SALEM, Ore. -- Climbers scrambling up the 60-foot speed-climb tree at the 2010 STIHL TIMBERSPORTS SERIES Championship don't have much time to focus on anything except making it up and back as fast as humanly possible. But about halfway through the championship race on Sunday, Brian Bartow heard something that was music to his ears: "BIG slip by Stirling Hart!"
That call by event announcer Steve "Lurch" Scott said it all as Bartow finished in 11.73 to Hart's 12.03 to end one of the year's most heated head-to-head rivalries.
Hart, who had gotten out to a quick lead early in the climb, lost traction with both feet and had to catch himself with his rope to prevent a crash-landing back down the tree, giving Bartow all the advantage he needed to win his third STS title.
"We're not looking where each other are in the race, especially in a dead-even race like this, but I heard the announcer say 'Oh, he slipped'," Bartow said.
"Even with a slip, I know he has a faster down than me, so I knew I was going to have to have a pretty good down myself."
Hart had been able to overcome repeated slips with his left foot during the quarter and semifinals, thanks to the fastest descent in the sport.
In Sunday's final, though, his right gaffs sliced completely out of the tree while he was raising his left leg for his next step, leaving him with nothing but his rope to keep him on the tree.
By the time he recovered, he was a full second behind Bartow to the top.
"I didn't have my left foot in on the slip, so it was a double-foot slip and I had to reset the whole thing," Hart said.
"Both feet came out of the tree. The last three years in the finals that's happened to me, at virtually the same spot every year. I guess it's kind of in my head a little bit now."
Bartow fought through a small slip lower in the tree, and although he described his climb as "so so, maybe an 8" on a scale of 1 to 10, his 11.73 was the second-fastest time all week and one of only three under 11 for the three-day competition.
Bartow's victory interrupts a string of head-to-head losses against Hart, who has beaten Bartow three of the last four times they've raced.
"I thought about this competition more this year, because this guy has beaten me three times this year," Bartow said. "We're really evenly matched."
Hart had said following the semifinal that he'd have to perform flawlessly to beat Bartow, who's regarded as one of the best in the sport at the 60-foot tree.
He got off to his fastest start of the week and was slightly ahead of Bartow at the halfway point before losing his gaffs.
"I was probably pushing a little too hard, my technique got out of synch," Hart said. "Sometimes you're trying just a little too hard, your body gets out of line and that stuff happens."
Scheer takes third
Cassidy Scheer survived a hair-raising descent down the tree in his third-place match with Guy German.
German had a major slip on the way up, giving Scheer a big cushion on the way down, but Scheer got slightly out of position and finished the bottom half of the descent turned sideways on the tree.
He made the legal touches on the down, though, finishing in 12.98 to German's 14.55.