Certified Taiwanese tree climber to host tree climbing camp

01/23/2020 11:54 AM
Photo courtesy of Hsu Ren-han
Photo courtesy of Hsu Ren-han

Taipei, Jan. 23 (CNA) Hsu Ren-han (許荏涵), the first woman in Taiwan to be a "Certified Tree Worker Climber Specialist" will host a female-only tree climbing camp in Taiwan this year.

Hsu, who obtained her certification from the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) in 2017, told CNA that she hopes the camp, which is set to be held in March, will inspire more women to join her unique, albeit rather obscure, profession.

Born in 1994, Hsu majored in Chinese education at Taipei-based Ming Chuan University when she climbed trees for the first time at a scout event.

Though the experience of climbing up the tree using ropes and a harness left her dizzy and with blisters on her hands, Hsu fell in love with the challenge, and decided to pursue arboriculture as a profession.

Her job mostly consists of tree pruning, and leading tree climbing classes for both adults and children. She has also assisted in academic research efforts, such as climbing a 2,800-year old tree in Nantou.

Standing among the branches, which form a kind of platform for ferns and epiphytes to grow and blossom, was like being in a hanging garden, Hsu said.

In addition to her work as an arborist, Hsu actively participates in tree climbing competitions. At the inaugural Taiwan International Tree Climbing Championship, which was held in 2017, she came in first place in the women's division, a title she has since defended.

Her winning streak resulted in her representing Taiwan at the International Tree Climbing Championship (ITCC), which is held annually by the ISA.

"What is most important to me when I compete isn't the ranking," Hsu said, "but the opportunity to be able to meet contestants from other countries, and the chance to observe the techniques they use."

According to Hsu, contestants compete in five events at the ITCC, including one that simulates rescuing an injured climber from a tree, and another where contestants compete to be the fastest to reach a point on a tree 18 meters above ground.

The most difficult, in Hsu's opinion, is known as the Work Climb. Contestants have to ring bells that have been placed in four or five different locations on a tree, and then descend onto a target on the ground.

After the championship last year, Hsu participated in the Women's ArbCamp in Finland, a three-day camp for women working in arboriculture. The camp featured workshops on gear inspection and chainsaw maintenance, as well as tree climbing activities.

The participants even climbed trees at night once while blasting music, and hung glow sticks on their bodies to avoid crashing into each other, Hsu said.

The event inspired her to set up the Women's ArbCamp Taiwan (WACT), which will be a more leisurely take on the original event, Hsu said.

Set to be held March 6-8 in Nantou County, central Taiwan, Hsu hopes the camp will allow women to explore the possibility of becoming an arborist like herself, or just learn to appreciate trees and nature in a new way.

"I used to look down at the ground when I walked, but ever since I started climbing trees, I lift my head up so I can observe the trees I am passing. Looking at the open sky, I feel like I am becoming more open-minded," Hsu said.

(By Chiang Yi-ching and Chang Hsiung-feng)

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