Nova Scotia man reaches for top tree-climbing title in Texas
Tree climber Trevor Burton (Handout/Heather Burton)
Emily Chan, CTVNews.ca
Published Wednesday, March 23, 2016 6:30AM EDT
A Nova Scotia man is headed to Texas to compete with the world's top tree climbers.
Trevor Burton will represent Atlantic Canada at the upcoming International Tree Climbing Championship in San Antonio, Texas from April 1 to 3.
During the competition, he'll climb, saw and perform rescue manoeuvres against competitors from around the world.
The championship involves five events, Burton said in a phone interview with CTVNews.ca: the aerial rescue, a belayed speed climb using climbing ropes, secured footlock, throwline, and work climb.
The events are designed to test speed and skill, but also focus on safety for both the competitors and the trees, Burton said from his home in Aylesford, N.S.
For example, Burton said the climbers avoid using gear that will damage the trees, such as spurs.
It's all part of "arboriculture": the professional practice of caring for trees.
"What this competition gears around is tree health," Burton said. "So what we do with tree health in arboriculture is we won't use spurs … which would injure and open the tree up to decay."
Of the five tree climbing events, Burton's said his favourite is the work climb, a sort of tree-top obstacle course involving five different work stations.
Competitors climb from station to station while wearing a harness, and have to complete tasks at each station.
For example, at the limb walk station, contestants walk out on a limb, fasten a lanyard, call for "stand clear," ring a bell with a handsaw, and then walk backward on the branch -- all without placing too much weight on the tree limb and setting off a pressure-sensitive buzzer
"I enjoy the work climb the most because it has a little bit of everything in it," Burton said from his home in Nova Scotia. "It has endurance. It has your skillset in there, and it's also set up to be a very fun climb."
Climbing to the top
Burton isn't new to arboriculture.
The 38-year-old said he got his start scrambling up trunks in Ski Martock, N.S., where he grew up.
In 1997 he took on a job with the Asplundh Tree Expert Co., and began climbing for a living.
"I grew up in the country and I was used to climbing trees as a kid," he said. "(When) they offered me a job to cut limbs off … I thought, 'This is going to be great. I'm going to get paid to do that.'"
Only two years later, Burton found himself in his first regional tree climbing competition – and he won. That win qualified him for his first international competition in Baltimore in 2000.
Now, 16 years later, Burton owns his own tree services company and he's preparing for his seventh international championship.
In the years of tree climbing, Burton said he's pulled rotator cuffs, banged his elbows and knees, fallen from high heights and, once, put a spur through his heel.
But he still finds joy in getting up off the ground.
"It's hard on the body to do this," he said. "But one of the best things that I do enjoy about my job is that my office is always at the top of a tree somewhere."
Representing Atlantic Canada
While it's challenging to juggle training, work and his family life, Burton said he loves representing his home on an international stage.
"I'd say my favourite part is that you just feel proud to be representing the Atlantic provinces," he said.
Burton said the highest he's ever placed in an international contest is 13th. This April, he's aiming for the top ten.
But the climber also said he isn't getting caught up in rankings.
"If you get an opportunity to do something to represent the Atlantic provinces … as long as you do it with good sportsmanship and a smile on your face, you're a great competitor," he said. "You're already a winner, you're already a champion once you get there, so just take it, ride it, and have fun."