Tower Rodeo Challenge
First US tower climbing competition, hosted by Tower Safety.
January 18 2021
Energy and networks
Many industries and trades have annual competitions to highlight the speed and skill of workers: lineman, masonry, rope access, tree climbing and more. During a warm December weekend the first tower competition, TRx Challenge, was held in Phoenix, AZ. This monumental two-day event was hosted by Tower Solutions and Instruction (TSI). Five two-person teams traveled from around the country to compete and network with climbers and industry leaders. With a realistic concern about high COVID rates, the event was held outside and attendee temperatures were taken upon entering.
Kathy Gill started Tower Safety in 2013, inspired by the sentiment that you can have fun and learn at the same time. The rodeo was an extension of this belief. “The TRx Challenge brought people with different skills together and you could see the comradery,” said Kathy.
Keith Luscinski, Petzl Technical Institute (PTI) Manager, and Kathy worked closely together on competition planning, “more than a competition, events like these serve as great educational opportunities for the individuals who attend, as well as a platform for the industry as a whole to evolve and improve,” said Keith. Additionally, Dale Stewart, owner of Arizona Hiking Shack and head judge, was instrumental in the planning and developing of the challenges.
Industry experience amongst the competitors spanned from one year to ten years. Bill, from Ohio, said he loves being a tower tech because of, “the challenge, the views and that I can go to five different sites and do the same thing, but also never the same thing.”
Jared, a tower tech and photographer, said, “I wanted to be debt free and wanted to get into the most adrenaline fueled industry with the best views.” Jared, and teammate Bruce, were asked to join the rodeo only 30 hours prior. After working the night before until 530 am they slept an hour, and then attended the competition at 7am. “I was psyched,” said Bruce. “You gotta want it, otherwise you’ll never get it.”
The first day, competitors had thirty minutes for each of the five tasks covering a range of skills from rigging to rescue.
“I really liked the water bucket challenge. It threw me off and I got super soaked, but it was fun,” said Jason, a tower tech from Georgia. The bucket challenge, noted by many as the most difficult, required competitors to rig five gallons of water to the top of a 25 foot tower, pour the water into an empty bucket, then lower the full bucket to the ground. The team who spilled the least, won.
Semi-finals were head-to-head competitions. The goal was to create a rigging system for a controlled lower and raise of a 30 pound kettlebell from the top of the tower. “This event reflected the real-world scenario of decommissioning an antenna off a tower and putting up a new antenna,” said Kathy.
The two final teams were firefighters Kevin and Chris, and tower technicians Dylan and Bill. Part one of finals required competitors to tie as many knots and hitches in 10 minutes. During the second round, competitors made as many mechanical advantage systems as possible. Russ Dodge, one of the judges, said this was an important final challenge for the competitors' fine motor skills. Russ elaborated, “What is their depth of knowledge and experience? How big is their tool box?”
Kevin and Chris, firefighters from Philadelphia, won the first tower rodeo competition. They didn’t have any intention of winning, but rather wanted to learn from industry professionals and donated their winnings to the other competitors.
Chris Thomas, owner of Tri County Tower in Ohio, reflected on the importance of the competition, “It’s highlighting these guys who are super capable people. It’s highlighting what they do everyday.”