Tree pros will show how well they climb Saturday

The speed and skills of men and women who work in trees will be on display Saturday in a competition for the title of Best Climber in Illinois.

Thirty professionals will navigate five separate challenges at the Illinois Arborist Association's tree climbing championship from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Shiloh Park, 2300 Bethesda Blvd. in Zion. Saturday's competition focuses on climbing skills, testing competitors' abilities to quickly and safely maneuver in a tree while performing tree care.

“The general public doesn't really understand arboriculture as a field,” said event organizer Norm Hall, a Wauconda resident and certified arborist. “We're working on trying to educate the public.”

Competitors will face five tests, including the work climb, which showcases the climbers' ability to navigate throughout the tree canopy, Hall said.

In this challenge, competitors using a climbing harness must go out on limbs at four stations and ring bells in a specific order.

“This is the most entertaining event (and) the most watched,” said Hall, a former competitor and 1979 champion.

In the aerial challenge, competitors in a simulated emergency situation rescue a 145-pound dummy placed 20 to 25 feet overhead.

“The climber has to go up, assess the victim and bring the victim down within five minutes,” Hall said.

The three climbers who score the highest during the preliminary tasks compete in the Masters' Challenge.

Male and female winners will represent the Illinois Chapter at the International Tree Climbing Championships in Copenhagen, Denmark, in September. They also will win $1,200 in supplies and equipment.

There is no charge for admission for Saturday's competition, which is returning after a four-year absence. The Illinois chapter last held the event at St. Paul Woods near Morton Grove.

“This is the 2019 competition. COVID has held it at bay,” said April Toney, executive director of the nonprofit trade organization, which certifies arborists and supports research, education and training of 1,400 members.

Who are they?

“We are a group of fun, exciting, intelligent, and passionate people. Trees are our thing,” according to the website.

Members include ground workers, climbers, equipment operators, researchers, manufacturers, industry suppliers, teachers, trainers, students, owners and managers.

The competition was designed by the International Society of Arboriculture to simulate conditions in the field. Illinois was among seven states in the Midwest category until 1984, when it became a separate chapter.

Saturday's event includes an Arbor Fair with 11 exhibits, coloring books for kids and more attractions. For details, visit the events tab at

An aerial rescue event is among the five challenges competitors in the Illinois Arborist Association's tree climbing championship will face Saturday in Zion. Courtesy of Illinois Arborist Association
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