Is it a bird? Is it a squirrel? No, it's Jake the power man!
Feb 01, 2018 11:18AM ● Published by Shaun Delliskave
And he's off! Murray City Power's Jake Bleazard starts a timed tree climb at the International Tree Climbing Championship. (Photo Murray City Power)
Gallery: Tree Climbing [3 Images] Click any image to expand.
We all know of that one tall tree in the neighborhood with that one questionable branch that someday, with the right wind gust, will fall onto a power line or into a window.
Fortunately, Murray residents have Jake Bleazard, one of the best tree climbers in the country, to take care of those pesky tree limbs. The Murray City Power employee recently competed in the International Tree Climbing Championship that was held here in Utah.
Bleazard started working in arboriculture in 1998, at the age of 18, with his brother at Trees Inc. It was there that he was first introduced to tree climbing.
“From the beginning, I liked climbing. I guess you could say I’m a little bit of a daredevil.”
He worked his way up to become foreman at the company and found his passion to be among the trees. He began studying to become an International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) certified arborist and started to learn about new climbing techniques. Upon being certified an arborist, Jake decided to compete in his first climbing competition.
The North American Tree Climbing Championship (NATCC) takes place every fall. Forty-six of the top professional tree climbers from the United States and Canada compete for the title of North American Champion while demonstrating their skills as professional arborists.
The challenges ranged from scaling a tree as quickly as possible to simulating a rescue in a tree using a dummy and several ropes. The competition has five pulmonary events, including the rescue, the speed climb, the footlock (the ability to perform a vertical ascent into a tree using a friction hitch), the workclimb (ability to move about a tree using a tree-climbing rope and harness) and the throwball (inserting a climbing rope high into a tree). The top four climbers in these events go on to compete in the master’s challenge, which is a combination of the pulmonary events.
“I was hooked and have competed in 12 competitions since, eight of them were for the Utah chapter. And, in 2014 I took first place and was able to represent Utah at the International Tree Climbing Competition in Milwaukee.” He also won a chainsaw and $600 worth of tree gear from different companies.
Last year at the Utah competition he took second and qualified for the North American championships, where he took 18th; these competitions have about 35 to 40 competitors.
“The last three years I have taken second place in the Utah competitions, and have competed in the North American competition in Colorado, Niagara Falls, and last fall right here in Salt Lake.”
Bleazard said that tree climbing is more than conquering a fear of heights. “Tree climbing is very physical; you have to be in good shape to be competitive. Climbing is extremely mentally demanding. Not only are there many different technical aspects to the gear and how it should be used, you need the right frame of mind to climb 60 feet in the air connected to only ropes.”
While Bleazard has worked for Murray City Power for nearly 20 years, he also serves as a board member of the Utah Community Forest Council. The father of three also plays in a band and writes music, but still, on his off-days, you can catch him scaling a tree.
“I have spent countless hours climbing trees and for the most part it’s a serious environment, one wrong move and it could mean big trouble. But the relationships I have made with the people I climb with are second to none.”