posted by dpm on 03/04/2013
12-year-old Mirko Caballero of Los Gatos, California is not related to famous skater Steve Caballero. When he has to do homework for his 6th grade class, he'd rather tackle math than history, but cut him loose for playtime on the rock and he's a little machine. He sent his first 5.13a at the age of 10 and then, just 8 months later, ticked his first 5.14a when he sent God's Own Stone at the Red River Gorge. Since then he's climbed the grade at Smith Rock, Rodellar, and most recently when he claimed a rare ascent of Chris Sharma's Ubermensch at the Pinnacles, California. Mirko is no slouch at bouldering either having climbed a few V12's and many V10 and V11's. At just 12-years-old, it's apparent that he's just getting started.
Mirko on Swordfish Trombone (V11) in Bishop, California's volcanic tablelands. All photos: Anthony Lapormardo/DPM
DPM: Start back at the beginning for me. It sounds like you got your start in climbing through gym and competition climbing?
Well, kind of. I’ve always climbed because my family was climbing before I was even born, but I think I really got into it when I was 6. I got invited to my first ABS Youth Nationals when another kid decided not to go, and finished 21st. After that I decided to really train, and the next year I finished 3rd.
DPM: Tell me about your comp wins. You've had a pretty good run so far.
I’m doing pretty well in comps. I think it's because I'm pretty competitive.
1st Place Arco Rock Junior (sport, speed & bouldering) Arco, Italy during the Arco Rock Master 2012
National Champion ABS Bouldering Youth-D 2011 & 2012
National Champion SCS Speed Climbing Youth-D 2011-2012
2nd Place US Nationals SCS Sport Climbing 2011
2nd Place Pan-American Championships Bouldering Youth-D in Ecuador 2010
1st Place TEVA Mountain Games Youth Bouldering 2010
(Ed's note: Just two days ago, Mirko placed first at the 2013 ABS Nationals in the Youth C division.)
DPM: What about outdoor climbing?
I like climbing outdoors even more. A lot of my friends are kind of bummed because their parents don’t climb and they don’t get to go outside much, so I’m lucky because my parents are willing to go outside all the time. I like to push myself to climb as hard as I can. We sometimes go climbing with friends from my team, or friends I made at comps. I climb a lot with my friend Drew Ruana (who’s about 2 years older) in Smith Rock, the Red River Gorge, and Bishop. We’re about the same level, and we push each other a lot, so that’s fun. Most of the time I climb with older kids.
At the crux of Ubermensch (5.14a) at Pinnacles, California.
DPM: When you climb outdoors, do you prefer bouldering or sport climbing?
I used to only boulder until early last year. My Dad tried to get me to sport climb but I was really afraid of heights. He used to say, "How can you boulder highballs but be afraid of ropes?" Then I qualified for the Pan-American Championships in Ecuador, and I finished 2nd in bouldering. Claudio, the National coach, asked me why I wasn’t climbing on ropes, and I told him I was a little scared. He just looked at me and said, "Bouldering is for sissies, real climbers climb on ropes!" So I told my Dad, "I want to try sport climbing." At first it was hard, but then I got better and last year was sick! So now I don’t know what I like better… I sort of follow the competition season and boulder in the winter and spring, and sport climb the rest of the time.
DPM: What's a typical day like for you?
MC: Pretty much just wake- up go to school, go to the gym, do home work, eat, and sleep. Not much to it! I train about 3-4 times a week for about 3 hours. I also go climbing outside almost every weekend. I guess that’s training too, but for me it’s just fun…
I just like to be outside all the time so I go running with my dad and we sometimes go mountain biking too. I used to do a lot of gymnastics, but last year I decided to focus on climbing. At the level I was at, they wanted me to train 6 times a week, and I couldn’t do both. I really liked gymnastics, but I like climbing much better. I also like skateboarding when I have time. I play a little guitar because my dad plays it and showed me. I think I’d like to maybe take some lessons.
DPM: You mentioned climbing on the weekends. What are your local crags?
If it’s just a weekend we go close by bouldering in Castle Rock, Mortar Rock or Yosemite or sport climbing in Pinnacles, or Jailhouse. If we have more days we drive to Bishop or Red Rock or Smith Rock.
Hot Lava Lucy (5.13a), Pinnacles, California.
DPM: You've had the opportunity to travel a bit too. What are some of your favorite climbing destinations?
For vacations we go to Hueco the Red River Gorge or Europe where I climbed in Switzerland, Spain and France. I really want to go to the Rocklands and to Kalymnos…
I’d have to say that Céüse, France is my favorite even though it’s not my best climbing style. I just really like everything about it, the scenery, the movement, and the people!! Rodellar in Spain is a close second, much more my style of climbing…
For bouldering...it's BISHOP!! It’s like my home away from home even though we don’t go there as often as I’d like because it’s a 7-hour drive. My favorite spot there is the Buttermilks, as I climbed most of the hard stuff in the Sads and the Happies.
DPM: You mentioned that Céüse isn't your style. What are your strengths as a climber?
I’ve always been sort of strong and flexible. I guess that comes from doing lots of gymnastics and lots of bouldering. I used to not be so good with technique, but then I spent more time sport climbing and it has gotten way better. I think climbing in Céüse and Smith Rock helped a lot and my Dad always makes me focus on technique.
Hot Lava Lucy (5.13a), Pinnacles, California.
DPM: What are your goals for your climbing life? What would you like to achieve?
I want to improve my trad strength and mental head to go on and do bigger and better things. I also want to travel and climb in as many different places as possible. I always want to try harder stuff to see what I can do. I'd also like to learn to trad climb. I recently had my first trad experiences and loved it.
There was a fundraiser for the ASCA at my gym, and my Dad won a bid to climb El Cap with Jim Herson who is a famous Yosemite climber. So I did my first few crack climbs with Jim last fall in Yosemite. My first one was The Rostrum (5.11c) which was pretty scary because I had never been so high, and I had never climbed cracks or off-widths, but I did it without falling, and kinda got hooked. We then climbed the first 13 pitches of the The Nose on El Capitan with Jim and his daughter Kara. Now I really want to climb The Nose to the top…
DPM: Little guys always get asked the biggest questions. What do you want to be when you grow up?
I want to be a pro climber! My Dad says that’s ok, but I need to get a College degree first… I don’t know yet what else I want to do.
Look for a video featuring Mirko Caballero, coming soon to DPM's Stash.