When Marc-André Leclerc woke up on Sept. 11, setting a new climbing record wasn't on his mind. But by the end of the day, that's exactly what he had done.
A week ago, Leclerc ate his regular bowl of cereal, organized a small amount of equipment and headed to his usual playground — the Stawamus Chief. It was a day like many others.
For the past four summers, the 20-year-old has explored the granite around Squamish. He's studied the routes and discovered new areas, creating paths for climbers to follow. When he headed up Apron Strings that Wednesday, Leclerc decided he might as well time his climb up the Grand Wall.
As long as Leclerc can remember, he's always wanted to climb. He was the kid that rose to the top of the monkey bars or dared to go the furthest up a tree. By the time Leclerc was 10, he was a regular at the local indoor gym.
“I lost interest and dropped out of the indoor climbing scene when I was 12,” said Leclerc, who grew up in Agassiz but has lived in Squamish for four years.
By the time he was 15, Leclerc was soloing — climbing with only one's chalk bag, rock shoes and a sound mind. It's the ultimate within the sport, Leclerc said, and the form of climbing that he chose after deciding to complete the Grand Wall.
“It is really fun because it is super simplified climbing,” Leclerc said. “You don't have to think about your partner and you go into it knowing what you are getting yourself into.”
Leclerc set out at a comfortable pace as he steadily made his way up the rock face. Except for an encounter with a nest of silverfish that insisted on crawling up his arm while his hands were jammed in a crank, the climb was smooth.
By the time he faced the last pitch, Leclerc had 18 minutes left to match the solo speed record held by Alex Honnold and Mason Earle — 59 minutes — to complete the route.
When Leclerc hauled himself over the lip, tapping out on top of the Chief, he'd shaved at least a minute off the record. It's an accomplishment he partly attributes to having no expectations that day. Free from the pressure of the goal, Leclerc was relaxed and enjoyed the moment.
“I perform better when I am not thinking about it,” he said.
Leclerc is living his dreaming. Now sponsored by Arc'teryx, DMM and New England Ropes, he has bagged some of the world's most talked-about climbs. Next on his to-do list is Yosemite National Park, the jagged teeth of the Patagonia Mountains in Chile and the lonely giants in Alaska.
“I think I wanted to climb ever since I was little,” Leclerc said.