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The Phoenix

The Phoenix Climb, a legendary route in Yosemite Valley, stands as a monumental chapter in the history of rock climbing. Perched high on the wall west of Cascade Falls, this route is not just a physical challenge but a symbol of climbing evolution as it holds the prestigious title of being the world’s first recorded 5.13a route.




United States





First Ascent

Ray Jardine

Date of FA


The Phoenix

Ascent Log

The Phoenix is not just reserved for elite climbers. Rock climbers from all around the world have logged their ascent of this historic route on Check them out!

ClimberSuggested GradeDate of AscentNotes
Ray Jardin5.13a/7c+20th May 1977First 5.13 trad route. Spring loaded camming devices were invented for this route. Planet Mountain
Mark Hudon5.13a/7c+1978Mark Hudon Website
Jerry Moffatt5.13a/7c+1984First onsight on The Phoenix. Planet Mountain
Hidetaki Suzuki5.13a/7c+Sep 1987Instagram Post
Beth Rodden5.13a/7c+2002Video
Alex Honnold5.13a/7c+13th June 2011First free solo of The Phoenix. Video
Hazel Findlay5.13a/7c+9th Nov 2017Flash. Instagram Post

Climb Profile

The Route

The Phoenix is located in Yosemite Valley on the west side of Tamarack Creek Bridge, about two miles west of the Hwy 120/140 junction. 

The climb itself is a curved and narrow finger-crack that overhangs, demanding precision and strength. The use of small to 2.25″ protection gear is essential, as climbers navigate the intricate crack system. 

The route’s history is deeply intertwined with the development of climbing gear, particularly the advent of spring-loaded camming devices, which played a crucial role in its first successful ascent.

First Ascent

20th May 1977: Ray Jardine

The first ascent of The Phoenix by Ray Jardine in 1977 is a landmark event in the history of rock climbing, particularly in the realm of trad climbing. This ascent didn’t just mark the establishment of a new route; it represented a paradigm shift in climbing techniques and gear.

Ray Jardine climber on The Phoenix Yosemite
Ray Jardine testing out his new gear on The Phoenix ©George Meyers

When Ray Jardine successfully climbed The Phoenix, he not only conquered a physically demanding route but also established the world’s first 5.13a trad climb. This achievement was a significant leap forward in the climbing grading system, pushing the boundaries of what was considered achievable at the time.

A key factor in Jardine’s successful ascent was his innovative approach to climbing gear. In the years leading up to his ascent of The Phoenix, Jardine, along with Kris Walker and Bill Forrest, had been working on prototypes of a spring-loaded camming device. These devices, which they could place one-handed, were a significant advancement over the existing camming units, which tended to walk in cracks.

Springloaded cams for rock climbing

In 1974, Jardine and his partners used these early versions of camming devices, nicknamed “Friends,” on a 28-hour ascent of The Nose in Yosemite. This experience demonstrated the utility of these inventions, leading Jardine to further refine them.

Armed with a handful of these Friends, Jardine approached The Phoenix with a strategy that was, at the time, unconventional. Instead of lowering after a fall, he chose to hang and work out the moves, a technique known as “hangdogging.” This approach, though scorned by some climbers of that era, allowed Jardine to meticulously figure out the complex sequence of movements required for the climb.

“The Phoenix is the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” said Jardine in a 1979 Mountain Magazine interview.

On his 14th attempt, Jardine successfully climbed the route, using a combination of nuts and pins at the bottom and his Friends on the splitter section of the crack. This ascent not only demonstrated the effectiveness of his new gear but also showcased his perseverance and innovative approach to climbing.

First Free Solo

13th June 2011: Alex Honnold

Alex Honnold’s free solo ascent of The Phoenix was the first and remains the only free solo on that route to date. He casually free soloed this iconic 5.13a route a few hours before his 9am meeting with the Yosemite park rangers and TV crew who were filming a show featuring Alex. He took his friend and filmmaker Peter Mortimer to film the whole thing.

Alex Honnold Free Solo The Phoenix in Yosemite
 ©Peter Mortimer

He had contemplated the route throughout the climbing season, dedicating two days to work on it and familiarize himself with its nuances. The climb itself was completed in just 8 minutes.

The first section of the route consists of liebacking in tiny cracks big enough for the tips of your fingers which isn’t ideal for free soloing as it felt very insecure for Alex. Despite having fat fingers, he felt that overall the route went pretty well.

That day, Alex Honnold free-soloed one of the hardest routes in Yosemite and one of the most challenging of his free-solo career.

Other Epic Ascents 

The Phoenix has had nothing short of epic ascents since the FA by Ray Jardine. Just a year after Jardine’s first ascent, Mark Hudon achieved the second ascent. In 1984, British climber Jerry Moffatt made the first onsight ascent of The Phoenix.

Jerry Moffatt on The Phoenix Yosemite
Jerry Moffatt on The Phoenix

Beth Rodden also had her fair share of ascents on the Phoenix having flashed the route on her first go. After her kidnapping in Kazakstan, she took a long break from hard rock climbing. The Phoenix was one of the first hard routes she did after Kazakstan.

In 2017, Hazel Findlay, a renowned British climber flashed the route. She wanted to onsight it, but unfortunately, she lost the onsight when she belayed a friend on it but was determined to at least get a flash in. 


Ray Jardine’s ascent of The Phoenix is more than just a first ascent; it’s a story of innovation, determination, and the breaking of barriers. His use of the Friends camming devices revolutionized trad climbing, making it safer and more accessible.

The Phoenix, with its challenging grade and the story of its first ascent, continues to inspire climbers worldwide, standing as a testament to human ingenuity and the relentless pursuit of climbing excellence.

Header Image by Peter Mortimer

Video Library


Meet Angel, a former desk-jockey turned global wanderer. After catching a severe case of the climbing (and travel) bug, she's now a world traveller, living the dirtbag dream. Highballs? Too mainstream for her taste. She's all about the thrills of lowballs, where the real action happens. Nowadays, you'll find her in Thailand, either precariously balanced on a granite slab or trading stories with Nemo and his buddies underwater!

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