Kai Lightner Sends ‘Era Vella’ (9a)
Congratulations to Kai who is on a roll! First Nationals and now his first 9a! We can wait to see what else he has in store…
Back in 2012, I saw pictures and video of a route, Era Vella, that one of my climbing idols, Sasha Digiulian had climbed. The route was so long, overhanging and unique, that I started researching it to learn more about it. When I discovered that the route had been bolted by Chris Sharma, I became even more intrigued by the route. In 2013, after climbing my first 8c+ route, everyone started pushing me to climb outside more on harder routes. In earlier 2014, I started asking about going to Spain to climb in Margalef. I was kind of obsessing over climbing in that specific location. When asked about why I had chosen that specific area of all places to climb, I told them that I wanted Era Vella to be the first 9a route that I climbed. With all of the international competitions that year (Pan American and World championships) we could not figure out how to make that trip possible in 2014.
In 2015, I approached my sponsors and told them that I was interested in going to Spain because I wanted to climb Era Vella as my first 9a route. And I knew it was a stretch, but I told them since Chris lived nearby, I would love to climb it with him. Luckily, they thought it was a great idea and we planned for me to attend the Open SCS National championship and fly directly to Spain, the day after the competition (since the competition lined up with my spring break).
When I first arrived in Spain at the base of Era Vella, I looked up at the route and was a little overwhelmed. It was enormous, beautifully overhanging, and a little intimidating. Looking at the 120 feet route, I was a little afraid that I had gotten in over my head. After getting over my initial shock, I jumped right in and started working the route. The route is so long and exhausting, that I could only climb it 2-3 times a day. Unfortunately after my second climbing day, my body started to feel really tired. The next morning I work up feeling really sick with a fever, sore throat, muscle fatigue, and I could not hold my food! Turns out my tonsillitis had returned and we had to search surrounding towns to find some antibiotics and other medications. Needless to say, that became my rest day.
Although I was still feeling a little ill, I returned to climbing after a day, to continue working the route. I worked the route for two more days, inching closer and closer to the anchors, but slowing tearing up my hands more and more. By climbing day 4, I was starting to feel a little better physically (from my illness), but I decided to rest the following day in order to let my body recover more. On this rest day we went to Chris’ house and went paddle boat riding. That was really fun!
The next day I returned to the route and worked my way through the final crux section, only to fall at the last draw before the anchors. After 2 attempts I had to stop that day, because my hands were bleeding and I had several cuts across my fingers. On day 6 of working the route, I returned to the crag, excited to fight my way to the anchors. Luckily, everything came together on my first go of the day and I climbed all the way to clipping the anchors!!!
It was great getting to hang out and climb with Kai!
He is a really nice and very inspiring climber.
I was happy to show home around some of my favorite climbing spots in Spain
It was impressive seeing him put Era Vella together in such short time!
I don’t know if it was smart to choose a route that I had never climbed before and travel so far with the goal of making that my first route of the grade, but I am SOOOO excited that I was able to rise to the challenge!
Learn more about Kai Lightner, prAna Ambassador