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International Society of Arboriculture hosts TCC at Irving Park on Saturday, June 16 in Portland.

TRIBUNE PHOTO: ZANE SPARLING - A man climbs a tree during the 2018 tree climbing competition hosted by the International Society of Arboriculture on Saturday, June 16  in Portland. Squirrels — meet your new roommates.

Portland's towering timbers got a bit of unexpected company during a tree tournament that pitted professional arborists against the laws of gravity — and each other.

About 30 contenders limbered up, hooked on a harness and did their best to touch the sky during the Saturday, June 16, competition at Irving Park, 707 N.E. Fremont St., in the Irvington neighborhood.

TRIBUNE PHOTO: ZANE SPARLING - Damien Carre started working as an arborist 22 years ago for what was supposed to be a high school summer job. For Damien Carré — regional coordinator for the Pacific Northwest chapter of the International Society of Arboriculture — the words of the day were "safety," "efficiency" and "accuracy."

The ISA competition consists of multiple challenges, including a speed climb, an ascent and descent test, a simulated aerial rescue featuring a mannequin and a feat that requires climbers to touch five bells and throw a stick from the top of a tree into a target.

"You've got Ms. Smith's heirloom roses, so you don't want to hurt anything," said Carré, explaining the professional relevance.

Points are awarded based on timing and accuracy, plus some discretionary points that can be given out for exceptional style or safety. The winner heads to a regional tourney in Seattle with a shot at this year's national competition in British Columbia.

"You have every climber cheering everybody else on," Carré noted. "It's a competition, but it's not a competition."

TRIBUNE PHOTO: ZANE SPARLING - Meara Gordanier says every tree is a puzzle. Meara Gordanier attended the event as a volunteer, armed with a stopwatch to keep track of climbers' times as they scrambled up trunks 40 to 60 feet tall. She's currently a student, but hopes to find training that will allow her to work as an arborist full time.

"It's the most fun thing," the 28-year-old Hillsboro resident said. "Every tree is a puzzle. I mean, every shrub is a puzzle too, but it's a small puzzle."

Her advice for one surmounting their first-climb jitters? "You just got to trust in the rope."

Dan Holliday was back at the competition for at least the tenth time, and won once, but says the real fun is convening with other professionals in his field.

"I love climbing trees," he said. "I'm not the kind of person who could work in an office five days a week."

TRIBUNE PHOTO: ZANE SPARLING - The tree climbing competition also featured a non-competitive assisted climb for Portland's littlest arborists.

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