At the end of the day Michael Mortensen, a tree climber from over Bay of Plenty way, swung open the bin door and clambering onto the back of a conveniently parked truck.
A loud whistle caught the attention of the climbers, gathered for the prize giving.
From his elevated position above the crowd Michael delivered an impromptu ‘thank you’ speech directed at competition organisers, Nicky Ward-Allen, Neal Harding and their legion of volunteer helpers.
Michael’s words were heartfelt and reflected the sentiment of the crowd.
Around the same time Whanganui's Clay Winter, at the head of the picnic table, set the steel to his carving knife. With the blade edge honed razor sharp Clay flicked his wrist and sliced off generous portions of ham from the bone.
Michael finished his speech and within seconds the main table was swarming with climbers and supporters, tucking in to homemade food, only available in Taranaki.
This is the essence of the Taranaki Open. If there was ever a tree climbing competition on your ‘bucket list’ the Taranaki Open is surely it.
Now in its sixth year the Taranaki Open Tree Climbing Weekend offers kiwi and visiting tree climbers a unique climbing experience.
Tree climbing movies, fun competition, prizes galore, mountain climbing and food for the gods – and it’s all ‘free’. The Taranaki Open TCC is second to none.
And this year you can expect more of the same from Nicky and Neal.
Saturday, Sunday and Monday
Saturday arvo (February 6) sets the tone with a discussion about ‘Conservation and the Modern Arborist’. Johno Smith, a previous Taranaki Open TCC winner, has focussed mainstream media on the plight of our Kauri with his recent Waitakere sit-in; it’s probably a good time to renew talks about tree protection and the role arborists’ play in the community.
The Taranaki Tree Climbing Film Festival, on Saturday evening (commencing 6:30pm) in Stratford’s historic King’s Theatre, features the cinematic premier of ‘The New Zealand Tree Project’ film shot in the Pureora Forest, along with a selection of by-invitation-only short films from New Zealand and international filmmakers.
The main event, the Taranaki Open Tree Climbing Competition, is scheduled for Sunday February 7 at King Edward Park in Stratford kicking off with gear check around 8:30am – entrance through the Malone Gate.
King Edward Park is a large recreational facility in central Stratford. The location for the 2016 competition is the same as that of 2012 – the year Johno Smith accrued the most points.
2012 was also the year, visiting tree climber, Lin Wah Ling organized the ‘Speed Climb’.
Ling (as he was affectionately known) chose the tallest, tightest limbed tree in the park, which also happened to house a nest of wasps buzzing next door, adding spice to the climb!
Ling was very proud of his achievement (and Ling, in a cute kind of way, let everyone know). His speed climb was the stuff of legends.
Paying homage to ‘Ling’s Speed Climb’ the same tree will be used for a special Open Speed Climb challenge; no wasps this time (the official Taranaki Open TCC speed climb tree is a little less ‘technical’).
For 2016 Nicky has planned a couple of options for the ‘Work Climb’ to keep things interesting. Speed freaks will enjoy the ‘Poplar’ and the technically inclined should choose the ‘Elm’.
The ‘Aerial Rescue’ is more than a little unusual so pay attention when it comes to the walk through on Sunday morning.
As per 2015 the Vertical Sprint will also feature in the event line-up – any form of ascent is allowed, as long as it's safe and you can get yourself back down again.
Fun for everyone
And… there is plenty to keep non-competitors occupied; this is a family affair after all.
Everyone can have a go at Ling’s Speed Climb, the 15-station Novice Climb or Silky’s Thinnest Biscuit cut (and win a Silky saw).
Sunday culminates with the official prize giving ceremony; perhaps Michael will hail forth again – Clay is bound to be there.
Monday (February 8 is a Public Holiday) is set aside for the Taranaki mountain climb for those up to the challenge.
Teufelberger Treecare, Husqvarna NZ, Brendon Bellamy’s Tricky Tree Specialists, Silky Saws, Clogger Chainsaw Protection, Treetools (and others) help contribute to the prize pool. Treetools underwrites the event to ensure there is enough funding for it to run smoothly.
Regrettably, 2016 will be the last year of the Taranaki Open Tree Climbing Weekend – at least in its ‘annual’ format.
So… if the Taranaki Open TCC is indeed on your bucket list you had better make it to Stratford, Taranaki over Waitangi Weekend, 2016 – this will be your last chance for some time. Make sure you register with Nicky if you intend to climb.
Posted by Richard Tregoweth