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Lonnie Kauk

Aside from the fact that he is the son of professional climber and Yosemite icon, Ron Kauk, Lonnie has carved out a name for himself as one of climbing’s preeminent “soul surfers.” While his accomplishments speak for themselves, his story is one that is so much bigger than rock climbing.


United States

Date Of Birth



Trad, Sport, Bouldering

Hardest Sport


Hardest Boulder


Hardest Trad


Lonnie Kauk

Ascent Log

Of course Lonnie has made way more ascents that what we have below, but these are his most notable!

ClimbTypeSuggested GradeDate of AscentNotes
Magic LineTrad5.14c/8c+14th Nov 2018He had repeated Magic Line 5 times since.
Too Big Too FlailHighball BoulderV102013Second ascent after Alex Honnold
AmbrosiaHighball BoulderV112014He did 4 laps on the highball boulder
Loonie BingeSolo5.12c2015

Climbing Career

Learning the Ropes

Lonnie Kauk is a Yosemite Valley native. He was born in 1984 at the medical clinic in Yosemite Valley, a tiny one-story building nestled among the matchstick cabins that make up Yosemite Village; another link in a long chain that stretches back for generations. On his mother’s side, Lonnie is of native American descent and can trace his ancestry directly back to Chief Tenaya, a leader of the Ahwahneechee peoples who once called what is now Yosemite home, and long before the U.S. military’s westward expansion policies.

Lonnie Kauk

As crazy as it may sound, Lonnie was raised in Yosemite – he even attended school there! Having spent so much of his childhood and many of his formative years in that landscape, he has forged a deep connection with the area. He was very much raised within Native American traditions and is deeply invested in the spiritual ideals which form the essence of his people, the Ahwahneechee. Naturally, this is a component of his life as a climber, as well. You can often see him burning sage at the base of a route, especially one that he plans on free-soloing. He describes it as his way of granting permission to climb the rock.

Being the son of Ron Kauk, Lonnie learned to climb from a very young age, though for many years, the sport held very little meaning to him. At the age of 16, he and his family moved from Yosemite to the Eastern Sierra and resided in a number of communities along highway 395. Systematic racism and prejudice made Lonnie’s adolescence difficult. His native American heritage meant that he was the target of scrutiny from his school teachers and from the local police. As a result, Lonnie fared poorly in school for many years. It was during those years he discovered snowboarding.

Lonnie Kauk snowboarding

Although he began as a skier, Kauk found that he enjoyed snowboarding more. After picking up the sport at age 14, he quickly rose to professional level status and began gathering sponsors. When he was 16, a broken while skateboarding meant he had to stop snowboarding until he healed. It was at this time that he rediscovered climbing.

After only a few years of climbing in and around Yosemite, he was already pulling down on 5.12 and was obviously just getting started. At this time, Lonnie’s father Ron was still climbing at a professional level and did not see much of his son.

Lonnie Kauk climbing

A family friend and climbing partner of Ron’s, John Bachar, sort of took Lonnie under his wing. As long as Lonnie was psyched and ready to work, Bachar was there, rope in hand and ready to give his protégé a catch. Bachar also introduced Lonnie to another aspect of the sport – free-soloing, something which has more spiritual currency for him than anything else.

Notable Ascents

Magic Line

In 2016, after a year or projecting, Lonnie succeeded in doing a pinkpoint ascent (all on preplaced gear) of one of his father’s most difficult climbs in Yosemite Valley: Magic Line (5.14c). While this was certainly one of the proudest moments of his climbing career, it wasn’t quite enough for Lonnie. Wanting to do it in better style, he returned – often with his father belaying him – and spent the next three years projecting the route for a red point ascent (placing all of his own gear while on lead. In 2018, he finally succeeded.

Lonnie Kauk climber on Magic Line in Yosemite
Lonnie on Magic Line ©Jim Thornburg

Too Big To Flail

Lonnie has repeated numerous of the most difficult climbing routes and boulder problems in California, including Too Big To Flail V10, a highball test piece in the Buttermilks outside of Bishop. For Lonnie, his commitment to climbing and the spiritual fulfillment he finds in his pursuit of excellence can best be summed up by something like this; a 50-foot boulder problem that is so tall and so difficult that, at the top, falling is no longer really an option.

Lonnie Kauk on the second ascend of Too Big to Flail
Lonnie Kauk on the second ascend of Too Big to Flail


Lonnie Kauk is one of the more inspiring figures of American rock climbing. He is so amazingly well-rounded, climbing boulders, trad and sport all at pretty much the same level; he has a refreshing attitude and, whenever you see him, never presents as self-involved. But more than that, he brings an element of spiritual composure to the sport that is not commonly seen. He is so in touch with himself and his climbing is reflected in that self-knowledge. It is truly a privilege to see Lonnie out at the crag.

Give him half a chance, though (and I know this from personal experience), he’ll talk your ear off about his clothing brand Magic Line and the high stretch pants that he has designed, specifically for athletic movement in bouldering and sport climbing.

lonnie Kauk apparel Magic Line

Video Library


Born and raised in Northern Vermont, Zak's parents were hardcore adventurers, and the appearance of a child in their lives did not slow them down much. Each summer, they would toss him and an assortment of gear in the truck and gun it for the American West. After his first year at college, Zak applied for a job in Yosemite National Park, and for the next decade, he worked seasonally in Yosemite and on the Sierra Eastside, doing whatever he could to be close to those mountains. Currently, Zak lives on the north shore of Lake Tahoe, piecing together a living as a climbing guide, bartender and writer.

Ai Mori
Jim Bridwell

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