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A Utah Man Competes In World Tree Climbing Championship

Melissa Allison
Arborists from around the world prepare for competition.

The 2015 International Tree Climbing Championship (ITC) happens March 21 in Tampa, Fla. Throughout the year, Mark Malmstrom and his crew remove and mulch trees, but during the competition he is on his own.

“We’re not there to cut the tree down or pretend to cut the tree down," said Malmstrom, a Cache Valley arborist. "We’re there to test our climbing ability.”

The ITC invite both male and female entrants to compete in events that arborists encounter in their line of work. Malmstrom said some of these events can be daunting.

“For me the hardest thing is the nerves," Malmstrom said. "It’s easy to psych yourself out and worry about how you’re going to do, just like any event. You can get nervous. The aerial rescue where there’s a dummy up in the tree and you simulate someone who is injured and you rescue them, that one’s tough for me because there are so many variables that can go well or can go wrong."

There are five catagories in the competition: aerial rescue, work climb, secured footlock, belayed speed climb and throwline. While the events are dominated by men and women in their late twenties, Malmstrom is the oldest competitor at 45. He said, win or lose, this will be his last year to compete.

“In Utah I’m the oldest guy that’s competing or winning," Malmstrom said. "And you know, everyone else is in their, probably, late twenties to mid thirties, so I’m older but I beat them. I was planning, probably, to compete here in Fla. and then just go to the competitions and help and be a judge. Last June I had tendonitis in my shoulder and elbow and couldn’t compete, so I helped as a judge and it was a lot fun. But there’s a time for every athlete to say, ‘Okay, it’s been good but it’s time to move on.’”

The 2015  competition will be Malmstrom's fourth world competition, and though he said he’ll be hanging up his ropes and ties after this one, he’ll keep his options open just in case he performs better than expected.