On 11 September 2022 in Copenhagen, Denmark, the ISA International Tree Climbing Championship (ITCC) crowned the latest world champions, Josephine Hedger from the UK/Ireland and Barton Allen-Hall from Australia. Both competitors, who are also ISA members, are slowly wrapping their brains around their incredible achievements.
Although this is Josephine’s fifth title win, she still struggles to comprehend that she is the best female tree climber in the world. “It’s not at the front of mind at all.” However, she does admit that her friends are good at reminding her of her success. “At a party, they love to introduce [me] as the World Tree Climbing Champion.”
As for Barton, there was emotion and joy as he accepted his first world champion award, but afterwards the title did not seem real for a little while. As every champion deserves, Barton will soon be celebrated with a couple of parties in his honor.
The path leading to competition has been somewhat different for Josephine and Barton, but both took a while before they came out on top. Barton remembers attending his first ITCC in 2011 when ISA hosted the event in Sydney, Australia. “I was seven years into my career, and I flew up there to watch. And I thought it was a lot of fun.” Fast forward through multiple Masters’ Challenge qualifications at the chapter and regional levels before finally capturing the title 18 years since his career began and 11 years since his first moment of inspiration. Josephine advises that new competitors commit at least 10 years before they can expect great results.
Both Josephine and Barton emphasize that their big wins did not come without a tremendous amount of hard work and training, and they agree that skill, strategy, and athleticism equally influence their overall performance. Josephine knows firsthand that she must train her mind as well as her body to get ready for competition. Of course, the preparation and dedication to the tree climbing sport in addition to their full-time careers in arboriculture do not leave time for much else. When not climbing trees, Barton enjoys spending time with his wife and daughter, while Josephine will occasionally pick up her drums and relieve some stress.
Through the tree climbing competitions, Josephine and Barton have been able to travel and meet fellow competitors from around the world where they have always been welcomed with open arms, quite literally. The tight-knit community offers unconditional support, camaraderie, and long hugs. The kind, friendly culture makes their experiences even richer. Josephine credits the community with helping her develop her personality. “I am much more open…and definitely more approachable as a person. It’s really infectious.” Barton sums it up, “We do it better than any other sport. Tree people are the best people.”