Greasy Pole Climbing

greasy pole climbing

Although the phenomenon of climbing a greasy pole is a well-known saying that refers to advancing one’s position within a company; in this case we mean quite literally climbing a slippery pole that has been covered in grease. A favourite past time in many countries around the world, greasy pole climbing appears as a major event at numerous fairs and festivals.


Some of these include the Crab Fair in Egremont, UK, the St Pete’s Fiesta in Massachusetts, US, and the final task in Queen’s University’s first year engineering students’ initiation in Canada. It is also a popular and traditional competition in Spain, who call  it cucaña, the Phillipines, where it is Palo-sebo, and the Netherlands, who refer to it as sprietlopen.

In contrast to the current Westernised competitions, Indonesians reach the top of the pole by climbing on top of each other’s shoulders.  The country’s greasy pole climbing competitions are held each year on Ancol Beach, Jakarta, on their independence day on the 17th August. This display of teamwork celebrates the Indonesian’s independence from the Dutch Empire 68 years ago.

Gloucester pole climbing

The world’s largest Greasy Pole Climbing Competition, however, is the St. Pete’s Fiesta in Gloucester, Massachusetts. This competitions features a horizontal, greasy pole (a telephone pole to be exact) levered about 200ft above a body of water. Competitors must walk across the protruding pole to pluck the nailed-in red flag from the end. The pole is just over about 180m in length and is covered in axle grease as well as a whole number of other slippery items such as banana peels or even tobasco sauce. The contest runs over an entire weekend with three days of competition. While the first day is considered a ‘courtesy round’ to allow anyone to have their swing of experience the slippery pole, the final day is a heated contest filled with previous championships and winners from the previous day. Keep a lookout for this year’s Greasy Pole Climbing Competition being held from the 26th-3oth June.

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