How to Climb 5.13 // Part II

In my last post, I talked about my journey from my first days climbing at Wasootch, to my first 5.10a later that season in 2012 to my first 5.12b and 5.12c in 2014 and 2016. This post covers the training season leading up to my first 5.13a in June of 2018.

Toes in the Water

The grade of 5.13a had always felt like a pipe dream. However, after my rapid success in 2014 ticking 5.12b, and subsequently sending a benchmark 5.12c in 2016 after only a handful of tries, it was starting to look like it could be a possibility. However remote it was.

At the end of my personal record-setting 2014 season, I had tried a 5.13a called “Wedding Crasher” up at Echo Canyon (The Balcony). At the time, it was a bit of a tour de force, and I could not quite do 2 of the moves and pulled on every bolt. The rest of the route felt relatively doable, and it made me consider that something that hard could be possible for me sometime in the future with enough work.

Climbing at the Balcony, late 2014

In 2017 after sending an indoor 5.12c early in the season, I was motivated to actually started trying some 5.13’s. Unfortunately, due to my shoulder injury, I only ended the season with a handful of attempts, and a 5.11c in Squamish being my only sport climbing tick of the season.

Some of the 5.13’s I initially tried were Mayday (5.13a, Lakit Lake), Dr. Seuss’ Wild Ride (Skaha, 5.13a), Shep’s Diner (Grotto, 5.13a), and a few tries on Timber (5.13a) at Planet X.

Lesson 13: Sample the goods. Try a bunch of different routes and find one that suits you, grabs you, or inspires you.

Dr. Seuss went surprisingly well, however, a short timeline due to vacation and my overall lack of strength made it impossible to send that season. Later in the year, a shoulder injury and over-arching shoulder instability made sending anything hard impossible. However, the few burns I put into Timber were starting to get the gears turning.

Sonnie Trotter working 5.13c next door while I try Dr. Seuss, 5.13a

Later in the fall of 2017, my shoulder was starting to improve dramatically. I was definitely able to push myself hard again, and by January 2018, I was back to a consistent training program with back-to-back sessions of hang-boarding, campus sessions, boulder circuits, and routes. I tweaked my shoulder in late January bouldering, but it came around quickly and I sent a 5.12c and 5.12d indoors in February/March before the end of the indoor training season.


A month later in April, we were finally outdoors in the sun. I sent Spicy Elephant (5.12c) at Echo on my 3rd outdoor session of the season and then started working on “Toxicity” (5.12d) next door. Spicy Elephant was a bit soft for the grade and went quick, but Toxicity was a stiff 5.12d and felt a little out of reach. I sent “A Bug’s Life” (5.12b) which shares the start, and then decided it was time to head to Planet X and try the project from last year… Timber, 5.13a.

The first two days on Timber were very rough. I don’t think I made it through the first crux until the second day on the route, and it wasn’t until the third day that I actually touched the anchors for the first time, with many hangs in between. It was feeling incredibly unlikely at this point.

Lesson 14: You might not touch the anchors for the first few days. That’s ok, it doesn’t mean you can’t do the route! Keep working on it.

Timber is a very long route at 35m, and consistently hard. While there are no stopper moves like shorter routes at Acephale and elsewhere, the consistent difficulty gets to you. The redpoint crux is most definitely holding it together to clip the anchors. By day 3 or 4, I had the route broken down into manageable sections. I knew that once I could get through the first crux and to the no-hands rest before the upper enduro section, I was going to be able to send the route.

On day 4, it was starting to come together. On my first attempt, I made it through the first crux to the no-hands rest. I flubbed some of the moves on the upper headwall, but it was close. I finally clipped the anchors for the very first time… figuring out an unlikely sequence ending at the clipping jug at the top.

Planet X the day I sent Timber, 5.13a

Two more extremely close redpoint attempts had me getting to the no-hands rest, only to fall just below the anchors at the redpoint crux. This thing was in reach, but my skin was starting to fall apart.

It was at this point that I spent about 2 hours one day, drawing out a map of the route, hold by hold, from memory. I had the whole route mapped out, every hold, sequence, and clip. I realized during the course of mapping the route out that I had forgotten a few holds, and it was causing hesitation when I got to them. I spent a huge amount of time memorizing the holds, all 29 moves from the no-hands rest to the summit. Every clip memorized, including the ones I was going to skip.

Lesson 15: Map out the route. Yes, this means get a piece of paper, draw out every single hold, foot placement and clip from memory. This exercise will pay dividends when it comes time to send!

Finally, day 6 of the season, I walked out to the crag after work with Jolene supporting me, fully intending to send the route, although highly aware that it might not happen.

I got to the bottom of the wall with more doubt than I would have hoped for. I tied in without a warmup and started climbing the bottom half. It honestly felt the worst it had ever felt. I was shaky on the crux moves and almost peeled off the wall just from nerves. I managed to scrape myself to the no-hands rest, where I sat for almost 15 minutes just de-pumping.

I looked up at the upper half and launched. Probably due to the process of memorizing the holds and drawing them out, and nailed every move. I skipped numerous clips where I wanted to, and somehow found myself just below the anchors in a position I had never found myself before.

I wasn’t sure what to do, but out of sheer desperation, I tried new beta and somehow found myself teleported myself to the clipping hold. I was elated but pumped out of my mind. Somehow, I adjusted my feet and found a way to clip the chains. I had sent the route. 5.13a, against all odds, was in the bag.

Lesson 16: If I can do it, anyone can… I am definitely the weakest climber to ever climb 5.13!

EuroYDSHuecoYear Ticked
8a5.13bV82020 (Update, Stepping Stone)

3 thoughts on “How to Climb 5.13 // Part II

  1. Pingback: How to climb 5.13: Part I - Alpine Journals

  2. Pingback: Hangboard Progression & working with Lattice Training - Alpine Journals

  3. Great article! Very cool hear about your journey and process to the send. I’m hoping to transition to outdoor sport climbing (very limited experience so far).

    As someone who got a lot of good early exposure to outdoor climbing, how did that change the way you approached indoor training? What type of indoor training paid the highest dividend when the outdoor season started up again?

    Thanks again for a great read!

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