At a mere 15-years-old, Kai Lightner has already established himself as a highly accomplished climber both in the indoor competitive realm and on challenging sport routes outside. The North Carolina native was first introduced to the sport of climbing at the age of 6, and entered the competitive climbing circuit shortly after.

Despite residing in a remote-to-climbing area in Fayettevile, NC, and having minimal time allocated toward training, Kai has reached exceptional progress made possible by the strong backing and attention of his single mother, Connie, who balances roles as a pseudo-coach, belay partner, and a teacher of life lessons.

Watch the Outside Television special feature on Kai:

As holder of 7 National Championship titles alone (his first in 2010), Kai’s abilities have sprouted quickly—recently making a wave in the international scene, where he won first place at the IFSC Youth World Championship held in Noumea, New Caledonia last week.

Despite predominantly climbing indoors, Kai has made impressive feats during his seldom trips outdoors; with 10 ascents of routes ranging between 5.14a to 14.c since 2013 alone (Red River Gorge, Rifle National Park, and Maple Canyon). Kai clearly has immense potential to break the threshold into to even harder climbing in the near future.

Kai sending Southern Smoke (14.c):

In a story featured by The Joy Trip Project, his coach Emily Taylor described Kai and his climbing as such:

He’s a bionic sloth! He’s the slowest-moving climber you’ve ever seen. He’ll just hang there and won’t move until he’s got it figured out. He on-sights everything, just very slowly.

With patience, discipline, and a palpable love for the sport, this aspiring young climber represents the great potential for the next generation of climbing. Congrats and keep up the crushing, Kai!