updated 6/11/2005 6:45:19 AM ET 2005-06-11T10:45:19

These guys bring a whole new meaning to the phrase “Going out on a limb.”

On Saturday, 19 men will compete for glory — and chain saws — in the 21st annual New Jersey State Tree Climbing Championship at Trenton’s Cadwalader Park.

This competition isn’t child’s play. Using ropes and harnesses, competitors climb 100-foot trees under the watchful eye of judges who grade their every move.

Most competitors work in the tree industry. The games are designed to mimic normal workday tasks, such as throwing climbing lines into trees or using different climbing techniques to get up the rope quickly. They’re also tested on how well they move up in a tree, walking on limbs and sawing branches.

Tree-climbers don’t wear spikes since they’re supposed to do their job without harming the tree.

“I don’t like killing nice trees,” says Bill Suyker, 27, who is competing Saturday. “I’d rather see a big nice tree in somebody’s yard and be pruning it than cutting it down.”

'It's time to grab a little glory'
The winner gets an expense-paid trip to the international championship, to be held in Nashville Aug. 5-6. Prizes for runners-up include chain saws and hand saws.

“Aside from customers watching you, I guess it’s time to grab a little glory,” said Bert Kuhn, 46.

The man to beat is Mark Chisholm, 34, a third-generation tree-climber. Chisholm has won the New Jersey event 12 consecutive times and the international title in 1997 and 2001.

Some think he has the title locked up, but there’s always the chance of an upset.

“Even the greatest boxer in the world gets knocked out sometime,” said Joseph Aufiero, who will be one of the judges in Saturday's competition.

The competition was started in 1976 by the International Society of Arboriculture to give tree-climbers, who usually work alone or in pairs, a chance to meet colleagues, discuss safety techniques and expand their knowledge.

Organizers in New Jersey say no tree-climber has ever been injured during the competition. But that doesn’t mean Mark Chisholm’s wife won’t shut her eyes when her husband takes his turn.

“We’ve been married for nine years but at times, she still doesn’t want to watch,” he said.

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