2014 Golden Piton Awards: Sport


Joe Kinder Golden Pitons
Photo: Cameron Maier

Winner: Joe Kinder

In general, putting up high-end sport routes takes more effort and time than climbing new boulder problems of similar difficulty—there’s more cleaning, bolting, sequences to learn, more of everything. Not surprisingly, few elite sport climbers focus on new routes. However, one climber who thrives on the “blue collar” work of route development is Joe Kinder, and after a rough 2013, Kinder enjoyed a brilliant year of climbing and new-routing in 2014.

Last winter the 34-year-old redpointed his hardest new route yet: Maquina Muerte (5.14d) in the Cathedral Cave in southern Utah. The climb took Kinder two years to complete and taught him a new level of “patience and follow-through…. I hope to apply that to future projects and my hopes of sending my next level: 9a+ [5.15a].”

Kinder experienced follow-through of another sort at the Cascade Cliff (aka Zebra Wall or Tiger Wall) near South Lake Tahoe, California. In late 2013, he cut down two juniper trees to make a safer start to a climb and touched off a firestorm of criticism—not least because he’s such a high-profile, sponsored athlete. Kinder apologized publicly, paid a fine to the Forest Service, and made large donations to conservation groups. After months away, he returned to the crag several times to find some personal closure, eventually completing a trio of new 5.14 routes, including Weekend at Bernie’s, which he calls the best first ascent he’s ever done. “The view from the cliff, the texture of the rock, the color, moves, and style were all my idea of a perfect line,” he said. “If you add all of the emotion that coincided with that cliff and the things I’ve learned from it all, it became a huge and monumental experience.

“I’m very fortunate to be in the position I am as a pro climber, having lots of free time to climb and do exactly what I want to do,” Kinder added. “But at the same time I have a little guilt or fire under my ass, and I hate the idea of just going climbing for myself. Putting up routes allows me to feel perhaps a little less selfish and to give something back for the enjoyment of other climbers.”

Two Questions With Joe Kinder

Joe Kinder Golden Pitons
Photo: Cameron Maier

Favorite post-send treat?
Mexican food and margaritas.

What do you imagine yourself doing when you’re 50?
Climbing, of course! Probably a little more interested in the adventure side of things.

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