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Cartwright climbing to the top of the world
EAST BREMERTON — After seven years of climbing, Victoria Cartwright has reached the top of the world. Figuratively speaking, that is.
On Aug. 23, the 17-year-old Silverdale athlete will head to Valence, France, for the International Federation of Sport Climbing’s World Youth Championships, taking place Aug. 27-30. And while she hopes to finish as high as possible, Cartwright isn’t letting the pressure of the international stage get to her.
“It’s not that nerve-racking, because I’ve already made it,” she said. “There’s nothing left to qualify for.”
Cartwright, who will begin her sophomore year at the University of Washington as an early entrance student this fall, began climbing at age 10, when she came into East Bremerton’s Vertical World climbing gym on a day pass. She took to the sport immediately, and joined the gym’s first youth climbing team, which partners with teams at the company’s sister gyms in Seattle, Redmond and Everett. Joining Cartwright in France will be four other teens from the Seattle and Redmond squads.
“Vertical World is a pretty well-known team around the country, in the competition scene. So there’s a lot of really strong climbers, especially in Seattle,” Cartwright said.
To qualify for the world championships, Cartwright and her teammates had to finish in the top four in their respective categories at the Youth National Championships, held in Utah in July. Cartwright placed fourth in the sport climbing category at this year’s tournament.
“I got fourth place this year, but I’ve taken fifth place like three times,” Cartwright said. “So it’s really frustrating sometimes when you’re that close. I guess it just teaches you to stick with it. It teaches you to work for things.”
Another Kitsap resident, 13-year-old Kale Perrone, also climbed with the Vertical World team at the national tournament this year, but is too young to compete at the world championships, open only to youth aged 14-19.
Climbers at the national and international tournaments can choose from three specialties: sport, speed and bouldering. In sport — or difficulty — climbing, athletes receive points for every move they complete on a wall. There are normally 45-60 moves on walls, which range from about 35 to 50 feet high. Climbers must navigate the difficult holds without falling, and are scored on how close they get to the top.
“I kind of like problem solving,” Cartwright said of sport climbing. “It’s really addictive.”
Bouldering is similar to sport climbing, but with shorter walls and no rope support. In the speed category, climbers dash up the wall as fast as they can, and points are given based on quickest time to the top.
“It’s like drag racing up the wall,” said Vertical World head coach Tyson Schoene.
Schoene, a longtime climber himself, helped form the Vertical World team in 2002 as a way of passing on his love for the sport and giving kids the ability to succeed as climbers.
“My main goal of the team itself was to builld a support group for these kids,” Schoene said. “They can live off of the discipline that they’ve been taught and come away feeling really rewarded for the work they’ve done.”
Cartwright has seen many benefits from the sport in her own life.
“All my best friends are climbers,” she said. “It’s a lot of hard work, just like any other sport. And it’s a very Northwesty, outdoors kind of scene. I’m very much like that. I spend my weekends outside, and I camp, and my parents don’t do any of that, so I don’t think I would if I didn’t climb.”