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Canadian Mark Stirling, 42, Climbs Dream 5.14 Grade

Mark Stirling on Leviathan 5.14a at Acephale Photo Scott Woodcock

Mark Stirling has sent Leviathan 5.14a at Upper Acephale in the Canadian Rockies, it’s his first of the grade.

Stirling, 42, originally from Ottawa, started climbing 18 years ago and dreamed about one day joining the 5.14 club.

“My first memorable milestone climb was Predator 5.13b in Rumney, New Hampshire,” said Stirling about the area that made him first think about climbing 5.14.

“I’ve wanted to send 5.14 since about 2002 or 2003,” he said. “Ever since my first trip to Rumney. I walked up to the Waimea crag and saw China Beach 5.14b.

“I remember thinking I want to do that and looking in the guidebook and seeing it was 5.14 and realizing I need to get strong.

In 2006, he moved to Calgary and began to climb at the local crags, including Acephale.

“Besides the warm-ups, like most people, The Hood 5.13b was the first harder route I did up there,” said Stirling.

Stirling chose Leviathan 5.14a because he “liked how bouldery and powerful it was and that it was a classic Acephale 5.14.”

“I also liked (and hated, I fell going to the chains twice before I sent) that it wasn’t over after you did the crux. I loved the powerful movement and I knew I would have to do everything right to send.”

Stirling felt fairly confident that he would send it this summer if he could get two days a week to try it. “Once I fell going to the chains twice I knew it would happen if I managed the mental side correctly.”

To prepare for the route, Stirling changed his training and developed a non-linear training program. “I started training at Bolder and the environment was very motivating.

“I think the environment at Bolder helped the most. It was really fun training around other strong, motivated people. In the end, a great program does nothing if you aren’t motivated and trying hard.”

However, bouldering indoors only get you so face. “The mental battle and remaining relaxed enough to send,” is what Stirling said was one of the biggest cruxes.

“I knew I was strong enough but was concerned about my fitness to be able to do the finish. Due to my kids/family and work commitments, I knew I was only going to have one or two days a week after work so it was hard to have confidence in my fitness to do the finish.”

With his dream grade climbed, Stirling will continue to find hard routes to work on.

“I think I will always project,” he said. “I love climbing the most when I’m yelling and barely hanging on and the mental struggle of projecting. New project starts Monday.”

Next, Stirling will turn his attention to either Angst 5.14a or Existence Mundane 5.14b at Acephale.

In terms of advice for other 40-year-old climbers hoping to break into the 5.14 grades, he said, “Understand your motivations for wanting to try, set a goal, build a plan to reach the goal and then try hard and don’t make excuses.

“I had to maximize everything in my life to get the send. Just super happy it all worked out as I learned immensely from the process and I feel its made me a much better climber.”

As for China Beach, the Rumney route that planted the 5.14 seed, Stirling said, “The ultimate goal is that I can get strong enough so I can go back to Rumney and send it.”

Mark Stirling on Leviathan 5.14a at Acephale  Photo Scott Woodcock