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World-class tree climbers race for the top in Wichita this weekend

Tree climbing competition comes to Wichita

Wichita is hosting the North American Open Masters Tree Climbing Championships this weekend. The event will be held in Oak Park and contestants are judged on a variety of criteria. (Travis Heying/The Wichita Eagle)
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Wichita is hosting the North American Open Masters Tree Climbing Championships this weekend. The event will be held in Oak Park and contestants are judged on a variety of criteria. (Travis Heying/The Wichita Eagle)

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly spelled Chris Corley's name.

An international group of the world’s best tree climbers will race to the top in a Wichita park this weekend.

The North American Open Masters Tree Climbing Championship will be held at Oak Park and is expected to draw some of the fastest tree climbers from the United States, along with competitors from Barbados, Sweden, Estonia, England and Canada, city officials said.

Among the feature events of the three-day climb fest will be head-to-head matchups as competitors race to the top of trees. On Friday night, they’ll compete surrounded by a laser light show, said Wichita city arborist Gary Farris.

Thirty-seven climbers will compete, including three local climbers: Chris Corley, who works in the city’s forestry department, and Joshua Anderson and B.J. Brock, who work for area tree-trimming companies, Farris said.

Corley has worked in forestry for 10 years and has competed in three climbing competitions.

“There are a lot of champions out there ... lots of guys that have won before,” he said. “This is going to be a very difficult competition to place in.”

He said all the climbers will compete in six events, and the six with the highest scores will square off in head-to-head competition in the finals on Sunday.

“I’d be happy to be in that mix,” he said.

Among the events are aerial rescue and a throw line challenge, a timed event testing competitors’ ability to throw a climbing line through targets to gauge their ability to accurately place a climbing line up to 60 feet in the air.

The event will also feature two “masters” challenges, a difficult timed event where climbers have to evaluate a tree, climb to several stations in the canopy, and then descend and retrieve their gear, all while following strict safety rules to avoid disqualification.

The event will feature music from a deejay on Friday and Saturday evenings; food trucks will be on hand to provide refreshments and meals, officials said.

Farris said it’s the first time the city has hosted a major tree-climbing championship, so he doesn’t know what to expect in terms of a crowd.

“There’s room for a lot of folks,” Farris said.

Oak Park is at 1100 W. 11th St., Wichita. Competition will run from 3 to 11 p.m. Friday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday.

During the competition, 11th Street will be closed to thru traffic from Oak Park Drive to Forest Street.

Motorists using the 11th Street bridge will be detoured around the competition via Oak Park Drive, according to city spokesman Van Williams.

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