The tree pros will show how high they climb on Saturday

The speed and skills of the men and women working in the trees will be on display Saturday in a contest for the title of Illinois’ top climber.

Thirty professionals will take on five separate challenges at the Illinois Arborist Association 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 maneuver quickly and safely up 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 are working on trying to educate the public.”

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

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

“It’s the most entertaining (and) most-watched event,” said Hall, a former competitor and 1979 champion.

In the aerial challenge, competitors in a simulated emergency rescue a 145-pound dummy positioned 20 to 25 feet above their heads.

“The climber must ascend, assess the victim and have them descend within five minutes,” Hall said.


The three climbers with the highest score in the preliminary rounds compete in the Masters’ Challenge.

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

There is no admission fee for Saturday’s competition, which returns after a four-year absence. The Illinois chapter last hosted the event in St. Paul Woods, near Morton Grove.

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

Who are they?

“We are a fun, exciting, smart and passionate group of 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 field conditions. Illinois was one of 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 more details, visit the events tab on