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Kai Lightner Joins Team prAna

Monday, March 17th, 2014

It is our pleasure to announce that Kai Lightner has joined Team prAna. We are excited as we have followed this young man’s progress for quite some time now. As he continues his accomplished youth career, we imagine exciting things from him so stay tuned for more as we share his stories!


kai-lightner-2014-abs-nationals-01Shortly after arriving to Colorado Springs for ABS Nationals, I realized my trip was getting off to a great start. I received a large box that prAna had overnighted to me with a coat, sweater, and a lot of warm clothing. They wanted to make sure that I was warm and in style :-) Big thanks to prAna! Colorado was a little cold, compared to North Carolina. It was also great that some of my friends were staying in the same hotel.


Qualification Round
The first competition day was qualifiers. Four climbs, four minutes each. The first and last climbs were on slab. They consisted of the usual slopers, crimps, technical, and balancing movements of classic slab climbs. The second problem had a foot first sequence on a steep overhang. If you misread the sequence, the problem was significantly harder. The third climb was supposed to be the hardest. It was relatively straightforward, but powerful, and on a slight overhang. I ended the day flashing all problems and advancing to semifinals in 1st place.


Semifinal Round
Semis consisted of three problems, four minutes each. The first problem was on the steep overhang.
My favorite part of that problem was the dyno to a two finger pocket (on the overhang). The second problem was one of my favorite for the competition. When I read the problem, I read a triple dyno sequence in the middle of the problem. Although I believed I may have been able to statically reach the first hold of the dyno sequence (if I used the right feet), there was no way I was going to miss my chance to do one of the coolest moves I had watched in Open comp videos. So I climbed up the problem and went for the move, but missed it on my first and second attempts. Since the move wasn’t burning a lot of energy for me, I decided to try it again, before moving on to a more static approach. On the third attempt, I missed the hold again, but I was certain that I could make the move (since I almost had it that time). I tried it one more time, stuck it, and sailed through the rest of the problem! The last climb was another slab route with tiny foot chips that we had to use as handholds. For the finish, I had to stoop down on one foot (on the last hold) and reach down between my legs to control a tiny foot chip screwed on to the bottom part of the hold, which was marked as the finish box. That problem was fun and creative. I ended this round flashing two problems, but topping all three. I moved on to finals in 1st place.


kai-lightner-2014-abs-nationals-04 kai-lightner-2014-abs-nationals-03Finals
Finals consisted of three problems, four minutes each. Before this competition, I secretly had two things I hated in problems/routes- climbing a lot of features and mantle moves. Prior to ABS Nationals, I had given in to training regularly on features, but I held firm and avoided mantles. When I turned around to see my first final problem, I shook my head and smiled inside. It was like someone had revealed my secret to the setters. The first hold was a huge feature which required a balanced mantle start (the one move I refused to train), and the entire problem was features! It took me 8 attempts, just to get onto the start hold! Eight attempts in under 90 seconds had to be some kind of record! After getting on the start hold (on attempt 8) I cruised through the rest of the problem to the finish hold. I WAS SOOOO RELIEVED to get that problem done! (SIDE NOTE TO ROUTESETTERS: Give me 2 weeks max and mantles will be my best friend :-) )


Problem 2 was fun; an overhanging route with big moves, slopers, and a cool drop knee move. The finish hold was a sloper that I had to match using a high toe hook. Based upon the reaction of the crowd, I was almost sure I had won my division, by completing that problem.


kai-lightner-2014-abs-nationals-02Despite believing I had clinched the National title, I had one route left that I needed to climb. This route was my favorite! A steep overhang, with very powerful moves, and 10 out of the 14 holds were volumes. My first thought, “Volume climbing on an overhang?” Yup! And it was crazy cool! Nonstop, back to back, powerful moves. And just when you think you are going to get a little relief at the second to last hold on the problem (since you finally reach a hold instead of a volume) you grip the hold, realize it’s horrible, but you have to commit to using it to bump up to the final volume/end box. I powered through the problem on my first attempt and reached (but didn’t control) the final hold. By the reaction of the crowd, I was certain I had clinched the National title.


kai-lightner-2014-abs-nationals-05When I hit the ground, I turned and looked at the problem and my coaches words rang out in my head, “When you climb, always enjoy the journey”. With almost 3 minutes left I decided to go back at the problem. For me it wasn’t about a comp win, it was about enjoying the journey, all the way to the end! I rested and jumped back on the problem, but fell low, when I slipped off a volume. With less than 90 seconds left, I ran to my climbing bag to get some liquid chalk, chalked up really good, and jumped back on for my final attempt. This time I made it to the top!! I was super excited to conquer this challenge. I had topped all 10 of my problems for the competition.


The route setting at this comp was epic!! They challenged me in different ways, forced me to overcome my weakness, and made me rise to the challenges. To top things off, I was selected to be a member of the 2014 Young Gun Rookie Team!


An awesome start to my busy spring season!

~ Kai Lightner, prAna Ambassador
Next stop was Rock & Rave in Atlanta where Kai finished with some cash and new gear while R&R raised more than $24,000 that will go to the Access Fund, the Southeastern Climbers Coalition, the Carolina Climbers Coalition, and Paradox Sports.


Learn more about Kai at

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