Ach, (s)he is just a competition climber!

This is one that has puzzled me for a while…

A reoccurring theme in forums and videos seems to be a perceived difference between competition and production climbers – and how you are either one or the other. I was watching a guy rubbishing the treeMOTION harness, insinuating that it was unfairly hyped due to Beddes’ competition successes – and that as Beddes was a competition climber it cannot possibly be a harness which can be put to use by a production climber.


Actually, I get part of it.

Competitions and work environments are not the same thing, I will grant you that. But at the same time, some of the finest climbers I have had the privilege of meeting at competitions are first and foremost highly skilled and efficient producing climbers, engaged in practical tree work on a daily basis. After all, this daily work is what made them good in the first place and allowed them to excell in competitions. This is true of Beddes, as well as it is of folk such as Johan Pihl, James Kilpatrick, Anja Erni, Peter Vergote or Gregor Hansch, to name but a few. Anja once said that she is not prepared to train for comps beyond the climbing that she does on a daily basis at work – so she pushes herself very hard at work.

To be clear: You do not have to compete to be a good worker in the field. I can think of any number of highly proficient arborists who have never even been close to a competition. Just not their thing, understandable and fine. But on the other hand, some people compete – yet are also a good production climber. The two are by no means mutually exclusive.

It is important that we do not stylise climbing competitions to be more than they are. Ultimately they are a showcase for techniques used in tree care. Not more, not less. Should this one day cease to be the case, in my opinion they would lose their validity and relevance. For the time being, I and a group of like-minded people have for years invested considerable time and effort to ensure that competitions remain an industrial skills showcase, not identical to a job site, but close enough to be meaningful

That aside, one thing is for sure: you cannot live off being a competition climber, like a pro tour tennis player or something like that. Suggesting that someone is a full-time competition climber is therefore nonsense.

All this reminds me of a situation with a guy I knew, call him Pete. Pete was a crust punk who lived in a squat and liked to party. One day he was talking about some lads he went to school with who went on to become pro football players. “Huh”, slurred Pete, “if I had trained as much as they had, I could be a pro footballer too”. Errr. Yes, the fact is though, he did not, so he is not. He’s a crusty. The following statement, in some respects sounds suspiciously like a Pete-ism to me: “Well, if I chose to be a competition climber, I would do this differently – but I work in the real world”. Really?

Having worked with Beddes, I would have to say that it does not come much more real than that in regards to speed and efficiency in production climbing. So the good news is, you do not need to choose between one, or the other: over the years there have been many examples of cross pollination between  these two facets of climbers’ culture.