Joe Kinder landed in California’s Bay Area after returning from Spain, a two-month trip spurred by an invitation to Chris Sharma and Jimena Alarcon’s wedding. Though we spoke less than twelve hours later, Kinder showed no signs of jetlag or fatigue— his voice was animated and bright, he laughed often, and described routes with the enthusiasm of one who had lowered off seconds after the send.
One would expect Kinder to be in good spirits. In little more than a month, Kinder redpointed six routes 5.14c’s, some in two sessions. The list follows: Honky Mix, La Rubia, Bushido de Shiva, Chispa, Matar a Platon and Chilam Bilam (to the first anchors). He climbed Bushido de Shiva and Mandanga (5.14b) in the same day, one of the best days of his career as an “old guy” (Kinder is 35).
“This whole trip was just to go and enjoy climbing,” Kinder said. “There was really no plan for anything.”
Kinder spent time in the Basque Country, where he bagged Honky Mix, his first 5.14c of the trip, but climbed the majority of his hard routes in Villanueva Del Rosario, Andalusia. Home of the 80-meter monster, Chilam Balam (5.15b), the crag at Villanueva has seen a recent surge in popularity.
“It’s in vogue right now,” Kinder said. “Dani [Andrada] and Edu [Marin] are working on Chilam Balam. Everywhere you look is a hill covered in olive groves and almond trees.” He called Villanueva Del Rosario a “small, sleepy Spanish town.” Kinder spent rest days “eating olives, drinking sangria, getting lost in back alleys and checking out cliffs.”
This summer, Kinder trained for three months with Team of Two, the coaching duo of Justen Sjong and Kris Peters, in Boulder, Colorado. But while many climbers take their newfound strength and apply it to the hardest routes possible, Kinder found joy in going after routes he knew he could send in a matter of sessions.
“The only way to reach your maximum is with the drudgery of it all. You have to deal with a lot of failure. It takes more patience,” Kinder said. “This trip was all about volume, and just sending. Emphasis on ‘just sending.’ I’ve had an exciting experience with what training can do for you.”
Kinder arrived in Villanueva Del Rosario without a ticklist, motivated more by recommendation and aesthetic than by strict difficulty. “You walk up to the wall. There’s a certain section or panel that calls to you,” he said. “I’d known about a few [routes] from Jose Luis Palao. I was like ‘Yo, primo! Give me a list.”
La Rubia was Kinder’s first order of business in Villanueva. “It’s like a good 50 meters. To me, that’s almost too long.” Kinder sighed. “Routes like that are mentally exhausting. If there’s no easy section at the top, your chances of falling just go up the higher you climb.”
Length, however, hasn’t deterred Kinder from trying Chilam Balam, Villanueva’s holy grail. “I started working on Chilam Balam, learning the route. To the first anchor is another 8c+ [5.14c].” Once he started taking his attempts seriously, Kinder sent the first section. “I’ll go back to Chilam Balam [5.15b] in a year. I can do that thing!”
Aside from training and awe-inspiring limestone, Kinder noted that cultural differences in the Spanish climbing community were key ingredients in his success. “Basically every day we went climbing was a good day,” he said. “That’s what I like about climbing in Spain— it’s all support. There’s no ego. I think it’s really healthy to drop the guard, and it makes things happen.”
Kinder talked about the long history of egoism that tainted early American climbing. From one-upmanship on Yosemite’s bigwalls to bolt wars at Smith Rock, competitiveness has defined the American climbing scene for generations. In Spain, Kinder said, “It’s not hierarchy-based.”
“We’re not changing the world— everybody’s ascents are basically the same. We’re all there doing our damnedest. Your intentions and attitude are what is going to make you stand out at the end of the day.”