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Kai Lightner: Psicobloc 2014

Friday, August 15th, 2014

Kai Lightner at the 2014 PSICOBLOC Masters Competition


For some reason, I thought free climbing an overhanging wall, 50 feet above an Olympic sized swimming pool was a great idea.  That thought quickly disappeared after I arrived to the Psicobloc wall for a practice session.  After climbing 50 feet high on the climbing wall and realizing that there was only one way down, I found myself sitting on top off the wall with my feet dangling over the edge.  A variety of thoughts went through my mind.  There was a HUGE distance between me and the water!  It was too late to change my mind……….  After looking over the edge for a while, I finally stood up, shook my head, and I jumped off of the top of the wall.  I felt my stomach drop as I frantically stared at the water as it got closer and closer, until I finally hit.  The falling process itself was TERRIFYING, but hitting the water actually did not hurt at all.  I was glad to get the initial jump over!  Although I hung around and took 2 more jumps before leaving the pool for the day, I wasn’t completely convinced that my practice session had made me more comfortable with competing in the Psicobloc competition.


kai-lightner-psicobloc-2014-03The next day was the seeding round of the competition.  We weren’t allowed to practice the route.  Climbers were randomly paired, and we had to climb up the route as fast as possible.  All climbers had two times to climb the route and the best of their two attempts (in terms of highest hold and time) was recorded. Ultimately the climber that got the highest on the route would receive the highest seed and time was used to break ties.   The male and female routes were both on the wall.  Basically the women had to climb the mens route with a lot of additional, positive holds as intermediates.  Without those holds, the route was significantly more dynamic!  

When it was my turn to climb, I started climbing up the route but when I got to the double dyno move (30 feet above the water), I was too terrified to aggressively commit to the move, so I fell and went spinning around like a helicopter until I hit the water.  Luckily I was able to stay controlled enough to enter feet first.  That fall was scary!!  Additionally, the temperature outside was in the 50s and the water was significantly colder!!

Although I was frightened and freezing cold, I knew I had one more attempt on the route, and I was committed to finishing what I started.  On my second attempt, I was determined to stick the double dyno move and progress up the route.  And I did!  After making this move, I continued climbing, one burly move after the next, up to the final moves on the route.  

As I went for the 2nd to last hold, I didn’t lock off enough to statically reach the hold, and I was afraid to aggressively commit to it (50 feet above the water).  As a result, I fell and took the 50 feet fall into the freezing water.  At this point, the temperature outside had dropped to 49°, but the water was so much colder.  I later found out that Jimmy Webb and I had reached the same high point, but he was much faster and had reached the same point on both attempts.  After both attempts on the route, I wasn’t completely comfortable with the whole “free climbing over the pool and falling 50 feet into the water” thing, however I had gotten more comfortable with making aggressive moves on the wall and controlling my fall into the pool.  I knew I could top the route and I was eager to conquer my fears in finals the next day and prove to myself that that I could handle climbing hard even when I am completely out of my comfort zone.  Mind over Matter.

When I woke up the next morning, I realized they had paired me against Jimmy Hulk, I mean……. Jimmy Webb, in the first round.  I knew I could not out power him (funny thought, right), and power is definitely a factor when speed climbing difficult routes.  Instead I decided to focus on topping the route, let things play out, and enjoy the overall Psicobloc experience.  

The Final event started with the ladies.  I enjoyed cheering on my friends and watching some legendary women have fun and conquer their fears.  In the end, my fellow youth competitor (and US Team member) Claire Burhfeind walked away with the win, with Delaney Miller close behind!

 Next up was the men.  I was scheduled as the 2nd match up.   When it was my turn to climb, I took a deep breathe, and was determined to conquer my fears, commit to all moves and finish the route.  When the clock started, I began to climb and Jimmy started flying up the route.  Had he been climbing any closer, I would have blown off the route from the smoke that he left behind!  At one point I stopped to rest and had hoped to catch a glance at him flying up the final section and topping out.  Unfortunately, I was on an overhang and had to miss the action :-).    Once he topped out, I was committed to finishing the route, enjoying my last climb of the comp, AND staying dry!  

Jimmy waited for me at the top of the route, cheering me on to finish, so that we could jump off together.   I was very proud of myself for finishing the route and enjoyed my moment, standing up on top of the wall with one of the world’s strongest climbers! 


As for the simultaneous jump……..  I let him have the victory leap and I climbed down the back structure of the wall :-).  I stayed dry- MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!!!!    

The second round of the mens comp was the most exciting for me.  Jimmy Webb vs. 25 world cup podium champ, Sean McColl!   Those men flew up the 50+ feet, 5.13+ route in under 50 seconds!!!!!  Jimmy Webb was narrowly defeated by Sean McColl’s 42 second run! In the end, it was V15/5.15 climber Daniel Woods vs Sean McColl.   Although both guys were tired, wet, and cold, they still put on an awesome performance, with Sean narrowly defeating Daniel for the win!


All in all, the Psicobloc comp was ABSOLUTELY AMAZING!  Chris Sharma had an incredible vision that I was honored to be a part of!  I had a blast with the other climbers and I learned to how to stay focused and compete, even under extreme circumstances!! I am very grateful to Chris, Jeff Pedersen, Momemtum Climbing gym, and my sponsors for making this opportunity possible.

Next stop…..the Youth World Championship September 20-24.  WISH ME LUCK!


~Kai Lightner, prAna Ambassador

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