Calling All Climbers
Every summer comes a time when tree people make an annual pilgrimage ranging from hundreds to thousands of miles away to come to a place of sandy beaches, shaded forests, nighttime folk music and the cheering of their friends. Every summer climbers come to a place that allows climbing advancements to be paired with top level climbing ability in climbing competitions. Every summer climbers and families alike come to TREE-JAM-CAMP!
In a small town in the “Thumb” of Michigan is a camp that lets climbers from around the globe to gather together once a year and literally play in the trees. Camp Cavell is a YWCA camp that caters to bringing children with disabilities to a fun summer camp where they can be with their friends. The staff at Camp Cavell has also been bringing these same children into the canopies of the amazing Beech trees that cover the property. This allows children who have typically been confined to wheelchairs the ability to get lifted high into the air and experience the small things that we, as tree climbers, sometimes take for granted.
Origins of a Tradition
TREE-JAM-CAMP began five years ago as a tree climbing competition 20 miles south of Camp Cavell in Port Huron, Michigan. The goal was to bring climbers together where they could use gear and techniques that they use every day at work in a competition setting. Back when the event started, SRT work positioning wasn’t even allowed at ISA climbing competitions! It was a small underground group of climbing rebels looking to have a good time and compete with each other. The first event went down without a hitch, no pun intended, and the seed was started.
The following year, climbers brought more friends and more climbers to compete in the huge trees of Pine Grove Park on the shores of the St. Clair River. It was an amazing sight watching climbers ascending into large Red Oak trees with 1,000 foot freighters passing down the river in the background! Once again the event went down perfectly with everyone having fun and learning new things.
Unfortunately, due to a scheduling conflict, the third year was cancelled. This was very hard for us at Bartlett to do but it needed to happen. Surprisingly with a year off, this renewed our love for TREEJAM and everything that it stands for! We knew how much everyone else loved the event and we knew how much we loved it, so we developed a whole new event that included more for families and for climbers!
This is when TREE-JAM-CAMP was officially created. We had already worked with Camp Cavell in the past by helping them with hazardous tree removals and some brush cleanup. We knew the camp was a great venue and we also knew that the camp director, Jill, was amazing! So we started planning the event and getting people involved. People like Chris and Erin Coates, Treecutter Doug, Isaac Dunnigan, Joe Legate, Rich Hattier, Jason Diehl and so many others made the event possible by donating time and gear for the events and for prizes. These people went out of their way to freely come and help out to make the event better for everyone! We want to thank them for everything they did and still do to make the event great!
TREE-JAM-CAMP has attracted climbers from the UK, Sweden, and Fiji, as well as across the United States and Canada. It has brought climbers together to compare and discuss techniques to better our climbing community at the “root” of what we do: climb trees. It’s exhilarating watching a climber move through the canopy while his friends are cheering him on and then witnessing the huge pile up hug after the climb is complete. It is truly amazing and inspiring what this industry does when it comes together!
One of the best memories we have of TREE-JAM-CAMP came on the first night of the first year. Mountain Babies were playing super mellow folk songs while everyone sat amongst their friends taking in the music and the warm air. Waves could be heard gently crashing on the sandy beach. Lights in tents could be seen illuminating the tall Hemlocks to the west of the camp. It truly was a sight to behold.
So I guess the biggest question for all of you reading this is: Are you coming this year? We hope so!