Kasia Pietras - The 2009 Triple Crown Queen



I met up with Kasia Pietras, who won the 2009 Triple Crown Open Women’s overall title. The interview took place at Kasia’s workplace, the Tennessee Bouldering Authority (www.tbagym.com), a southeastern bouldering institution where several of the regions strongest rock rats train. Pietras grew up in Chicago and regularly drove seven hours to Kentucky, to sport climb in the Red River Gorge. Before the recorder began, she explained that she’s currently attending the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, but plans to start attending massage therapy school in the fall.

Seems like you took to bouldering pretty quickly once you moved to Chattanooga from Chicago...

I started going to the Red my sophomore year. I went there all the time for three years of highschool and my freshman year of college every weekend. I spent three summers there in a row. When I moved to Chattanooga, the Red was four hours away, or I could go to LRC, which is 25 minutes away, or Rocktown which is 45 minutes away, or Horse Pens an hour and a half away...there’s all this bouldering that’s way closer than the Red, and I haven’t been back to the Red since I don’t even know... I rope climb around here though. I’ve climbed a lot at Little River Canyon, and Fosters and the Obed.

My mom tells me I should get back into ropes because I was so good at ropes, but it’s so much more time. If I get out of school at 2 p.m., and the sun sets at 5 p.m., I can go out an boulder for two and half hours. But if I go out and rope climb with somebody, I get one pitch in and I’d be done. It’s just a little bit more convenient, that’s all.

You’ve been down here for three years, then?Yeah, three.

As soon as you got down here, did you start bouldering in these areas all the time?I came down here, and I was by myself -- I didn’t really know people...then I started meeting more and more people from around here. I started going bouldering.

With the Triple Crown, it seems like it’s mostly locals who are in the top slots, right?I think it’s more accurate now than it was a few years ago. I know that back in the day, it was Paul Robinson and Matt Bosley, and no one really local at the time. For the girl’s category, Alex Johnson and Puccio showed up last year and dominated, and they showed up for a few [competitions] this year.

Pietras at Tennessee Bouldering Authority. Photo By Justin Roth

Pietras at Tennessee Bouldering Authority. Photo By Justin Roth

Pietras at Tennessee Bouldering Authority. Photo By Justin Roth

Pietras at Tennessee Bouldering Authority. Photo By Justin Roth

How many Triple Crown comps have you competed in over the years? I think this year was my fifth year.

Have you done all three comps every year?Yeah, the first two times I lived in Chicago and did them -- that was quite a drive.

How’d you do when you first started?The first year I did it, I hadn’t bouldered outside; I only rope climbed. I competed in advanced, and I ended up winning all the comps and getting first overall.

Is that when you figured out you were pretty good at bouldering?Yeah, advanced was V5 and V6, so that’s what my scorecard was filled up with. I remember at Hound Ears, The Blade was the problem I wanted. I saw it the first year and I wound up doing it at that comp, but it took me a lot of effort. This year when I went back, it was just like another warm-up climb.

Is the climbing out here your style?I grew up climbing inside, on plastic, so when it comes to inside, I mostly do pinches and slopers and stuff. So if you look at it that way, HP40 should fit my style, and LRC fits my style, but Hound Ears is all crimps. And most people generalize that girls are strong on crimps, but I’m not at all -- that’s my biggest weakness.

Pietras in the groove at Chattanooga

Pietras in the groove at Chattanooga

What’s your favorite Triple Crown stop?I get the most psyched for Horse Pens, even though it stomps me every year. For some reason I haven’t gone there as much as I want to and there’s a lot of things I want to do there that I haven’t yet. Hound Ears, from what I hear from the locals, isn’t the best climbing in Boone.

How have things changed in the five years you’ve been doing the Triple Crown? It feels the same, really...well, actually the first few years I went, there was a lot more drinking and partying that would go on after the comp. Usually, Horse Pens would have a huge party, because the event’s right there and your tent’s right there. This year, we just went out and climbed after the awards ceremony. There was a lot more climbing that night than drinking and partying. I guess that’s a good thing...

Depends what you’re into, I guess. You said earlier that you didn’t expect to do the problem called Fuck Yo? Why not?

