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After 11 days of work, BJ Tilden, 40, has made the first ascent of Pneuma (5.14d) in Wyoming’s Tensleep Canyon.
“It’s probably the best power endurance route I’ve ever done,” says Tilden. “The movement, the rock quality, the style—it’s really special. All those things don’t come together that often.”
Pneuma is 25 to 30 degrees overhanging on crimps. “If you were to break it down, it would be like 5.13b or so for six bolts, then a V11 crux, then a move out left to an undercling where you make a really hard clip at your waist, then a V9 with a dyno. But it climbs as one continuous thing. It’s extra sustained. It’s 24 moves with no rests from jug to jug. You clip like half the bolts—barely enough to be safe—and you chalk your left hand once and your right hand not at all.”
He posted uncut footage of the send on his Instagram, but adds that “the angle in the video doesn’t really do it justice.”
Like most of the routes in The Temple sector in Tensleep, Pneuma was bolted by local developer Matt Wendling at least a decade ago. But it didn’t see much real attention until Nicholas Milburn, a Louisiana native who’s sent V15 and 5.14d, started trying the route last summer.
Tilden gave the route a recon weekend in June, then worked it on weekends for most of July, alongside Ben Spannuth, another member of the 5.14d club. When he started getting close, Tilden began taking half days off work, commuting three and half hours to The Temple, climb until dark, then try to make it back home before midnight so he wasn’t too wrecked at work the next day. He sent during one of these day trips, after 11 days on the route.
At 40, Tilden is something like the patron saint of Wyoming limestone. Pneuma marks his fourth FA of a Wyoming 5.14 in 2021 and his sixth Wyoming 5.14d FA since 2012, when he put up Moonshine in Wild Iris. Also a resistance route, this time on one- and two-finger pockets, Moonshine has since seen repeats from some of America’s biggest climbing names, including Jonathan Siegrist, Daniel Woods, Dave Graham, and Cameron Horst.
But Pneuma is Tilden’s fastest 5.14d send, something he attributes to teamwork.
“Having Nicholas and Ben also trying the route really cut down the beta-learning curve” says Tilden, “which shaved days off the process. When I’m doing things around Lander, I’m mostly in my bubble. A lot of times I’ll send a route and try to grade it without having ever seen anyone else on it. Actually climbing on the route with other people was really fun. And it makes the process shorter.”
What’s next for Tilden?
“I generally don’t talk too much about anything before it’s done, but I do have a project cued up for the fall that seems like 9a+ [5.15a]. Which would be sweet. I’m ready to have one of those around here.”