Luke Glines is on his way to the top—literally. Next weekend, he heads to the International Tree Climbing Championship (ITCC), where he’ll compete against other tree-climbers from around the world in a show of professional arborist skills. It’s the 46-year-old Greeley native’s eighth ITCC—this time held in Tampa from March 21 to 22—and with it, he’s reached a point of confidence and relaxation in his expertise.
“How I place isn’t an indication of me as a climber,” he says.
Strangely enough, this passion is not an extension of Glines’s childhood monkeying around—he says he hardly climbed trees as a child, preferring the discipline of competitive running. Instead, he got into the hobby while working on his graduate degree in theology and picking up odd jobs, including tree removal.
“All the studying I did made me realize the importance of being at peace with what you’re doing,” Glines says. “The point of life is to enjoy each day. I feel really connected to life and my body.”
When he isn’t competing, Glines runs his own arborist business, Luke Glines Tree Experts, keeping Colorado trees healthy and safe. At the ITCC, the skills he uses daily are put to the test.
“It’s all about how fast and smoothly you move, and the techniques you use to reach the targets,” Glines says of competing. Competitors are judged on agility, speed, and safety—all huge components of the International Society of Arboriculture, which hosts the event.
“What they do, it’s about preservation,” Glines said. “Making trees safe and healthy and beautiful, and helping people understand that they need to be taken care of.”
Despite the technical aspects of climbing, Glines sometimes sheds safety in favor of the childhood wonder he never took advantage of in his younger years. At his girlfriend’s home in California, he recently had the opportunity to take on an ancient redwood—more than 200 feet tall and as many years old.
“Being able to climb to the top and look out over the ocean was amazing,” Glines said. “Sometimes we get so stuck on being safe that we forget to [climb] the way a kid would.”