Krista Strating's journey as a champion climber begins in an unexpected place: A friend's wedding. The owner of an arborist company was in the wedding party, knew Strating's landscaping background, and thought she'd be good at climbing. The opportunity (and her answer: “Sure, I'll give it a whirl.”) changed her life.
Fourteen years into her climbing career, Strating is a four-time ISA North American Tree Climbing Champion, the 2018 World Tree Climbing Champion, and a 2019 Team JAMBO title winner. She's also a full-time, year-round arborist for the city of Mississauga, Ontario, a lead instructor for the Arborist Apprenticeship program at Humber College, a member of the Husqvarna H-Team, and an instructor for the Women's Tree Climbing Workshop. And now, she's a member of the Notch team.
- Welcome to the team! Let's start with something easy: What got you hooked on tree climbing?
- I'm naturally competitive—I always want to do the best I can and be challenged. Most climbing competitions are about individual effort, so they fit me to a T. And I won my first competition, so that was the perfect way to get into it.
My first boss also gave me the opportunity to climb right away. I've learned through the years that not a lot of people have that experience. A lot of my students say things like, "I'm coming to school because I want to learn how to climb so I can show my boss that I can do more than just drag brush." I was climbing on my second day on the job, and that had a big impact.
- What keeps you interested?
- I love the competitions, but maybe not for the reason you think. An arborist's job is super hard — very demanding physically and mentally. And it can be really grinding if you don't find something that gets you out of your rut and really ignites that passion. With competitions, you can see all the progression in technique and the new advancements in gear. Seeing and trying all of that stuff is super exciting.
- What the most notable advancement you've seen in equipment?
- Hands down, the Rope Wrench. When I started 14 years ago, we were using a moving rope system, which is really demanding on your body. But there was really no way of working that stationary line, you just used it to get into the canopy. But then the Rope Wrench came out, and it just blew everything up and has led to all kinds of new gear over the last five years, like the Notch Rope Runner and all these SRS pieces. They have just completely changed how we climb trees and how we compete.
- When you're teaching at Humber College, you're managing 70 or 80 students at a time. How do you do it?
- My part of the apprenticeship program is two days a week for three months, and there's a group of us that teach, so I'm not alone. But I am the first female lead instructor that the program has had, which is kind of cool.
The thing that blows me away is that this will be my 10th year teaching, so if you add it all up, I've taught almost 800 students. In Southern Ontario, there's a pretty good chance that if you're working at a company, I've either taught some of the people working there or I went to school with some of the people working there.
- And you've been able to extend that to getting more women climbing as well.
- Sometimes I would go to competitions and there would be no other women there, or I would compete against one other woman. And I was like, "What's going on here?" So a few of my friends and I put together a local group to encourage women to climb and try competitions. We put on climbing days, to have an environment where women can try climbing and not be intimidated. We did that, then the following year, we had the max that we're allowed in competition: 10 female climbers. And it's now been that way for three years in a row.
I also recently joined the Women's Tree Climbing Workshop in Massachusetts. They built this awesome workshop that creates a really empowering environment that's strictly by and for women. You learn a lot about climbing, for sure, but it's more about empowering each other without any distractions. I can't wait until the next workshop.
- What's your advice for someone considering taking up the sport?
- The main thing that I hear from people is that they're timid or unsure if they should be doing it. To any woman out there, I say just do it. Throw yourself into it. A lot of things in our industry are changing, and we have a lot of females that are making waves and paving the way so more can follow.
Looking back to when I started out, I didn't have a ton of role models. I'm hoping people can learn from me. It's part of the reason why I teach, because I was inspired by my teacher, so it only felt natural to want to give that back for someone else.
Krista Strating is a Certified Arborist and World Tree Climbing champion based out of Ontario, Canada. Krista has been a climbing instructor for over 10 years and is involved with the Women’s Tree Climbing Workshop- teaching women how to climb in a safe and empowering learning environment.
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