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Joe Kinder: Out of His Element and Into the Ratikon

Friday, November 11, 2016
This past summer, Global Athlete Joe Kinder and his best friend, photographer and fellow climber, Tim Kemple, traveled to the Ratikon to attempt the 240-meter, six-pitch Silbergeier. Joe and Tim have been friends for a long time, and for them to both have the chance to come together and try this route was something special, send or no send. While there, Joe kept a diligent journal, documenting his experience of what it was like to step away from being a sport climber and into the alpine. Here are excerpts from that experience.

Stoked. I’m with my best friend, only climbing and adventure style to say the least. We’ve both talked about trying Silbergeier but never decided to pull the trigger. We both had the time so blaow we made this happen. Two weeks! Hope it’s enough time and I hope we can do it. 8b+? I can kill 8b+… no question. But hey… no expectations as this is so not my cup of tea. I will learn, try and go at this endeavor with an open mind. I must. Vert kills me and bold climbing even more. Catch me in a cave and I’m in my element… not on a big, vert, multi-pitch wall in the Swiss Alps.

Image: Tim Kemple

Day 1

The 8b pitch is dope but hard. Tech and very sensational. Tiny feet, tiny hands and bolted loco-like. Scary. I’m think I’m gonna be pretty bugged out on this route, but I’m trying to tell myself “stay confident, it’s only climbing and you’re allowed to fall.”

Day 2

I feel like alpine climbing really takes planning and strategy. It’s so different than regular sport climbing due to the elements, danger and the unexpected.

No chalk, no signs of human touch and totally into the unknown. That’s what is so scary. The unknown. When climbing is intensely psychological it is really hard to climb well. You get tense, reluctant and all of that makes it so hard to commit. That’s a lot of energy.

Day 3

Image: Tommy Chandler

Day 4

It’s baffling how easy [Tim] will execute sometimes. This seriously is by all means a learning experience. It’s difficult to drop the ego down and really learn how to climb again and also be really nervous. I’m far from comfortable and even top-roping I’m a little gripped. Tim is a true leader in this situation and I give him that role entirely. I am a student of the alpine and I’m trying my best. I like this stuff… I really do. I just want to feel comfortable.

—Jugging and passing ropes is scary.

—A cluttered hanging belay gives me anxiety.

—The climbing is so tech, it makes me feel like a fool.

—The small successes are very sweet.

—The reminder of patience is the thing to remember.

—Humbling, expanding.

Image: Tim Kemple

Day 6

We jugged up another 700 feet to the base of the 8b+ pitch. This is the hardest, the level that puts this route on the map and the one decider if we can do it or not. I led up it first… so hard and scary without any warm-up. I got to the last bolt and came down. It was a massive runout to the anchor and I was hoping secret weapon Tim would take over. This pitch proved to be hard. Tim was struggling and so was I. I sorted beta out and tried to keep an open mind like the most bullshit of foot options is totally useable. Shit you think is impossible happens to be the solution. You just have to try and believe and go with it. Risks are the name of the game here and some are big and some are minute.

Can we do it? Yes… for sure. But now it depends on time. Fingers crossed.

Image: Tim Kemple

Day 7

—I def feel more comfortable jugging up– I’m less tense and almost just turn off.

—Being on the wall is less stressful as well and I am really starting to enjoy it.

—The inner mountain man/hippy is coming out and I’m really appreciating the solidarity up here. The wildflowers and the birds.

—Mother nature has been good to us and yes… we are very thankful.

—I feel like I’m learning a lot… like a lot that will carry over into my normal sport climbing.

Day 8

We have a plan now. 2 more days on the wall. Tomorrow 8b+, get to the anchor and send the final pitch. Then the next day 7c+ and 8a+. Rest two days and then try to send. I’m really siked. I can do this.

Rest days like this I really miss my dog. And grabbing Lindsey by the waist or ribs and squeezing the life outta her. My fam. I miss them.

Image: Tim Kemple

Day 9

Woke up. Kept having these mini nightmares about the last bolt stretch on the 8b+. Seriously? Why the f***s my brain doing this to me?

