Interview with Competitive Tree Climber Joshua Burr
Bartlett: Thanks for taking the time out for this interview! Why don't you start by letting everyone know who you are, your age, and where you're from! Give us some background on you!
Josh: Hi, thank you so much for having me! My name is Joshua Burr, I'm 22, from Oxford, Michigan. I've been climbing everything since I could walk. First time at the rock climbing gym was for my 10th birthday, started with a tree service when I was 15, started industrial rigging for concerts when I was a Senior at the Palace of Auburn Hills, and when I was 19 I got rope access/SPRAT certified.
Bartlett: That's so much, so quickly, all before you were even 20!! WOW! So where are you living now and what are you doing?
Josh: Towards the end of 2019 I moved out to Maryland. I've been so busy with climbing trips and competitions that the rope access work has slowly taken a back seat but I still practice the skills regularly.
Bartlett: We're super impressed with how young you are and everything you've already accomplished and experienced. Let's talk about what started it all. What did you do before you were a full time arborist? Can you tell us a little more about your concert and rope access gigs.
Josh: I have actually set up for the Presidential Inauguration along with a few other presidential/political events. I've set up the rigging for different music festivals and flown out to different venues like the Twins Stadiums and US Bank Stadium for Taylor Swift and KISS!!
Bartlett: Right on! That's super cool!! And you're known for rock climbing and ice climbing as well?
Josh: Oh yes!! Started with rock climbing when I was 10 at the rock climbing gym and really took off with it when I met my rock climbing mentor Matt Foss on a rock climbing trip to Kentucky that he was guiding was I was around 16 ish. Now I see the climbing gym as an awesome way to exercise and work my brain by getting through the climbing problems. I regularly go on climbing trips to the red river gorge in Kentucky and have recently found some cool rock climbing spots in Maryland.
Bartlett: With all of these options what made you fall in love with working primarily with trees?
Josh: The freedom, along with the ability to move in 3D. Trees to me are almost an awesome blend of rock climbing and industrial.
Bartlett: Interesting!! So what or who do you feel as though got your 'feet off the ground' / 'foot in the door' in the tree industry? How did you start this journey?
Josh: I started with an unprofessional tree service for the first 3 years. No safety culture and of course spike pruning, and I was none the wiser, that's how everyone does tree work, right? When I was 17 Joey Drinkhorn invited me to Tree Jam Camp and that was the total game changer. That's actually where I met my now boss. Since then I've done Tree Jam Camp a second time, Michigan state 3 times, Ohio, Hawaii, Taiwan, ARC, and NAOM twice!
Bartlett: We love that you've just ran with this, all around the world! You're a climber that is quickly gaining a name for yourself in this industry. What's your latest accomplishment professionally?
Josh: The opportunity to Co-teach a class with my boss Chris Coates at Legends(Legends Tree Climbing Championship)! It's about staying on rope while passing redirects and high lines and hammocking!
Bartlett: Any epic adventures you've done personally lately? We at Bartlett may have heard something about a cave.
Josh: The cave was Ellison cave in Georgia! The biggest drop we did was called the fantastic pit, 586 feet, with a 500ft waterfall, that we had to rappel through 150ft of, and ascend back up. There was another one called the warm up pit around 130ft.
Bartlett: That is just so epic!! Hearing all these experiences, we have to ask, what do you think the biggest key is to your progression?
Josh: Setting the bar very high, just out of reach. Along with always searching for an opportunity to learn something.
Bartlett: Before you settled down in Maryland you did a lot of traveling being a self employed contract climber. What kind of experience was that for you?
Josh: Greatly beneficial!! Even with the company I'm with now, we will drive around 2 hrs to go work with other friend's companies sometimes. Seeing how others get jobs done, while working to mitigate hazards and stay safe can be a major learning tool.
Bartlett: So true, and we love this community over competition attitude you have. What would you say was the coolest experience to come from that?
Josh: Getting to work out in Hawaii is always a pleasure, but the greatest joys are the people you get to meet, along with some amazing views.
Bartlett: So, so true! What would be your biggest piece of advice to someone wanting to become a contract climber?
Josh: Networking is key, and tree climbing competitions can be a huge tool for just that! Networking, connecting with and meeting new people.
Bartlett: We totally agree! Do you have any big goals for 2020?
Josh: I am very much looking forward to getting back to Asia for their tree climbing competition! Made some cool friends out there!
Bartlett: Awesome dude. We love this. Thank you so much for sharing your past, present, and future story with us all!! Any closing statements before we sign off?
Josh: Looking forward to hanging out with you guys on Belle isle this year!!! There are certainly some good trees to choose from!! Thank you for this opportunity to share! You guys are the best!