Currently ranked 8th youth B female in Europe, Kitty Wallace is the youngest female British climber to have redpointed a confirmed F8a with her ascent of Daniboy in Kalymnos in 2009. She has onsighted F7c+ and climbed F8a+ indoors. She took 1st position in the 2009 junior British Lead Climbing Champs at the EICA, and was 2nd junior female in the 2009 British Bouldering Champs. So what does the future hold for arguably Britain's best female junior climber?
Kitty's climbing career started when her aptitude for the sport became apparent whilst climbing at the Westway Centre, London at only 9 years old. The Westway Centre is a registered charity and is managed by the Westway Development Trust, who since 1971 have been charged with regenerating the derelict land left after the construction of the Westway bypass.
The Westway youth climbing team was where Kitty began to hone her technique and was helped along by Westway climbing director John Gibbons. John works with the youth team at the centre and helped Kitty amongst others, when she first started climbing.
Kitty left the youth squad recently and now receives intermittent coaching, every few weeks on a 1:1 basis, from Neil Gresham, she has also been previously coached by Rob Russell and Mark ‘zippy' Pretty, despite this Kitty is largely self-coached and it is her own focus that drives her training. Neil knew that if Kitty was to progress as far as she could potentially go, from the UK in to Europe, then she wold benefit from 1:1 coaching. She told me that "an easy week was 3 training sessions, medium 4 sessions and a regular (hard) week is 5 sessions".
Kitty Wallace onsighting The Beginning At The End, 7c, Kalymnos. Copyright Neil Gresham: http://www.climbingmasterclass.com/
Kitty has experienced a few set-backs recently, including the onset of heat-stroke at the European competition at Valence in France back in August, just coming short on a route in Wuppertal (Germany) in June, and peeling off a route just a few moves from the ground in Edinburgh. Neil Gresham commented that "her results in some of the competitions this year have been mainly due to annoying mishaps and never fitness."
Kitty in the qualifying round of the BLCC's at Ratho, 2009.
Kitty mentioned that when she won the BLCC's back in July, she hadn't trained at all, but "...mentally I was perfect."
For someone for whom competitions are the focal point of her sport, it doesn't leave time for much else. Nonetheless, on a trip last Easter to Fontainebleau Kitty dispatched Carnage (a classic hard problem at Bas Cuvier) and made an impressive ascent of Daniboy (8a) in Kalymnos.
Kitty and Michaela Tracy on the way to the IFSC European Youth Series round - Kaliningrad, Russia - J.Wallace.
But there's always room for improvement. "Technique-wise there's no other climber like her, and her endurance is off the scale." Neil said. "But now she is focusing on her dynamic climbing skills... and so her coaching is moving into dynamic movement, visualising dynamic movement, strength and power.
Tackling the lead route in Kaliningrad, Kitty at centre - J.Wallace
With the level of coaching Kitty receives, it's the head game that makes the biggest difference. She has said that "[the European comp in] Edinburgh was my worst competition, my head wasn't in the right place, I did train for it, but I didn't really, really want it."
Competition climbing can be emotionally draining and sometimes destructive, even in senior leagues, so the pressure on the youngsters is immense. After the youth series comp in Imst, Austria back in May, Kitty lost a lot of motivation for training. But she soon got back on track, and we saw the results when she clinched victory at Edinburgh in the youth BLCC's. Kitty has yet to see a podium finish in the European series, but she is now climbing outdoor routes on a regular basis, and her results in international competitions continue to improve. We'll watch this space for the European podium finish in 2010.
Addendum - 16/12/09
Since this article was published, Kitty has returned from the final round of the European Series in Kranz, Slovenia where she took 4th - her best position of the season. She also recently placed 1st in the BMC's Open Youth Competition in the Female Youth A round held at Awesome Walls in Liverpool, which was also part of the British Team Trials. Kitty commented that she was pleased with her results at the end of the European season and feels it's a more accurate reflection of what standard she is capable of, and admits that at least some of the success could be down to her recent bouldering exploits. [Ed]
Images unless stated - Dave MacFarlane/planetFear
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