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Flex Luthor 9a+ (b) by Matty Hong

Flex Luthor 9a+ (b) by Matty Hong

Matty Hong reports on Insta that he has done the first repeat of Tommy Caldwell's Flex Luthor in The Fortress from 2003. Matty, who previously has done three 9a+ and Fight or Flight 9b, thinks it should be upgraded to 9b. "It’s undeniable some aspects of the route have changed over the years." Carlo Traversi belayed Matty and has worked it for some 8-10 days and is getting close. "It could happen any day now? (c) Margo Hayes

Do you know how much it has been tried over the years and how much it has changed since the FA?
Only a couple other people have tried. Dave Graham (one try), Sam Elias (one try) and Jon Cardwell. That’s all I know who have tried it. Jon Cardwell and I were the first to get to the anchors after Tommy. That was in 2015.

The rock wasn’t very clean, so a lot of stuff has broken, that’s what Matty is referring to. After talking with Tommy though, everything that broke was things that Tommy didn’t really use. The core of the route that he climbed is the same as what we are trying today. At least that’s what I think.

So why has the first 9a+ in the USA not been tried more?
It’s heinously hard. The weather is really difficult and it’s a long way from the car. About an hour of steep walking. In the last section, you are pulling yourself up a steep slope with ropes. Also, there are no easy routes at the cliff so it’s hard to find partners. The altitude is roughly 2 000 meters. Today it is snowing.

Nice freshly baked 9a by Illya Bakhmet-Smolenskyi (16)

Nice freshly baked 9a by Illya Bakhmet-Smolenskyi (16)

Illya Bakhmet-Smolenskyi, who did his first 8c at age eleven, has done his third 9a in 2021, Nice freshly baked in Frankenjura. "Slipped a lot of times from the last long move. Might be much easier for taller people who can reach the three-finger pocket leaving the foot on the lower foothold. A really sick climb anyway!"

Illya has been travelling together with his parents, being home-schooled, for several years. Although with a great focus on the outdoors, he was #5 in the Euro Youth Cup in Imst this year.

What is next?
Did the crux moves on "Geocache" (9a+) yesterday, so hope to crush it before we leave for Turkey again. We hope to fly there at the end of the month. Staying there half a winter for sure, cause we have a 3 months visa period. Not really sure what to do afterwards.

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Tatanka 2.0 9a/+ by Mathieu Pauwels

Tatanka 2.0 9a/+ by Mathieu Pauwels

Mathieu Pauwels, who previously has done four 9a's, has done Tatanka 2.0 9a/+ in Trou Margritte. In total, The Belgian worked it for 40+ sessions, not including some specific shoulder training. (c) Kivik François

"Probably the biggest investment since my first 9a "Punt-X". The challenge was even harder after the breakage of a hold in the "crux". I have never done such a specific, strange and hard move in my life. I took several sessions just to do the new sequence. For me, it's a big challenge! This makes it a benchmark for Belgium in the level and maybe the hardest route in our country now. This is why I propose to review the rating of the route to a small "/ +" or "9a hard" 🤷‍♂️ (that's only my opinion). The next repeaters will confirm or not ... 😌".

What is your winter plans?
The next project starts in three weeks in Margalef, Spain. I want to try the famous variation of FRFM. I have wanted to try First Ley 9a+ for two years but with the Covid, it was not easy to find the moment. Now the appointment is made and I am super impatient, curious to try my project!

The Big Island 8C and Belial 8B+ by Nico Januel (38)

Nico Januel, who is working as the French coach in the World Cups, has done his fifth 8C, The Big Island in Fontainebleau. In his Insta video he reviels a new toe-hook beta for the 1.7 meter tall guys. "It took me about 12/15 short sessions to find the beta and connect it. I worked a bit during this summer to be ready when the friction will be ok. So that’s good! ;-)"

Last week he also did Belial 8B+ in Fontainebleau on his first session this year after having worked it for five sessions last year.

How come you are peaking now at age 38 and what is next?
Maybe I am trying harder ;-) Would like to boulder 8C+ for sure and some big projects on the cliff for the winter, back in Buoux soon.