Today was a bit of an off-kilter day for me. Tim climbed exceptionally well and really pulled himself together for the hardest sections. He warmed up on the top half of the 8b (first pitch) and did a massive link. Then the 8b+ pitch; he made massive links as well. Me… I planned on the last bolt bit of the 8b+… I failed. I tried. Sort of. I failed. I got about 5 feet past the bolt and my body closed up and shut down. F*** I suck. I tried nearly 10 times. I could see what to do. I could tell there were three bits of commitment. I couldn’t let myself commit to the first stage (getting stood up on the chunk of foot holds out left). If I had gotten there… I could have been committed to commit to the next bit of climbing and then the next.

Image: Tim Kemple

Day 10

Today was exactly what I needed. We got up there earlier. The hike was easy, jugging was easy… I felt fit and healthy. We had time to chill and even warmed up well. We both did the top part of the 8b pitch and I feel damn good on it. Now ready. Then we jugged up and both worked the 7c+ pitch of ultra tech 9. I got it sorted, so did Tim and we ventured up to the grassy ledge belay. I jammed up to the 8b+ to do the exit again. I needed that shit. I stood on the smears, envisioned what it will be like 25 feet runout and even stood in on the smears more than I thought would work. My shoes bent wildly but fully stuck and never felt sketchy. I was stoked.

I said to Tim, “Yo man, whether we send or not that doesn’t really matter to me. This last week has been some of the funnest time I’ve had and that’s more important to me than sending or not sending."

I’m taking a lot away from this trip. Lots of learning, camaraderie, style and a whole new way of climbing. Can we do this route? Yes, for sure. It’s just going to depend on timing and if we play our cards right. But seriously… this is far from about sending.

Image: Tommy Chandler

Pitch 1: Done

Pitch 2: Slightly clueless on parts

Pitch 3: Sent from 4 moves in

Pitch 4: 7a+… whatever

Pitch 5: Hard but I can do it w/ luck. Still nervous about the last two bolts. So fucking run out.

Pitch 6: Tried once and it’s real shit. No gimmicks. Just hard.

Image: Tim Kemple

I have a whole new appreciation for alpine climbing, partnership, multi-pitch strategies and the whole deal. It’s not easy and it takes serious devotion. Really interesting. Yeah it’s rated 8b+ but all of the route’s pitches combined… that’s a lot of climbing, moves, beta and specifics to remember.

Day 18

We were supposed to have left yesterday. Today we woke up to snow, clouds, and an entirely wet route. The entire wall is in a cloud and covered in snow. F***. Feels hopeless. Plan B, C, D? So clueless and screwed feeling. There is nothing we can do but sit, wait and hope.

Image: Tim Kemple

I have a hard time staying focused in this sort of scenario. This is something I’ve learned from this. I have a hard time staying focused when there are inconsistencies in my climbing. Be it weather or partners or a simple lack of continuity. When there are breaks in the rhythm I automatically find something else to go for. Patience is something I’ve been practicing a lot the past few years. I will likely always struggle with this but I’m aware and I’m trying.

This is all leaving us with one day to try and do it. And it’s been awhile since we climbed on it, which will surely work against me personally. I hope it won’t feel too foreign.

I miss wearing cool clothes. I’m so stoked to get a proper latte at our favorite spot. I wanna walk my dog through the neighborhood and smell the flowers. The fog of the bay… drink a beer at the Missouri Lounge and of course squeeze my girl.

Day 19

Things I’ve learned are:

(1) Low angle climbing is important for me. I avoid it because it’s not that fun but small holds help the big picture. I can feel it.

(2) Less top roping and more leading while working pitches. This is the work part and the transition has surely taken its time. Psychologically this sort of climbing is the hardest part for me. Deal with that and learn a good way to transition.

(3) Eat more on the wall.

(4) Next route… something steeper.

(5) Work on patience and focus.

Image: Tim Kemple

Day 21. July 18th: Last Day. Go Day.

7:15 a.m. Everything is in its place. I have no more fears (as of now, sitting here) and that’s it. Let’s try and do this. The crux pitch is wet right now and part of me wishes it would stay wet so I don’t have to brave that runout. Ha! I got it though. Not so much anxiety for some reason. Let’s do this shit.

9:37 p.m. No f***ing send. F***!!

Image: Tim Kemple

—Joe Kinder


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