Local tree-climbing champion finds clarity in the branches

When you search for who you are, you find answers in the unlikeliest places.

Luke Glines’ journey of self-discovery took him from the mountains of northern California to theology graduate school in Canada, where he intended to unravel the mysteries of life but instead discovered that his questions only led to more questions.

Rather, clarity came amongst Vancouver’s treetops. Trees became Glines’ livelihood. He relocated to the Greeley area and started his own tree-trimming business here. This is also where he discovered competitive tree-climbing.

Glines isn’t just a thoughtful and well-read arborist; he’s one of the best in the world at his obscure sport, having won the Rocky Mountain Regional Competition of the International Society of Arboriculture a record 10 times, the latest in July.

Glines is 48, more than double the age of some of his competitors. He has nothing to prove. Yet he comes back every year, despite the toll it takes on his body and the questions — from others and from himself — about why he still does it.

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“It’s not about winning or losing,” said Glines’ daughter, Hannah, who is his best friend and kindred spirit. “He enjoys the preparation more than the competition.”

The international society started holding competitions in the 1970s to give tree-climbing professionals a way to compare skills and unleash their competitive urges. Climbers rig themselves up with the ropes and pulleys they use to effortlessly float from branch to branch while they work, then race to be the first to ring a bell hidden in the treetops, or find flags or other items stashed up there. Climbers are graded not only on time, but technique, skill and how they handle their gear.

That was far from Glines’ mind while he grew up on his family’s northern California farm. He didn’t even climb trees for fun. His dad was a bullrider and his mom would have none of that for Glines. He didn’t like team sports, so running became his first…

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