Jon Cardwell, known for his mastery of the limestone walls in Rifle, Colorado, has posted the first ascent of Fat Camp, graded 5.14d. The line follows the roof of the Wicked Cave, popular with climbers and home to a number of existing routes such as Bad Girls Club (also 5.14d).
Cardwell expressed a debt of gratitude to Joe Kinder, who bolted the route a few years ago and encouraged Cardwell to take it on. “It’s super inspiring to me that someone puts the true hard work into developing these climbs, and just says, ‘Hey guys, enjoy!’” Cardwell said, noting that “Joe, along with other developers keep the canyon alive with activity.”
Rifle is one of the most challenging sport climbing venues in the USA, with over 30 climbs graded 5.14. Cardwell, as familiar with the Rifle routes as anyone, believes that Fat Camp may be the toughest of them all.
“The climb is a pure power-endurance challenge with almost no proper resting positions,” Cardwell informed Rock and Ice, comparing the route to Bad Girls Club. Fat Camp, for Cardwell, is the tougher climb due to the difficulties of the moves involved and the lack of resting places.
Cardwell doesn’t, however, believe that the route is Rifle’s first 5.15 climb. “5.15 in Rifle definitely sounds nice, but I’m hesitant to propose that for Fat Camp.” Instead, he rates it alongside Shadow Boxing and Planet Garbage, two other 5.14ds, as Rifle’s toughest climb.
Cardwell worked on Fat Camp with Matty Hong. Together the pair figured out the beta for the climb and experimented with a variety of moves. “I quickly realized that I would have to gain more power for a lot of the moves,” Cardwell admitted and turned to bouldering to build up his strength.
Cardwell returned to Rifle as a coach for the Movement, Climbing and Fitness Youth Team and snuck off to Fat Camp whenever his schedule allowed, enlisting his protégés to help with belaying.
After ten or so tries he successfully redpointed the route, “after a huge fight,” and branded it “super classic.”
Check out the embedded video to see Cardwell in action in Rifle. The video shows him tackling Shadow Boxing, one of Rifle’s other tough climbs, and highlights the challenges of climbing on the limestone.