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On the morning of November 25, Bayes Wilder went to Cova Gran, Santa Linya, and sent La Fabelita, a 25-meter 5.14b. That afternoon, the family drove to Cova Soleiada, Margalef, and Bayes clipped the chains on another 14b, Mistic. For good measure, he then finished the day with a flash of Dr. Feelgood (5.13b).
The best part? He’s only 11.
When asked what La Fabelita (8c/5.14b) was like, Bayes launched into one of the most descriptive breakdowns of a route I’ve ever received.
“ …Once you’re about 15 or 20 feet up, you’re at this other good rest, and then a big move up to another rest, and then I have to do this really hard jump move to a jug. On part of the jug there’s like this blocked crimp. And I fell there going for the crimp, but then I figured out better beta to just go for the jug… You climb through this really cool sequence where I get this left hand side-pull undercling. Then I get a hand-heel match….”
On and on he broke it down for me over the phone. His pure joy at just the memory of that climb—and the others he went on to describe—was delightful. Later, while listening to the audio, I watched the videos of him climbing and followed along. The moves were just as he said. His execution, however, was the real magic. Bayes moves with the precision and strength of a climber well beyond his age.
Bayes performance over the course of his three week trip in Spain, while incredibly impressive, isn’t all that surprising. The kid is good. Last year, he put down Southern Smoke, his first 5.14c, in the Red River Gorge. In January, he did two V12s in Hueco Tanks—Barefoot on Sacred Ground and Rumble in the Jungle. In the spring he climbed Lethal Design (V12) in Red Rocks. In the fall, he climbed The Evictor (5.12d PG13) on gear and also sent Immortality Sit (V11) in Kettergarden, Red Cliff.
Bayes’s father, Matt Wilder, was a former pro himself, who climbed up to V14 and, in 2009, made a rare ascent of a 5.14d, The Fly, in Rumney, New Hampshire. He’s also put done a few bold trad lines like The Path (5.14a/b R), at Lake Louise, Canada, and Cheating Reality (5.14a R), in the Flatirons. Naturally, the Boulder-based Wilders have a home woody for training when they’re not outside or in one of the Front Range’s myriad gyms. On top of that, Bayes trains on Team ABC—coached by none other than World Champion climber Robyn Erbesfield-Raboutou—three times a week.
Leading up to his Spain rampage, Bayes said he did some specific training with his dad on their home woody, doing circuits and pocket pulling. The training paid off: Bayes needed only nine tries each for La Fabelita and Mistic. He also managed to climb a total of nine 5.13’s throughout the trip.
But there was one thing that Bayes didn’t accomplish in Spain: He had wanted to climb a 9a. He tried two: Víctimas Pérez and Era Vella, both in Margalef. He said both felt hard and reachy, which, since he’s just 4’6”, is understandable.
“But also, I had the goal of just having fun climbing,” he quickly added. “And I definitely went above and beyond with that goal. I had a lot of fun.”
Now back at home, Bayes is looking forward to a local competition at ABC this coming weekend. Looking further ahead, he’s hoping to qualify for Nationals. He’s a first-year C competitor, and since D category climbers (the category for age 10 and under) can’t compete at Nationals, this will be his first time taking a shot at a bigger stage.
There are local projects he has his eye on, too. He’s been trying The Heist (V12 R), in Eldorado Canyon. They’ve only made it out to the climb a few times because of the weather and the pad and landing logistics (they need six pads, and his dad uses a rope to spot him), but he’s looking forward to making it happen.
The secret to this 11-year-old’s success? He puts in the work. “I’m pretty persistent,” says Bayes. “And I get kind of stuck on things. If I can’t do something correctly, I can get pretty mad. … I keep trying it and trying it until I get it. Maybe a little too much. But yeah. I’m also just really psyched on climbing. It’s my passion, and I don’t know what I would do without it.”