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Climbers gather in Pasadena for the North American Tree Climbing Championship

by Alana Rinicella | Off-Ramp

Onlookers gather to watch the Masters' Challenge, which determines who will compete in the International Tree Climbing Championship. Nicholas Crawford

This year, Pasadena hosted the 2014 North American Tree Climbing Championship, a regional that decides who goes on to the international competition—the Olympics of tree climbing. The climbers are professional tree trimmers — they prefer you call them arborists, though. The trimmers compete in categories like speed climbs, and grueling work climbs. 

Chad Brey, a tree trimmer from San Francisco, has climbed trees competitively since 1998. Last year he placed sixth. To him, tree climbing is an art form. "

When you watch the guys here and also on an international and chapter level, there'll be certain climbers where it's like aerial ballet," said Brey. "The way they move is just very eloquent, very smooth, very efficient."  

"There are sometimes opportunities to make some really sweet, smooth moves from the tree and just be able to jump from one end to another end," said Brey. "Sometimes it's just more of the enjoyment for yourself."  

Every sport has its legends, and even veteran climbers can get starstruck. Like Jacob Claassen: "I was pretty blown away because it's all the guys I see in Arborist magazine," he said. "There's guys there that've won the internationals eight times. Basically legends to me. It feels great to be a part of that group." 

Brey, the trimmer from San Francisco, ended up winning the Masters' Challenge. That means he'll go onto August's international competition in Milwaukee.

"The last time I was at internationals was in 2007, so it's been quite some time," said Brey. "I'm really excited to participate and play with all the climbers and do my best."

If you're interested in catching an event, contact your local ISA chapter

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