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Climbing: Schoolhouse Rock

Outside magazine, April 1996

Climbing: Schoolhouse Rock

Katie Brown's milk-and-cookies assault on the vertical world
By Stephanie Pearson

Now that 85-pound teenager Katie Brown has taken the sport-climbing world by storm, will we soon see the day when rock climbing, like women's gymnastics, is ruled by pubescent waifs? Not if champion-making coach Robert Candelaria is to be believed. "Using Katie's age and weight as an excuse for her success," he says, "is like saying Beethoven was nothing special. She could be the next Robyn Erbesfield."

Candelaria, former coach of four-time world champion Erbesfield and an occasional adviser to Brown, may not be far off. Certainly the 15-year-old whiz from Paris, Kentucky, is on the fast track. She took first-place finishes last year at the Junior National Championships and at the Youth World Championships. Then she stunned the climbing establishment with a fourth place among the adults in the U.S. Nationals--impressing Erbesfield in the process. "A lot of climbers thug their way up the route," says Erbesfield. "Katie floats."

You'd think such praise would add a certain swagger to the shy straight-A student's demeanor--and to an extent, it has. "I prefer competing against adults," she says. "Juniors can act like such teenagers."

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