After a two-and-a-half-month training binge in Vegas with bestie Alex Honnold, Jonathan Siegrist took a trip to the hills outside St. George, Utah to try a couple of Joe Kinder testpieces. In particular, he hoped to make the second ascent of Bone Tomahawk (5.14d/5.15a), in the Fynn Cave. Siegrist—who had a banner year in 2017, sending ten routes 5.14d or harder—was optimistic about his chances of sending it in relatively short order after the training regimen. Honnold had just sent one of his harder pitches to date with Atonement (5.14b) in the Virgin River Gorge, Utah, so Siegrist had reason to believe the training should have benefitted his grade-ceiling as well.
Siegrist one-hung Bone Tomahawk after three or four days of attempts—increasing his optimism that success was imminent—but by day seven, still without a send, he was left scratching his head, humbled. Siegrist tells Rock and Ice, “I wasn’t sure if the training hadn’t worked or if the route just didn’t suit me.”
When Kinder made the first ascent of Bone Tomahawk in October 2016, he told Rock and Ice that 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.” The climb, Siegrist explains, is a compact 50-feet and exceedingly steep—“nod dead horizontal, but a roof for sure.”
“The difficulty isn’t defined by the quality of the holds,” Siegrist says, “but by the movement: you’re using lots of roof climbing tactics, like toe hooks and drop-knees, because the angle of the route is so steep and you rarely get good feet. So you’re using a lot of auxiliary muscles. I never fell due to forearm failure. It would be my back or my legs or my biceps that got tired from lots of underclinging and tenuous clips.”
But on the eight or ninth day, when his body had gotten enough time “to adjust to being upside down so much,” he finally managed to send Bone Tomahawk.
Still a bit confused and unsure of the grade, Siegrist went to try another Joe Kinder route, The Re-Up (5.14d), a link-up of two routes—Unforgiveable and Slaughterhouse Five, both 14b—on the Wailing Wall, at the Cathedral, also near St. George. Though Siegrist had done both component climbs independently, he had avoided The Re-Up over the years. “I always thought the link-up would be pretty hard and the upper crux on Slaughterhouse Five broke, so the original beta didn’t work.”
After sorting out a new sequence that suited him for the broken section, Siegrist sent The Re-Up in just three tries. “Returning to those routes I had done in the past and trying the harder link-up and having them feel easier—it was great. And I realized that Bone Tomahawk just really is that hard. Plus I suck at that style…”
So while Siegrist says that he was unsure of the grade of Bone Tomahawk immediately after sending, “after revisiting the Cathedral and only needing three tries for The Re-Up, I definitely think it’s accurate to call [Bone Tomahawk] 15a.”
Siegrist’s proposed upgrade of Bone Tomahawk would mean that, when Kinder established it in late 2016, it was just the fourth 5.15 in the United States following Tommy Caldwell’s Flex Luthor (presumed 5.15a or 5.15b) at the Fortress of Solitude, in Colorado, in 2003; Vasya Vorotnikov’s Jaws II (5.15a) in the Waimea wall in Rumney, New Hampshire, in 2007; and Chris Sharma’s Jumbo Love (5.15b), at Clark Mountain, California, in 2008. The only new 5.15a since Bone Tomahawk is Kinder’s unrepeated Life of Villains—in the Hurricave, also near St. George—which he opened in early March after four years of effort. With two FAs at the grade among only five total in the country, Kinder has now opened more 5.15s on American soil than any other climber.
Siegrist says he’ll have to wait to try his luck on Life of Villains until next winter (“The Hurricave is basically a January zone. It’s too hot now.”) but has other plans in store for the upcoming summer in the Canadian Rockies.
And in case that bit about a training bromace between Honnold and Siegrist piqued your interest, rest assured there’s more to come. “For the past couple months Tara Kerzhner has been shooting a film about us for La Sportiva. About our frienship, training together, and then going and trying to send our projects.” So keep an eye out for info on the film and its release!