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This Was the World’s First 5.13 Trad Climb

The Phoenix in Yosemite is one of America's most iconic hard splitter cracks. Here's the history

The history 5.13 goes back to the late 1970s when Ray Jardine climbed The Phoenix 5.13a in Yosemite in 1977, it was the first of the grade climbed on gear. It’s a curved and narrow finger-crack that overhangs.

The second ascent was in 1978 by Mark Hudon, and was first onsighted in 1984 by British climber Jerry Moffat. Alex Honnold free-soloed it in 2011, and in 2017, Hazel Findlay flashed it. When asked about Alex Honnold’s solo of The Phoenix in 2011, Jardine said: “I seconded the Phoenix once, and I was surprised how much easier it was. When on the lead I always sewed it up, so it was much harder placing the pro on the lead.”

Ray Jardine on The Phoenix 5.13

Beginning in the late 1960s, climbers, including Greg and Mike Lowe, had been working on camming units. But the Lowes’ Cam Nuts walked in cracks. Jardine worked with Kris Walker and Bill Forrest to create prototypes of a spring-loaded camming device they could place one-handed. In 1974, Walker, Jardine, and Lou Dawson used the cams on a 28-hour ascent of The Nose, realizing the utility of the invention.

Soon, Jardine brought his cams, nicknamed “Friends,” to difficult crack routes in the Valley, FA’ing the 5.12s Crimson Cringe and Hang Dog Flyer in 1976. In 1977, armed with a handful of Friends, Jardine rappelled into The Phoenix project. Instead of lowering after he fell, he hung and worked out the moves. Though other Valley climbers scorned his hangdogging, Jardine pushed through. On his 14 try, he climbed the route, protecting it with nuts and pins at the bottom and Friends on the splitter.

“The Phoenix is the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” said Jardine in a 1979 Mountain Magazine interview. Not only had Jardine shown what cams and hangdogging could do, he’d also established the world’s first 5.13 trad route. Watch Beth Rodden send it below.

Beth Rodden Sends The Phoenix