Patrick Gledhill said he’s always spent a lot of time in the trees — “more than most, I suppose.”
The 29-year-old Cochranton man’s used his affinity for climbing high to his professional advantage, landing a job with a Kent, Ohio-based tree expert company clearing power lines. And he’s been participating in competitive tree-climbing events around the state for the past decade, ranking second overall statewide last year in the International Society of Arboriculture’s Pen-Del Chapter competitions.
But Gledhill’s climbing was taken to new heights when he competed late last month at the ISA’s 34th International Tree Climbing Championship. A first-timer to the event, Gledhill traveled to Lisle, Ill., and, representing the ISA Pen-Del Chapter, was among 54 men and women from 15 countries — Japan, the United Kingdom, Italy, France and Australia included — who vied for the title of world champion tree-climber.
“It was beautiful. I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Gledhill, who placed 23rd out of the 39 participants he competed against. “Getting to compete against all these guys I’ve looked up to” — no pun intended — “meant a lot to me. It was a wonderful experience.”
Gledhill said the competition included a variety of events, ranging from speed-climbing tests to line-throwing contests and other trials of speed, accuracy and safety. One event, for example, had competitors climb from ground-level to 60 feet up as quickly as they could; in another, competitors had to advance out onto tree limbs to ring bells hanging off the tips.
Gledhill said his professional work clearing limbs from around utility lines has helped in preparing for such trial, but still, “it’s pretty tough. It can be brutal just trying to get up there,” he said, and “you get scored on every move you make. You have to look natural up there.
“It’s a largely mental game, too,” he added. “You have to think the whole time you’re doing it,” and, of course, competition organizers “make it as difficult as they can” without compromising the safety of participants or the integrity of the trees themselves.
With more than 33,000 members in 40 countries, ISA officials describe the 80-plus-year-old nonprofit organization as the largest arboricultural association in the world, “dedicated to fostering a greater appreciation of trees and to promoting research, technology and the professional practice of arboriculture.”
In short, it’s a large group of people from all over the world who are of like minds when it comes to all things trees.
“Of course I love trees — they’re beautiful,” said Gledhill. “All they do is give.”
And when it comes to the world championship, he said he’s more than happy with where he ended up in the international-level standings. “I feel I beat my personal best,” he said, and “it was amazing going there and seeing the best and being a part” of that select group.
Next year’s ISA world championship is slated to be in Amsterdam, he said, and “I’m going to work my best and do my best to go” climb some trees there, too.
Ryan Smith can be reached at 724-6370 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.