Ep. 13 - A Winning Strategy: The First American to Win Ice Climbing Gold with Kendra Stritch

Jan 17, 2024

Kendra Stritch made history by becoming the first American to win a UIAA Ice Climbing World Cup Medal in December of 2014 — when she took gold on the speed wall in Bozeman, Montana.

Since then, Kendra has been a major force in developing dry-tooling and competitive ice climbing in the U.S.: She helped to formalize USA Ice Climbing under the auspices of the American Alpine Club, has organized countless comps around the country, and even was the first importer of speed tools in North America.

A competitive athlete since she was 9, Kendra is drawn to the novelty and strategy of new sports ranging from alley cat bike racing to log rolling to kickball. She equally enjoys the camaraderie of fellow competitors, and refers to the ice climbing scene as her World Cup family. 

Over the past few years, Team USA has been steadily improving on the world stage — in no small part due to dedicated dry-tooling gyms across the country — and Kendra has played a vital role in getting the sport to where it is. We’ll talk about the hows and whys in today’s episode.


2:17 - What is dry-tooling?

6:11 - The joy of competition

13:20 - Strategy for approaching new sports

18:49 - Where are the dry-toolers in the U.S.?

22:15 - Getting started in comp climbing

29:21 - First World Cup

35:25 - Winning Gold

38:03 - The World Cup family

42:15 - How the sport has developed

46:19 - Growing the sport in the U.S.

55:18 - What's next?

Resources and links:

If you’d like to bring a dry-tooling comp to your university or local gym, consider hiring Kendra. You can connect with her on Instagram @kendrastritch

To follow along with USA Ice Climbing this World Cup season, their IG handle is @usaiceclimbing_ and their website is usaiceclimbing.org. If you’re feeling generous and would like to donate to the team (since the athletes have to pay their own way to events) you can find a donate link on the American Alpine Club.

For a fascinating look at how far USA Ice Climbing has come, Corey Buhay, a former national team member, has a great article in Climbing from 2021.


Of course, a big thanks to our sponsor, Blue Ice, for supporting this show!

Blue Ice is the best kind of ice, and also my choice when it comes to fast and light ice climbing gear. Their Aero Lites go in like a hot knife through butter and their climbing packs hit the sweet spot between function and lightweight. Designed to get to the point in the alpine, their gear is tested by mountain professionals between the Alps and the Wasatch. If you’re looking to get to the point too — and with a little less weight on your kit, check out Blue Ice’s gear at blueice.com or your favorite local retailer.


Episode cover photo by Scott Thompson.

Intro music by Hannah Noelle Enomoto (thanks, sis!).

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© 2023 Ice Ice Beta. All rights reserved.

© 2023 Ice Ice Beta. All rights reserved.

© 2023 Ice Ice Beta. All rights reserved.