​Women tree climbers from Taiwan head to greater heights - GulfToday

​Women tree climbers from Taiwan head to greater heights


Female students climb on a tree during a training class organized by the Women's Arb Camp in Taiwan (WACT).

At a campground in central Taiwan, a team of women are using ropes to shimmy up a towering seven storey tall Chinaberry tree, fighting their fear of heights and reconnecting with nature.


Tree climbing remains somewhat niche in Taiwan but a growing number of women are embracing the challenge thanks to the island's first international certified female climber arborist.


Sylvia Hsu, 26, said she was inspired to set up her own women-only tree climbing classes after seeing the popularity of such gatherings bloom in Europe.


Many of those attending the course were once novices terrified of the prospect of climbing up 30 metre tall trees.


climb2 Tree climbing remains somewhat niche in Taiwan but a growing number of women are embracing the challenge.


Growing appeal


Tree climbing tends to fall into two categories. Arborists -- also known as tree surgeons -- who maintain trees for a living, and those that climb simply for fun.


Recreational climbing has been growing in popularity worldwide since US arborist Peter Jenkins began promoting it in 1983, using techniques and tools from his profession and also borrowing from cavers and rock climbers.


Tree Climbers International, the organisation he founded, now has more than 700 member instructors listed around the world teaching tree climbing.


The hobby side ranges from kids being pulled up on ropes to adrenaline-filled speed climbing competitions.


climber3 Sylvia Hsu (F), Taiwan's first certified female tree arborist, demonstrates her tree climbing skills.


Both the professional and amateur communities were often something of a macho sport. But slowly that is changing.


Boel Hammerstrand, a Swedish national, started a women-only event four years ago in the UK and now travels widely to help others do the same.


Recovering lost drones


Hsu says her classes have doubled in the last three years, especially with city dwellers and their children looking for a way to enjoy nature.


Cheng Han-chien, a high school teacher at the camp, says the "magical feeling" you get in the canopy keeps drawing her back.


Out of the 29 certified arborists in Taiwan, only three are women, including Hsu.


Many struggle to find enough work given it is often cheaper and quicker to hire a crane and anyone with chainsaw skills.


But an unusual source of income in the last few years has been retrieving drones.




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In the last two months alone, Hsu and her climbing buddies have successfully found and retrieved 41 drones.


Each retrieval cost between $100 to $160 plus mileage reimbursement.


Mina Wang, a 22-year-old university student, says she plans to become a professional tree surgeon after she graduates this summer.


She is brushing upon her skills before taking her certification exam.



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