Katrina Louie Climbs to the Top


Katrina Louie sport climbs at Nationals in Atlanta, GA in December of 2011.

Caroline Colwell, Staff Writer

While many Miramonte students were using their summers to relax and catch up on lost sleep, sophomore Katrina Louie was training hard and competing in the World Youth Climbing Championships in Singapore. Louie, quiet and modest, is reluctant to brag about her amazing achievements, but in August she came in 13th in the International Federation of Sport Climbing (IFSC) World Championships.

Louie has only been climbing for three years, but she has participated in multiple competitions at Touchstone Climbing in Berkeley and many local competitions through USA Climbing.

In 2011 she competed in USA Climbing’s regional competition in Reno, Nevada, where she won gold in her division, Female Youth B. After winning regionals, Louie moved on to the divisional competition. Then she went to Nationals, where she placed sixth in speed climbing, qualifying her for Worlds.

Only one day before Louie turned 15 years old, she competed in the 2012 World competition. Competing against other 14 and 15 year olds, Louie placed 13th out of the 27 competitors in her speed climbing division.

“There were climbers from 46 countries, and it was great to watch the best youth climbers in the world,” Louie said.

The competition lasted a week. She traveled to Singapore with her dad, and had some time to explore the area.

“I’d never been to Asia, and the culture and climate of the country were very different than what I was used to. Singapore is so small, so it was weird being able to travel from one end of the island to the other by just taking a taxi,” Louie said.

Louie explained that climbing in Singapore was much different than at Nationals because the speed wall was outside, and the heat and humidity made climbing challenging.

Louie began competitively climbing when she was 13. “When I was little I would go to climbing birthday parties and I always really liked it,” Louie said. “So when I was older I started taking lessons, and I just got really into it.”

Louie used to climb with the Teen Team in Berkeley, but recently joined Zero Gravity, a competitive climbing team in the Bay Area. “I wanted to focus more on competitive climbing. Zero Gravity has good coaching and training and they compete more as a team. I had a really hard time making the decision though, because I couldn’t climb as much with my friends,” Louie said.

She practices two days a week at Ironworks in Berkeley, and two days at Diablo Rock Gym in Concord, for a total of 11 to 12 hours a week.

With her demanding schedule, which includes Orchestra, English, Algebra 2 Trig Honors, French III, Chemistry and Physics, it is a wonder that she is able to find time to balance her classes with her climbing. “Since I don’t climb every day, I have to find time to do my homework that might be due later in the week so I don’t have to do it the night I have climbing,” Louie said. “So far though, my homework hasn’t been too bad.”

Louie climbs with other high school students. Many of the people in her climbing program go to Oakland Technical High School. For Louie, it doesn’t matter who she climbs with; being outside is enough, but climbing with friends is always a plus.

“I like having friends from different high schools because it’s great to have friendships based off something we have in common. I like being on a team with friends because you always need a climbing partner and it makes it more fun,” Louie said.

Although there are many different styles of climbing, Louie’s favorite is lead climbing. She climbs while attached to one end of a rope, and is belayed by a partner. Her partner feeds her the rope as she climbs, but is prepared to catch her if she falls She also attaches quick draws to bolts for protection as she ascends.

“My goal for right now is to just get outside more and get better at different types of climbing,” Louie said. “I really just love being up high.”

Louie has been to climbing camps in Donner Summit with some of her friends from the Teen Team. There, they worked on the basics of climbing safety, including belaying, anchoring and repelling, and the techniques used in climbing faces, cracks and slabs. They also went on a multi-pitch climbing expedition to 350 feet, the highest point to which she has ever climbed.

Multi-pitch climbing is where one climber leads and then belays the other up as far as the rope will reach. The climbers alternate belaying from the bottom or the top. “Being belayed can get pretty scary, especially when waiting, relying on the person in front of you. You have to just wait until they tell you to continue climbing,” said Louie.

There are two seasons for competitive climbing: the bouldering season and the sport and speed climbing season. Bouldering is done without ropes. In sport climbing, the walls are taller and climbers are attached to ropes. In speed climbing, there’s a fixed wall that you climb up as fast as possible. The speed wall is 15 meters, and every wall is the same. For speed training, Louie trains on a wall in Reno, Nevada.

Having done well in the sport and speed season, Louie is taking a break from training, but looks forwards to the bouldering season with high hopes.