American climber Joe Kinder established Bone Tomahawk in Fynn Cave, Utah this October. Graded 5.14d/5.15a, it is Kinder’s toughest first ascent to date and, providing the grading is accurate, one of the toughest climbs in the USA.
Kinder has been an influential figure in US climbing in recent years and has displayed an eye for tough new lines. Both Fat Camp (graded 5.14d) and Joe Mama (5.15a) were originally conceived and bolted by Kinder, though respective first ascenders Jon Cardwell and Kleman Becan took most of the glory.
Bone Tomahawk was evidently a labour of love for Kinder. He initially bolted the route in 2010 when it caught his eye. “To me it was the king line of the wall and took the raddest angle,” he told Rock and Ice, estimating that over the six years it took him to finally send the climb he spent upwards of 35 full days working the route.
The climb begins with a boulder problem which, in itself, took Kinder six years to nail. “The first boulder problem is the hardest,” he said. “I fell there all the time. It took me six years to link through that section.”
The remainder of the route posed less technical challenges but endurance and recovery became problematic towards the top of the climb. A boulder section somewhere in the region of V6/V7 is the final challenge of Bone Tomahawk and Kinder struggled to muster the muscle power to haul his drained body upwards. “When I stuck those moves on the send it was SO close to failure,” he emphasised. “I don’t even know how the hell I stayed on.”
Grading the climb was Kinder’s next challenge. He felt it was somewhere along the lines of 9a or 9a+ but didn’t want to state a grade he wasn’t completely “comfortable with,” hence the slash grade of 5.14d/5.15a for Bone Tomahawk.
Joe’s Instagram post on the successful climb highlights what an emotional experience it was for him. Joe is 36 now and, as the embedded video shows, has discovered a new approach to climbing in recent years. Developing the patience to bolt and work on new routes paid off on Bone Tomahawk, while completing the climb also made Kinder reflect on the passing of his friend Phil Schaal.
“I completed my hardest climb yet,” he wrote on Instagram. “I won’t lie. I cried…I thought about Phil and how he didn’t need to leave us all. I dedicate this send to Phil Schaal.”