Branching Out: An S.F. Man Achieves Tree-Climbing Supremacy

A new champion walks among us in San Francisco — or, more likely, gazes down from above.

Arborist Chad Brey's voicemail offers the all-but-certain caveat that he's likely up a tree rather than taking your call. On April 6, this was emphatically true. SF Weekly earlier reported that Brey would be our city's great arboreal hope in the North American Tree Climbing Championship, held that day in Pasadena.

And, wouldn't you know it, the hometown boy won it all.

Brey's path to glory required surmounting a hulking pine serving as the final test for the event's top-three challengers. In addition to climbing, he was mandated to offer an impromptu diagnostic: How much mulch did it require? Are there any fungal infestations or bees' nests to take care of?

Then he fired a rope 100 feet into its canopy with a slingshot-like device and climbed into history.

Brey's prize for victory: a hardhat, a chainsaw, $400, and an oversize belt buckle to accompany other oversize belt buckles he's won in the past. He'll compete in August's International Tree Climbing Championship in Milwaukee.

And, yes, he'll pay his own way. Sure, he could work out a deal to wear a company T-shirt in exchange for plane tickets. “But,” he says with a laugh, “then I'd need an agent.”

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