummy with the size and weight of a person), and speed climb (a free climb straight up the tree.

Victorian Tree Industry Organisation secretary Andrew McKernan said nine trees had been set up for climbs. They include a gum tree, pine, elm, oak and cyprus (the latter described by McKernan as: “a horrible thing to climb because, if you get it wrong, you’ll be scratched to bits”).

Competitors include current Asia Pacific women’s champion and former world champion Kiah Martin, world number two Joe Harris and Ballarat-based arborist Aaron Bairnsley, in a field that includes half a dozen female contestants. Competition starts at 9am and finishes about 5pm.