Jonathan Siegrist: 5.14d First Ascent in Idaho

posted by dpm on 09/10/2012

Jonathan Siegrist has bolted and sent a new 5.14d route in the Fins of southern Idaho. If you've never heard of the Fins, or even believed that Idaho had good climbing, you're not the only one. The futuristic "Discovery Wall" has been laying in wait since the dawn of time, waiting for the right person, with the proper skill, to open up some of the most difficult lines in America.

Fins of limestone rising from the plains in Southeastern Idaho. Photo: Jstarinorbit.com

A few weeks ago, I got an excited call from Siegrist. He spun a tale of a wall, well over 100 feet tall and gently overhanging, with massive new route potential in "the middle of nowhere." He'd just returned from Europe where he visited famous limestone areas like Céüse and the Verdon Gorge. Paraphrasing from memory, he said, "I just realized that 9a (5.14d) doesn't have to be in some sick steep cave. If the wall is tall enough you can find 9a face climbs. I haven't seen a wall like this anywhere in the world outside of Céüse"

An up close view of the Discovery Wall, the site of Jonathan's new 5.14d, Algorithm. Photo: Jstarinorbit.com

Most of the development at the wall had previously stopped midway up, both in terms of height and difficulty. Earlier developers had picked some plum lines into the 5.13- range but few of the routes ventured high into the blank-looking upper stretches. Siegrist wrote on his blog:

The Discovery Wall / Mothership Sector is where I've been spending most of my time and energy. This wall is one of the biggest uninterrupted pieces of limestone I've seen in the states, and quite a bit of empty wall remains. Many of the existing routes end about half way, as the wall tends to blank out above here. Thankfully, after rapping in many times I've found a number of lines to the top, that take advantage of this enormous cliff. The first thing I spotted was an extension to an open project. I added half dozen well spaced bolts and anchors, moved a few bolts below and started cleaning. The movement on the hard routes here is super cryptic, sequential and surprisingly powerful for such an angle. This rig, previously dubbed the 'Route of Discovery' project is now ready to go. After a number of work sessions (it took me at least 5 or 6 hour long efforts just to suss all of the moves), I've gotten it down to a couple hangs and am making quick progress. It's incredible, huge, and unquestionably will be Idaho's hardest pitch. I can barely lower with my 80 meter rope!

Siegrist, on the Discovery Project (now Algorithm 5.14d). Photo: Jstarinorbit.com

Jonathan is taking a well-deserved rest day and was kind enough to answer a few brief questions via the living, breathing pulse of our world: Facebook.

DPM: This route looks amazing Jonathan! What did you name it?

JStar: I named the route, 'Algorithm' - it was a quite a process to unlock the various sections, and in the end I had to do it piece by piece - algorithmic style - gradually breaking it down to make it solvable.

DPM: What's it like climbing on this monster pitch?

JStar: The wall has a nice combination of pockets and edges, some slopey some sharp. The fact that it's dead vertical (maybe slightly overhanging at times) is really what makes it stand out. That and its size. Algorithm is over 40 meters of climbing! It reminds me of Smith Rock + Tensleep + Wailing Wall or something. One of my favorite styles for sure.

DPM: Looking through your recent blog post; it looks like you went nuts bolting out there. What else did you put up?

JStar: I equipped 5 routes - I've done three of them. There's a really cool, hard 14b next to Algorithm called The Catalyst, and I did a really nice 30+ meter extension called Make it a Double that's 13a. I bolted a super nice 13d-ish thing that I should do tomorrow, and then this amazing, 120 ft. crack line that'll go on almost all gear - it will be one of the most unique pitches I've ever done for sure. I bolted an extension to The Catalyst that's really hard too, probably 5.15a? It's got a really hard, super reachy boulder problem above the anchor that was a little too reachy for me - but it's totally open!

DPM: Sounds amazing. So what's left out there. Is the area tapped now?

JStar: Much more work to be done, in all grades - although as far as I'm concerned, Algorithm is the king line at the Fins. There are entire walls I haven't seen in the surrounding area though, that are rumored to be bigger! I'll be back next year for sure.