Joe Kinder Puts Up Bone Tomahawk (5.14d/5.15a)

Joe Kinder establishes the “King Line” of the Fynn Cave in Utah—Bone Tomahawk (5.14d/5.15a), one of the hardest routes in the country.

By Michael Levy | October 27th, 2016

Joe Kinder, a top American climber over the past decade, has put up his hardest first ascent, Bone Tomahawk, in the Fynn Cave of southern Utah, near St. George. The line, which he graded 5.14d/15a, has been a passion project for Kinder for nearly six years. The grade, if confirmed, would place Bone Tomahawk among the hardest routes in the country.

“I bolted Bone Tomahawk in 2010,” Kinder, 36, tells Rock and Ice. “To me it was the king line of the wall and took the raddest angle.” In the years since he bolted the line, Kinder estimates that he has put in around “35 days of effort” on the route.

Joe Kinder, 36, fights the pump on Bone Tomahawk (5.14d/15a), Fynn Cave, Utah. Photo: Savannah Cummins.

The climb is in-your-face right from the beginning: “The first boulder problem is the hardest,” Joe says. “I fell there all the time. It took me six years to link through that section.” After that, the sheer difficulty eases off, but recovery and controlling the pump factor become crucial. “I had two lame and taxing shake spots that I used and in the end I would fall off the last couple of holds before the jug,” Kinder says. “The feet are awful and low so the body tension required was always in jeopardy.”

A final V6/7 boulder problem guards the chains, and, despite not feeling his strongest on the day he finally sent, everything just seemed to fall together. “When I stuck those moves on the send it was SO close to failure. I don’t even know how the hell I stayed on,” Kinder says.

Regarding the grade, Kinder says, it could be “a normal 9a [5.14d] or a 9a+ [5.15a], but hell…. I don’t know and don’t want to state anything I’m not comfortable with.” So he settled on the slash grade of 5.14d/15a. He feels that the amount of energy he devoted to this climb is greater than any route he has done previously. “The past three weeks I haven’t been able to think about anything other than this project,” Kinder says. “I believe it’s a level above anything I’ve done.”

Kinder dedicated Bone Tomahawk to his late friend Phil Schaal, an accomplished and talented climber who had climbed up to V14 and was the Director of Routesetting at New York’s Brooklyn Boulders. After clipping the chains and lowering to the ground, “I cried. […] I thought about Phil and how he didn’t need to leave us all,” Kinder writes on Instagram.

A New Hampshire native and a former Rumney crusher, Kinder has previously climbed several 5.14d routes, including the Colorado test pieces Planet Garbage, in Rifle, and Kryptonite, at the Fortress of Solitude. Kinder also claimed the third ascent of one of Canada’s hardest climbs, Bunda de Fora (5.14d), in 2012.

Kinder has also been a force in new route development in the U.S. and abroad. In addition to many first ascents, he envisioned and bolted the lines for other hard climbs such as Fat Camp (5.14d), in Rifle, Colorado, first climbed by Jon Cardwell, and Joe Mama (5.15a), in Oliana, Spain, first climbed by Klemen Bečan.

What’s next on the docket for Kinder? “The extension,” he says, which “[tacks] on an 8b+ [5.14a]. I linked the section yesterday…. I can do it!”


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