Can you give us the Eli Mercado 101?
Hello! I’m Eli(jah) Mercado, just turned 19. Part-time engineering student, part-time hold washer and all-of-the-time boulderer. I’m 168cm with an ape of +14cm.
How did you get into the funny business of climbing rocks?
Hahaha. So I used to be really into computer games, mainly one that involved tapping the keyboard to beats of music. My forearms kept getting pumped though, so I thought to myself ‘Hey, I need to train my forearms…why not try rock climbing?!’ So I chose climbing for school sport the following term, and here I am.
Do you still play the game? And is it good cross-training for climbing?
Not as much as I used to :'( Yeah definitely! Repetitive finger tapping builds up your resistance to lactic acid, really letting you redline on those pumpy routes – is what I’d like to say, except I can’t climb routes and still get pumped after five moves… Not too sure if it’s helped my climbing, other than getting me into climbing…
How long have you been climbing now?
Nearly four years now.
What do you like most about it?
I love the movement associated with climbing. There are few things in the world that feel better than holding a hard cut loose. What other sports can offer you drive-by barndoors or foot stab on flatholds?! I also love the challenge that climbing presents. From working the individual moves to sending the bloc, it’s a great, albeit emotional process.
When you climb you look very springy – where does spring emanate from (and is it inspired by Tomoa Narasaki)?
I like to feel bouncy! I suck at anything static, so my climbing style has relied on dynamic movement. I’ve also found that the faster you climb, the less time you spend on the wall, so the less pumped you get! Pump is the enemy. Tomoa is #goals. One can only dream to obtain his mastery of the flowz.
You climb a lot with the Healy twins, who are also very strong, do you think this has helped your own climbing?
Definitely. I met Sam and Liam a couple months into climbing, after deciding to check out the training wall that the two had been monopolising at the back of the gym. I was pretty shocked at their obsession with falling off five move boulder problems when instead they could have been on top rope! Anyway, I started bouldering with them pretty often after school. The two would set me boulder problems on the woody, as well as giving advice on how to climb better and get stronger. Essentially, I got free coaching through my early days. I also can’t drive… yet… so I’ve been getting lifts with them to and from the crag for pretty much my whole climbing life.
Is it a competitive relationship between the three of you or do you provide each other with a safe and supportive environment at all times?
I reckon there’s a good mix of competition and support going on. When training, it’s good to have a bit competition so you can push each other to try harder, to get stronger. Outside I’d say it’s more supportive. I don’t think outdoor climbing should be a competition in the first place. Ultimately, outside and inside, it’s you vs the boulder.
We saw your ascent of J1 (V13) at Jessicas late last year, was that a bit of a breakthrough for you?
J1 was definitely a breakthrough for me. I could do the climb to the lip pretty easily, but the ‘two toe hooks above your head’ bit had me stumped. I’m on the shorter side (168cm), and I could only just manage to put the first (right leg) toe hook up. The second (left leg) toe hook gave me lots of grief. Whenever I tried to bring my left foot on the ledge, my knee would press against the lip, preventing any further movement. After a while of messing around with alternative beta, Liam suggested something pretty crazy. Basically, I had to let go of my right hand, and quickly kick my left toe hook on as I was falling. While upside down. As scary as this beta was, it worked!
You’ve just had a very productive trip to the Grampians. What were some of the highlights?
Gramps was siiiiiiiiiiiick. Three weeks there isn’t enough! Highlights of the trip would probably be eating Mugsy’s Meatballs (aka the best pizza known to mankind) at Bonnie and Clydes, as well as watching Liam headbutt a boulder after a foot slip up high. Oh, and for sends, probably the team sends on A Puzzle About Belief (V11), Kate Upton (V12), and Parallel Lines (11). It’s a real good vibe when the whole squad sends, especially if the boulders are world-class lines. All three of those problems have pretty scary crux moves as well, so the adrenaline you get afterwards is pretty rad.
You managed to send one of the most coveted lines in the Gramps, Cherry Picking (V13) at Buandik – how did the ascent go down?
Don’t you mean – the – most coveted line in the Gramps? 😉
I tried Cherry Picking for the first time near the beginning of the trip. The approach sucked by the way. I didn’t get very close on the boulder, I was falling off doing the big move out left to the slopey rail. Fast-forward two weeks and we were back at Buandik. I was watching Cherry Picking send vids the night before, so I was real psyched to try again. In fact, that whole day I didn’t climb to save my energy for the proj. Tunnel vision at its finest! Thankfully my strategy paid off, and I found myself topping out the rig just as the sun was setting. It was so surreal. Did I mention the approach sucked?
We know you have also spent a bit of time working Mana (V13) at Project Wall. How did you find this line?
My experience with Mana was pretty similar to J1 actually, I could do the boulder from one move in but the first move kept shutting me down. Thankfully, this year I was finally able to stick the first move and bag the send! … after dropping the last hard move more times than I would have liked, of course.
We hear that you give healthy nutrition particular emphasis – what does the Eli Mercado sending diet look like?
Haha, I ‘try’ to eat healthy most of the time, but I also have no willpower ☹. I also might have developed a Tim Tam addiction near the start of the trip. Damn you $3.60 family pack Tim Tams!
You’re obviously done most of your bouldering in Sydney, can you give us your top five Sydney boulder problems (and a short why)?
- Diplomatic Immunity (V4), Frontline – Technical movement on possibly the best sandstone I’ve fondled.
- Milo and Kofi (V6), Frontline – Classic finger strength test piece on the huge main wall. Start holds at head height and tops out high.
- Running on Empty (V7),Frontyard – Scary climbing up a blank, slightly overhung face. Crux down low followed by some tall, terrifying climbing.
- Wooly Jumper (V10), Frontline – Huge first move huck to an edge. Who doesn’t love a one move wonder?
- A Lesson in Core Movement (V10), Lara St (the Central Coast counts as Greater Sydney, right? 😉) Incredible tension climbing on quality Gosford sandstone. Lay off the Tim Tams for this one!
Who are some of the climbers that inspire you?
There’s too many to name! Pretty much anyone that’s psyched on climbing has inspired me, past present and future. Apart from that, having such a strong crew to train with at the moment really helps me to push myself and try hard!
Do you have any projects for the future?
I’d like to finish off the Manhattan (V13) at Sydney’s Project Wall. Back down in the Grampians, maybe On the Beach (V13). Most of the harder things I’ve done have suited me pretty well, so it’d be nice to climb something anti-style. I had a play on O.T.B last year, and I got destroyed!