Phat Club 9a by Joe Kinder (41)

Phat Club 9a by Joe Kinder (41)

Joe Kinder has done Phat Club 9a in Rifle, where he previously has done four 9a's and a 9a+ FA from last month. "Took a considerable amount of effort. Pure endurance 9a climbing. I really enjoyed the time on that pathway out of the Wicked Cave... now it's case closed on that section of wall. Combo of the best 14+ rigs in Rifle."
(c) Paul Gajda

Could you please describe the route and further potentials in Rifle?
Phat Club is a combo of my routes Fat Camp (my favorite route in Rifle) and Bad Girls Club, both considered 9a. The nature of Phat Club is pure endurance, long streams of hard climbing all the way to the top. It's brilliant and takes the straightest pathway up the wall.

I have two more undone projects in Rifle that will be in the 9a+ or more range and that is likely it. I hate to say it, but development in Rifle is pretty done. Sure, there's fill-ins, connections and extensions, but I don't think that's the most productive way to invest my time. I believe it's time to start expanding out as there are some incredible cliffs in the zone with LOTS of potential. Rifle will always be a place I visit, but for growth and expanding the sport (which is very important to me) it's time to start paying attention to the other spots.

Right now all I can think about is my project called Mammajama (pronounced ma'am-uh-jam-uh) in Southern Utah.... I'm obsessed!!! My wife rolls her eyes as I've always got some sort of climbing obsession HA! I love it... LOVE IT!!!!! I'm hoping I can keep the stream of good form going!

Alasha 9a (+) by Jakob Schubert

Alasha 9a (+) by Jakob Schubert

Jakob Schubert, the best male Lead competition climber in history who got the bronze in Tokyo, reports on Insta that he has done the first repeat of Chris Sharma's Alasha 9a (+) in Mallorca. (c) Sebastian Marko // Alpsolut.pictures

Chris started working it from the bottom but after having fallen 20+ times from around 18 meters during five years, mainly alone, he rappelled down and found out that the upper crux was like 8B. In the end, Chris did not grade it but thought it was more or less as difficult as Es Pontas 9a+ which he also did not grade. Great video from the FA.

Naturalmente 9a+ by Moroni and Bogliacino

Naturalmente 9a+ by Moroni and Bogliacino

Gabriele Moroni and Lorenzo Bogliacino have done the first two repeats of Naturalmente 9a+ in Camaiore. It was bolted by Marcello Bruccini/Stefano Zanchetta, finished by Luca Lucchesi and freed by Adam Ondra in 2017.

Moroni, has previously done some 30 routes 8c+/9a and harder including Speed Integrale in Voralpsee, which he also did last week. Bogliacino, who previously has done two 9a's, comments.

"The first time I touched the holds of Naturalmente was two years ago, after the send of La Terza Età, my first 9a, but I couldn't reach the chain. I immediately understood that the difficulty was on a completely different scale. This May, after a good winter spent bouldering in Varazze with my girlfriend Elisa, I went back on the route and I could do all the movements, but my stamina was very low.

This summer I travelled and climbed a lot in France, before in Briancon and then in Verdon. After making the first repetition of Maxitraxion 8c+ in my home crag Pianbernardo and the majestic line of La flute en Chantier 8c+ in la Ramirole, I understood that I was in a good shape so at the beginning of September, I went back to try Naturalmente. Despite the night shift my job allows me to climb every 2-3 days per week, so, thanks to Elisa and all my friends in Tuscany (and of course with countless thousands of kilometres and a lot of money) I could often try the route.

After 14 days of work on the route with terrible conditions and a lot of fun with the most motivated people that I know, the last days were crazy. Last Thursday, Gabri Moroni made the first repetition of the route and on Saturday, thanks to the cold wind that blew in the crag, it was my turn! About the difficulty, for me it is much higher than the 9a's I have climbed and one of the most beautiful routes I've ever done; simply, for me, it is a dream that comes true!"

Headcrash 8c by Franziska Dietz after 4 years of climbing

Headcrash 8c by Franziska Dietz after 4 years of climbing

Franziska Dietz, who started rock climbing in 2017, reports on Insta that she has done her first 8c, Headcrash in Frankenjura. Prior to beginning climbing, the 23-year-old had just been dancing and boxing for a while. Within two years of climbing, like five days a week, she did her first 8b. (c) Markus Jung

How can you explain this amazing progress?
I think passion and ambition are my keys to success 😊. I just try to have fun and to make the best out of every session 😊.

Did you focus on outdoors directly from the beginning?
Yes definitely! One of my friends showed me how to belay at „Freudenhaus“ :) I‘ve never climbed toprope 😊.

Do you follow a training program or just climb as much as possible?
I would say climbing as much as possible but I like training strength and bouldering aswell. But I don‘t have a plan:) I started an education as physiotherapist in September so I just climb whenever I can :)