Eltham tree climber on top of the world after big win

19:30, Aug 22 2013
Nicky Ward-Allen
SKY HIGH: Eltham woman Nicky Ward-Allen has won the world tree climbing championships held in Toronto, Canada.

An Eltham arborist has shinned her way to the top to claim a world champion title in tree climbing.

Nicky Ward-Allen won the women's division of the International Tree Climbing Championships last month in Toronto, Canada, heading off 19 other women.

Ward-Allen also won the head-to-head footlock competition, for which she is the reigning world record-holder, with a time of 13.26 seconds to climb a 12-metre rope dangling away from the tree trunk.

New Zealand arboriculture shone on the day with 2011 champion Scott Forrest winning the men's category and James Kilpatrick taking the men's head-to-head footlock.

Ward-Allen said it was really nice she managed to come out on top. "Last year I was second, which was quite hard, so a win this year was great."

She was studying towards a Bachelor of Science at Waikato University about a decade ago when she decided working indoors at a laboratory or desk did not appeal. "I saw an ad for aboriculture and it sounded fantastic, I could work all over the world and spend my time outdoors."

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She was the only woman in the aboriculture course and the men looked after her, she said. "They made my lunch, it was great."

Despite spending much of her time hanging high in the treetops equipped with sawing equipment, Ward-Allen has had only one near- miss, with a chainsaw going through her specialised trousers.

"I was quite annoyed, they were new pants.

"But I was lucky, if I wasn't wearing them it could have been quite messy."

The best part of her work was that it allowed her to be in the outdoors, she said.

"I love being in a new place every day. When I'm using my handsaw it's quiet and I'll have a wood pigeon come and sit next to me."

At the 2004 world championships she got an "absolute hiding", which was motivation to go away and train hard, she said.

She said retired three-time world champion and fellow Kiwi Chrissy Spence was a role model.

"I only won because she's retired.

"No other women have managed as many [titles] as her."

Ward-Allen heads to Queenstown for the national competition in October to celebrate her 10th anniversary of competitive tree climbing in the same place where she entered her first competition.

Doreen Ward-Allen said her daughter had always been a bit of a tomboy.

"I've got a photo of her from college climbing the rugby goal posts.

"She doesn't get it from me."

She put her daughter's success down to determination and a supportive husband and family.

Brendon Bellamy of Tricky Tree Specialists was delighted with his former employee's success.

"She's just a top chick.

"She's a hard worker and trains her arse off."

He said it was cool to think the world tree climbing champion came from Eltham.

New Zealand Arboricultural Association President Bruce MacDonald said the Kiwi climbers' victories were a wonderful success.

"It's great to emulate our results from 2011 and have all three titles back in New Zealand, and it shows that our climbers are consistently among the best in the world."

Ward-Allen wished to thank the TSB Community Trust, which provided her with an individual grant to travel to Canada.

Taranaki Daily News