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two arborists in orange gear with chainsaws and other equipment staring at a tall tree
TheRockies.Life Staff

From Stonehenge to Podiums: Cochrane Arborist’s Sky-High Success Story!

In the competitive world of tree climbing, Stuart Witt stands tall as a champion

As kids, some of us climbed trees, and a few of us fell out of trees, but hardly any of us have turned tree climbing into a business.

Stuart Witt is the exception.

Stuart grew up climbing trees at his father Trevor’s tree care business near Stonehenge in England.

Since then, climbing trees has become a way of life for him.

The 41-year-old moved to Canada over ten years ago, settling in Cochrane, where he runs his own tree care business, Nootka Tree Care.

Witt’s business offers tree removal, pruning, risk assessment, stump grinding, tree planting, and wildfire risk management. In short, if it involves trees, Whit is your man!

stuart witt holding a giant trophy over his head between two trees with the event banner behind him
Stuart Witt from Cochrane holding his trophy at the ISA Prairie Chapter tree climbing competition in Winnipeg | Stuart Witt | The Cochrane Times

Having worked in different countries around the world, Witt has racked up more than 25 years of experience as an arborist. Witt runs his business alongside his wife, Natalie, Nootka’s office manager.

So what does Witt do in his spare time? You guessed it, he climbs trees!

The talented arborist enjoys competitive tree climbing and has won many climbing competitions.

He competed in multiple International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) tree climbing competitions in the United Kingdom (UK), and he was one of the first to compete in the Masters’ Challenge in the 90s.

The ISA is an international non-profit organization committed to promoting the professional practice of arboriculture. The ISA hosts many tree climbing competitions worldwide that simulate the working conditions of arborists in the field.

Male and female competitors are required to perform in five different events during the preliminary rounds of a competition. Each event tests a competitor’s ability to professionally and safely maneuver in a tree while performing tree care tasks quickly.

The Masters’ Challenge is reserved for competitors that finish at the top of the preliminary rounds. During the challenge, competitors start from outside the arena without any equipment installed in the tree.

Once they enter the arena, competitors must assess the tree, install a climbing system, and climb it. There are multiple stations, each with different tasks for competitors.

Competitors must ring the bell or sound horns at each station before moving on to the next. Judges score competitors’ movements throughout the event.

Recently, Witt claimed victory at the ISA tree climbing championship for its Prairie Chapter, which was held in Winnipeg from August 25 to 26.

a person crouched on a tree branch hoisting a dummy
An arborist performing an aerial rescue during a competition | Treemagineers

This victory qualified Witt for next year’s world championships in Atlanta, Georgia. Before that, in October, Witt will represent the ISA’s Prairie Chapter at the North American Tree Climbing championships in Washington, DC.

“Stuart Witt qualified with his preliminary scores, which were really good, to compete in the Masters’ Challenge…He did amazing; his climb in the masters was unreal,” Keither Anderson, ISA Prairie Chapter executive director, told the Cochrane Times.

The five events in Atlanta will be Proline, Speed Climb, Work Climb, Ascent, and Aerial Rescue.

The Aerial Rescue event uses a 180-pound training dummy to replicate the scenario of saving a stranded worker from a tree. A panel of judges gives competitors an overall performance-based score similar to some Olympic events.

But to Witt, these competitions are about more than winning or losing. Even though he already has over two decades of experience, these events allow Witt to hone his arborist skills further.

There is also an emphasis on not damaging trees during the climbing events, which is easier said than done.

“That’s also the other benefit, the recognition that homeowners and clients get to understand that you have the skill set to prune a tree without spiking a tree,” explained Witt.

Witt emerged victorious during the Masters’ Challenge, crediting his extensive tree climbing experience, stating, “I’m a bit of a veteran. I’ve been competing since I was 16, and I’m 41 now, so that puts me in good stead.”

But just like a tree, Witt isn’t done growing. He plans to refine his climbing techniques further in preparation for the upcoming October championship.

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