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Siegrist Claims Second Ascent of Rifle’s Hardest Route

It’s Siegrist’s fifth 5.15 in 2022.

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On Friday August 12, Jonathan Siegrist made the second ascent of Joe Kinder’s Kinder Cakes, 5.15a, in the Rifle’s Skull Cave.

Climbing directly out the steepest, longest stretch of the Skull Cave, Kinder Cakes, which has the distinction of being Rifle’s first 5.15, was equipped, cleaned, and sent last autumn by Joe Kinder, one of America’s most prolific route developers. The line shares climbing with two more Kinder testpieces: Cupcake, a ferociously powerful 5.14b that Siegrist considers the hardest of the grade in the canyon, and Diarrhea Mouth, a 5.14d that climbs right to left across the lip of the cave.

Siegrist climbing the steep lower part of the climb. He's back-flagging his right leg and crossing right handed up into a crimp.
Siegrist trying hard on the lower section of Kinder Cakes. He considers Cupcake the hardest 5.14b in the canyon. (Photo: Cameron Maier)

Breaking the route down over the phone, Siegrist described the beginning as “hyper intense. Very steep and physical. There’s no resting. It’s basically two cruxes separated by a clipping hold. Joe called Cupcake 5.14b, but I don’t know. Maybe I used a bad method. I found it really hard.”

After a kneebar rest at Cupcake’s anchors, Kinder Cakes launches into 15 moves of continuous 5.13+, after which it joins Diarrhea Mouth just in time for its redpoint crux, a complicated V9 boulder. “But like solid V9, honest V9,” Siegrist added. “I’ve heard it described as V11, but I don’t think it would be that on the ground.”

After that there’s a V6 or V7 mini-crux, “which on the go felt really real,” guarding the chains.

Did Jonathan Siegrist Just Establish America’s Hardest Sport Climb?

On Instagram after the send, Siegrist gave Kinder—who’s pro climbing career imploded in 2018—kudos for his hard work and his vision. And to me, over the phone, he added, “There’s no question that Joe is one of the main driving forces behind hard American sport climbing right now. You open the guidebook to Rifle, and at the highest level it’s majority Joe. And that’s just Rifle. Look at places like the Hurricave and other zones in southwest Utah. He’s done a lot of work. And in doing so he’s brought a lot of joy to a lot of climbers.”

Siegrist in silhouette hanging from the lip of the cave, pine trees and growing from the top of the canyon's opposite rim.
It’s rather steep, that one. (Photo: Cameron Maier)

Siegrist’s progress on Kinder Cakes was fast. Having previously sent Diarrhea Mouth in 2020, he was able to focus most of his work on the lower section of the route. “The first week I was just trying to get the first half of the route to feel good,” he said, “or at least passable. Once that happened, the second week was this super fun, hyper-linear process where literally every day I was getting one move higher. Eventually I fell on the last move of the redpoint crux, took a rest day, and then did the route. The strength-endurance style suits me really well.”

When I asked if Siegrist’s already-productive year had given him a sense of momentum, he said yes—but then clarified that the momentum came from sending another hard mini-project just weeks earlier. He climbed Resisting Arrest, a 5.14d roof near Las Vegas, just before leaving for Rifle, and “that got the cobwebs sorted out and reminded my body how to move in a roof. Knowing I could do that route in bad conditions really helped with my confidence.”

This ramping technique is something Siegrist uses often. “I find that I need to climb on rock. When I’m not doing any real rock climbing, even if I feel strong in the gym, it takes me some weeks to adapt. And if you’ve got a four-week trip and it takes you two weeks to adapt, you’re kind of screwing yourself over. So it’s helped me to have a sub-limit outdoor goal that I can mix together with training just before the real goal or trip.”

Siegrist is now in Squamish, where he aims to spend much of the next six weeks.