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Jan 14, 2020

Growing up in Fayetteville, North Carolina, Kai Lightner learned to climb before he could walk. One day, when he was six years old, a passing stranger saw Lightner climbing a flagpole and handed his mother the address of a local climbing gym, and he hasn’t stopped climbing since. The winner of twelve national climbing titles, Lightner is a familiar face in the climbing competition circuit. Then in 2016, Doug Robinson—an outspoken voice of the clean climbing revolution in the 1970s—invited to take Lightner climbing at Stone Mountain, a trad climbing destination in North Carolina. Lightner wrote about the experience for Alpinist in Issue 55. “Before [that] trip,” Lightner reflected, “I'd never really thought about—or appreciated—the evolution of our pursuit from the traditional techniques of his generation to the sport I first encountered as a child.” In November 2019, deputy editor Paula Wright spoke to Lightner about the trip to Stone Mountain, and how his discipline as a climber transcends aspects of the sport.