Competition Mentality

2023 UK OPEN climbing events welcome climbers at all levels. We thought it would be nice to share a piece from Peter Goulding a new writer for arbjobs who is sharing some of his experiences in the industry. This month he shares his memories about his first climbing competition. 


I’ve entered a climbing competition: the Open, what I think used to be called the 3ATC. The prizes are okay, branded clothing and kit, but not enough to justify the twenty odd quid entrance fee. I don’t think I’ll win.

           Billy, my van-mate, reckons it will make me a better climber - “just by doing it, Pete. Next time you are in a tree you’ll move better.” It worked for him, he was paired against an Australian woman who completed her tasks quickly then just shouted “HUSTLE BILLY, HUSTLE.” She was Australian Women’s Champion and he was barely out of college. That’s the way the competitions work, you don’t know who’ll be next to you.

           The gear I’m using - TreeMoTION harness, hitchclimber pulleys, Ropewrenches - proved themselves in competitions. Arguing with the judges allowed the inventors to use their new toys in competitions, but it was the performances of Beddes Strasse and Kevin Bingham that helped get the utility of these inventions accepted. At work, climbers still cling to the techniques and kit they know, telling everyone else and themselves that DdRT is better and SRT a load of sh1te. No one can really win that argument by talking. But efficiency in a competition is the difference between a cash prize and a boot full of gear, or saying “Well done mate, no, I really mean it,” to someone who has beaten you by three seconds.

           At the top of the tree, I take a deep breath, then shout ‘BELOW!’ and ring that bell, and I’m off, over to the next bell, rope in and shout a warning then ring it. I abseil to the next station -dammit my hitches are stiff and binding, hard to pull open, I realise that I could have been faster with just one less wrap on my VT - then branch walk along to the next bell.

           Another competitor is waiting for his go, he shouts “Go on Mate!” as I abseil past.

           At work I do a lot of thinking in the tree, a lot of questions to my mates: ‘should I cut this bit off Bill?’ But here everything is obvious. Time counts, so when I ring the bell, I’m already looking for where they’ve hung the pole saw. When I reach it, I spin it like a bo-staff to hit the bell- there’s a cheer from the ground which isn’t only my mates. Then more abseil racing to the log-toss - I miss it, but my second shot clips the outside of the box.

           Then down to the branch walk, which I spend precious time stretching out like a leopard along, and then dunk and lose points when I stand back up again and overload the branch.

           Lastly, I jump out of the tree, and even with the stiff knots I manage to land spot on in the circle. It might just be the greatest thing I have ever done. When the lad who shouted encouragement from the tree hits the ground, I thank him for the support and he tells me there’s five comps to enter next year. Yep, I think, I’ll be doing that.


I was the slowest for Novice Class at that event but due to the scoring system I end up fifth out of nine - fine as long as I don’t have to explain it. If I’d just hit the log toss and scored a 30 second bonus I’d have won.

           Next week at work, Billy says “you’re climbing way better. Must be the comp.”

Peter Goulding

You will need to provide your own climbing equipment and it will need to be within LOLER and also worth checking yourself before submitting for scrutiny damage and wear to kit can lead to it being rejected by the judges who are trying to keep everyone safe. 

The comp has three levels NOVICE for those just starting out in the industry where the optimum time for a safe climb is set by the judges closest to this time will win NOT the fastest around the tree. 

Expert level should attract the seasoned arborist industry climber and the Premier Climbers section is for the hardened competition climbers trying to hone their skills in advance of the big ISA TCC events. Full details on each section and the rules (well worth understanding as it relates to your score/time) can be found on the booking link below. 

Pay special attention to the limb walk (and return), log toss and landing as these can all affect your final result.

If you are inspired to take part in your first climbing competition follow this link to this year’s UK events.


Limb Walk
Lovely big tree canopy
Prepare for landing
Limb Toss Station
Limb Walk
Lovely big tree canopy
Prepare for landing
Limb Toss Station