On Saturday, nearly 200 lumber-jacks and -jills endured -20ºC temperatures and an 8 a.m. start-time to compete in events like the chainsaw, pole climb, pulp throw, super swede, and the water boil.
The events were a part of Macdonald Campus’ 50th Annual Intercollegiate Woodsmen Competition.
Originally scheduled to be held at Mac’s Morgan Arboretum, the competition was moved to Mac’s lower campus due to a blizzard.
“My hands blistered from the cold while I was doing the axe toss this morning,” said Taifa Brown, a University of New Brunswick (UNB) forestry student. “The bus was quite a few hours late, we hit a huge snowstorm, and then the bus broke down today – but this is worth it.”
Competitors cheered and mingled, warming their hands over a barrel fire, drops of snot dangling from their noses and freezing in their moustaches.
“It was pretty darn cold this morning but it’s warmed up a bit in the afternoon,” said Jacob Gill, a member of the Sir Sanford Fleming College team (SSFC). “A lot of the people on our team are in either forestry or arboriculture, which basically means forest management and getting to know your trees.”
“Timber sports are pretty popular there,” said Gill, who also works in provincial parks outside of Lindsay, Ontario. “There’s not a whole lot to do in a town like Lindsay. Honestly, in a town of 17,000 there’s not too many sports, so this is probably one of the bigger sports at our school.”
SSFC’s coach, Philip Dunwoody, looked on as one of their competitors completed the 30-foot pole climb in about five seconds.
“I do tree care, so climbing trees is part of it,” said Dunwoody. He went on to explain that cutting the limbs off of dead trees is part of his job and that his experience in timber sports was useful when he started working in arboriculture. “It’s one thing to use a chainsaw on the ground, but it’s another thing to use it 30 feet up in the air.”
The event lacked almost any of the roughneck chauvinism typically ascribed to lumber-jacks. There was a lot of yelling – occasionally the earnest battlecry of a curler, (“haaaard!”), but usually a friendlier, “You got it, man! Yeah, alright!”
“Everybody really pulls together. Whether you’re on the guys’ team or the girls’ team, everybody’s willing to help all the time,” said Brown.
Dartmouth student Serena Nelson agreed. “Everyone is equal here, and it’s awesome…. We don’t do this so much as a competition; we do it because it’s fun,” she said.
The event hosted 14 men’s teams, eight women’s, and four Jack-and-Jills’. It finished with McGill took first place in the Jack-and-Jill competition, while SSFC and UNB won first place in the women’s and men’s competitions, respectively.