The first year I went there, it was the first thing that everybody would go by and look at. It’s pretty much the first thing you go by from the parking lot. I’ve always tried it, and I’ve gotten a little bit closer every year; it’s a very proud line, I think. You only have a few holds to use, and those are the only holds you can use, and you just go straight up the wall. This year, I ended up just doing it pretty fast, so I was really excited.

Pietras at Tennessee Bouldering Authority. Photo by Sam Silvey / samsilvey.com

Pietras at Tennessee Bouldering Authority. Photo by Sam Silvey / samsilvey.com

Do you do anything to train or prepare for the Triple Crown?Not really. Well, Hound Ears you can’t really go there anyways. And Horse Pens, I maybe should have gone there because I live close, but I didn’t at all. I wasn’t too happy with my performance at Horse Pens, so I wanted to try to do well at LRC, since it’s technically my home crag, so for that one I went to LRC two or three times before the comp and ran my comp circuit, to make sure I knew my comp Beta and I know where to start and where to end. I pretty much started at the front of the bouldering field and worked my way back.

You took the overall, but you didn’t win any of the events. And then Jimmy Webb took the overall for the men’s category...are you guys an item? Yeah.

And Jimmy won last year, too, right? Yeah. This year he got first at all the comps and got first overall....

How was the field this year?I’d say for the guys, it was pretty competitive. There were a bunch of big names there, and some unfamiliar names but they’re also strong. Phil Schaal showed up and Carlo Traversi showed up. Then there was Jimmy Web and Brian Voges and Brad Weaver...Brad showed up out of nowhere, from rope climbing to bouldering. Then Jeremy Walton showed up at the last two comps and he performed pretty well at those. But for the girls, it was me and my friend Isabelle, from Chicago, and then Sasha DiGullian, Francesca [Metcalf], and there was another girl, her name was Patti. Kate McGinnis didn’t do Hound Ears. Kate did Horse Pens and Little Rock City, and the Puccio did Horse Pens, and Johnson did LRC.

Pietras at Tennessee Bouldering Authority. Photo by Sam Silvey / samsilvey.com

Pietras at Tennessee Bouldering Authority. Photo by Sam Silvey / samsilvey.com

Is climbing the central thing in your life?I guess I have school, climbing, and a job, but my job is at a climbing gym, so....I work 20-25 hours a week, then school is 12-15 hours, so....I definitely focus on my academics, but I also focus on my climbing. It’s pretty balanced, really.

Do you have any goals with your climbing?I would like to be able to travel a lot more and not worry about the money. I really hate getting injured all the time. It’s been such a pain lately.

What’s up with that?Probably not warming up properly, not stretching all the time, not doing enough exercises, like doing forearm workouts to prevent tendonitis. Not doing enough activities to produce other muscles that climbing doesn’t develop.

Is this where you mostly train?Yep, right in here. I work here three times a week, and I coach a junior team...so I spend a lot of time in the gym, but usually try to get out on the weekends.

How’d you feel about winning the Triple Crown? Were you surprised?My ultimate goal for the Triple Crown was to try to place overall. I was more just that I did 10 climbs at each event. At Horse Pens, there were 30 minutes left, and I still needed two or three climbs, and I started filling them with V5s, but then I ended up running around the boulder field looking for some V6s I could do real fast. I remember I was topping out one climb and my arm just gave out because I was so tired. Then at LRC, that was one of the best days of climbing I ever had; it was retarded how well that day went.

Pietras at the 2008 Mammut Bouldering Championships in SLC, Utah. Photo by Justin Roth

Pietras at the 2008 Mammut Bouldering Championships in SLC, Utah. Photo by Justin Roth

Are you the type of person who gets really psyched about competition?I think since I grew up competing all the time, it gets me really motivated. Watching videos of climbing competitions gets me psyched, which is kind of weird, compared to most people. Jimmy gets psyched on just watching climbing videos of outside and whatnot. I watch them, and they’re cool, but it doesn’t get me as excited to go climb as watching a climbing comp video. Whenever I had a comp I was going to, I’d watch the second-to-last Dose on Dosage I, of that comp they have. It gets me psyched up to go and even climb outside. It just seems that all the climbing videos out there recently are just harder things, but I don’t see myself climbing V15 anytime soon. It’s inspiring to see people climbing that strong, but it just doesn’t motivate me as much.

So are you gonna stay in Chatty for a while? Probably. I’m thinking once I get my massage therapy degree, I’m going to work for six months and then try to travel around for a while and climb.