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Self-taught from baobabs to competitions

The Petzl Technical Institute Manager shares his experience competing in the Utah Tree Climbers Competition

June 18 2021

Keith Luscinski, the Petzl Technical Institute Manager, competed in his second-ever tree climbing competition. The previous year he landed 6th place and this year he dropped to 14th. “I prepared a lot for it, but there’s no way to compete with people who climb trees everyday and have years of experience.”

Keith is a self-taught tree climber, using the trees initially to practice rock climbing rescue skills. Eventually though, he fell in love with his time working at-height in a natural environment. While studying at Cornell University and a few years following, he taught classes on tree climbing techniques, which included regional classes in the upstate NY area for Cornell researchers. Tree climbing took him from the Sequoia’s to Costa Rica to Madagascar. 

                                                              Keith on a tree in Costa Rica

Now, five years later, Keith stepped into the competitors ring. “I wanted to start competing for professional development reasons; to learn more about tree climbing techniques and the tree care industry.” 

                                 Battle wounds from the speed climbing / Prepping for the work climb 

In June 2021, the Utah Community Forest Council hosted its annual tree care competition in Ogden, about an hour north of Salt Lake City. Forty-five competitors traveled from several neighboring states to test their arborist skills. As is the standard for all International Society of Arboriculture tree climbing competitions, there are 5 skill stations: throwline, speed climb (ascending a tree as fast as possible), ascent climb (ascending a rope as fast as possible), aerial rescue, and work climb. Competitors win based on a combination of fastest time and performance within the allotted time frame. “I think the comps are great because they’re an awesome opportunity to learn other safe and efficient techniques arborists use for climbing, and also meet with industry professionals in the area."

Although outfitted in Petzl gear as the PTI Manager, there was one skill that the latest and greatest gear couldn’t improve: the throwline. “From a technical perspective, the throwline was the most challenging aspect of the competition for me because that’s an acquired skill that takes years to master.” However, he did find the ASCENTREE was one piece of gear he couldn’t go without for speed climbing because it’s crucial to be able to pull evenly with both hands when sprinting up a rope. Also, the extendable bridge on the SEQUOIA was helpful during the work climb to extend the ZIGZAG as far as needed, which made limb walking extremely stable. 

                                    Swinging from branch to branch / Keith after a long day of competing 

This is just the beginning of Keith as a tree climber competitor. He plans on attending next year, but with more training alongside local arborists. “Mark Malmstrom reached out about practicing, but I was on The Nose in Yosemite,” said Keith, Petzl’s well-rounded vertical adventurer. 

Learn more about how Petzl products can help you move and work efficiently in the canopy and learn about the Petzl Technical Institute here

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