As I have said previously, my first outdoor lead climb was in March 2019, about a month before my 43rd birthday.

Soon afterwards, in mid 2019 I came up with the personal goal of (cleanly) lead climbing at least five different climbs of each grade up to 24 (7A+ / 5.12a) and one climb of 25 (7b / 5.12b) by the time of the Tokyo Olympics in July 2020. The idea was that the grade 25 undeniably represents an “expert” level of climbing. I think of this as the equivalent of a sub-1:30 half marathon, or sub-3hr marathon time, which are often used as benchmarks for very good (amateur) runners. Likewise in climbing, 5.12 (in the YDS grading system used in North America) has become a magical grade of difficulty representing the doorway to elite-level climbing. Thus there are books like “How to Climb 5.12” by Eric J. Horst, which was first published in 1994 and now in its third edition.

Alexei on Mutation in my Genes (25) at Frog Pond, Waitomo, NZ
Alexei on Mutation in my Genes (25) at Frog Pond, Waitomo, NZ

This post is to report that I have achieved that goal a few days into the month of July 2020.

I managed to cleanly climb my first 25 (7b / 5.12b) on lead this weekend. I am very pleased to report that the name of the route is “Mutation in my Genes”. It is an appealing sustained technical limestone climb on small crimps and slopers with a crux on either side of the fourth bolt. The setting is a beautiful remote farm in Waitomo.

This climb became more of a project than I expected but I am very happy that it all came together today just before the rain set in.

It was my 4th attempt on my fourth day of projecting the route and my 16th go overall (I tied in 4 times each day for 4 days over about 2.5 weeks). I guess I am a slow learner! But also stubborn 🙂