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Seb Bouin and his (9c) grading

Seb Bouin and his (9c) grading

Sebastien Bouin has done some 60 routes 9a and harder out of which 25 are FAs, including DNA 9c in Verdon which he did last month. Interestingly none of these FAs have been repeated although half of them were put up between 2011 to 2016. The 29-year-old is well known for giving personal down gradings like for Chilam Balam 9a+/b, Era Vella 8c+/9a, Esclatamasters 8c+/9a and Akira. The latter was put up as the world's first 9b and Seb did the first repeat after 20+ years calling it 9a.

Who belayed you during the 250+ tries on DNA and who has tried it?
No other climbers have tried it. I had many friends and also my girlfriend has belayed a lot. However, my mother has done most of that hard work. She lives just 30 min from the crag and I have actually stayed there a lot in between sessions. I live some three hours away.

How were the mental ups and downs during the three year process?
In the beginning, I could not do all moves and I did not know if it was going to be possible. Spending time in this beautiful place unlocking the moves and the sequences was great fun. Later the process got more frustrating. Last Christmas I had a mental breakdown after falling four times close to the top. I had invested so much time and effort and besides almost only projected for several months including multiple redpoint sessions also on Bibliographie. It was kind of a mistake to try both routes at the same time. I had to focus on DNA and mixing with Biblio was fun. But I was missing the focus to close such a hard project. This winter, I had forced the process too much. I missed travelling and climbing easier routes and got very frustrated. Later I had to recharge by going on several trips and also doing some hard indoor training but no replica training.

What would you have done if you had not sent it?
I had plenty of time before the summer heat so I was not under so much pressure. I was enjoying the process and would have continued in the autumn. I would have recharged again during the summer and eventually done it. I bolted it in 2019 and it has been in my heart since. It is such a beautiful place and route so, during this spring, I enjoyed every session. It's different from winter, spring helps a lot in the process.

What was your rationale suggesting 9c for DNA?
Giving this grade was really hard. I was thinking about it a lot. It was hard to choose between 9c and 9b+ (read the black diamond story). I have based the grade on the comparison with other routes (in terms of time and feeling), and with the climbing style (which is 100% mine). I like endurance challenges on big overhangs with tufas etc. I talked to Adam Ondra to discuss that. Happy to see the good feedback. He has been in the sector trying some of my other FAs.

I could never have done a 9c in Norway as Adam did. One key for the send was actually that I could stay and be belayed by my mother. The grade was secondary. It was the perfect beautiful project which I wanted to complete. I do hope many climbers will come and try the routes in Ramirole and enjoy the crag. I always invite other climbers to come and many top climbers have been there. You will see when the video comes out that it is an amazing place and route.

What about upgrading some of your FAs in order to increase the interest in them?
I know I could upgrade a couple but I will not do this. I welcome others to try my routes and suggest upgrades if they feel it is needed. It feels wrong to suggest upgrades just because your routes are still unrepeated. My FA grades are based on how difficult and how many sessions were needed for me to do them. Possibly you could add a + to a few of my FAs if I compare them with some of the popular 9a's in Spain and other countries.

Detailed info in regards the process since 2019 can be found on Seb's Insta (c) Lena Drapella

(Jens Larssen: From a personal point of view it is a bit sad that I needed to talk about the grade so much with Seb. I have been communicating with him for ten years and he is not in it for the grade whatsoever. When we talked about Akira he could have taken the easy path calling it 9a+ but honesty is very important for him. He actually said that it is probably 8c+ with a knee pad but at the time, I did not publish this. Seb is just a very passionate climber who has been focusing on doing FAs. I think he is the perfect role model and he will become one of the more influential climbers in the world. In one way, we can also say that he is like a late bloomer meaning that I think that there is plenty of more 9b+ and 9c's to come, although some of them will get these grades due to upgrading. He is a very modest and humble guy.

When I called him, I started with a joke using french. "Je m'apalle Jens dans le huit a...". Then he answered my questions about DNA for a couple of minutes and he actually thought he was communicating with an anonymous person until he started laughing.

- Ahh, it is Jens! I am sorry for my bad English. I did not recognize your voice.

The Journey 9a (+) FA by Tom Bolger repeated by Jorge Diaz-Rullo

The Journey 9a (+) FA by Tom Bolger repeated by Jorge Diaz-Rullo

Tom Bolger has done yet another hardcore FA, The journey (9a+) in Margalef, which Jorge Diaz-Rullo has repeated giving it a personal 9a/+ grade. "What a great line equipped by Tom with very fun, physical steps and a spicy touch of resistance, very complete! It was interesting to see me so close in my second go although later with heat and plaster it cost me a little more... 9a/+ in my opinion if I compare with other 9a+ routes on the wall, others will tell." (c) Ignacio Sandoval Buron

EDITORIAL

by 8a Founder and Editor-in-Chief Jens Larssen including also Analyses, Reviews, Training, Polls and Opinions etc.


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Steppenwolf 8B by Michaela Kiersch

Steppenwolf 8B by Michaela Kiersch

Michaela Kiersch reports on Insta that she has done Steppenwolf 8B in Magic Woods in just two sessions. (c) Nina Williams

Three weeks ago she became a doctor in hand therapy and then she left for the Petzl Roctrip during two weeks in Manikia. Previously she has done eight boulders 8A+ and harder and the same number of 8c+ and harder routes.

How do you think it is possible to so quickly shift from endurance to power?
I really am not sure how I can adapt to power so quickly. I just feel like I’m in great shape all around. Helps to have great friends out here in the forest!

Lomba's 9b knee pad technique and leg strength story

Lomba's 9b knee pad technique and leg strength story

In the Eder Lomba video of Rainman 9b, we can see that he stays in a kneebar from 3:50 - 7:10, and short parts of it, "no hands rest". Steve McClure did the FA and he has said about that rest, "Kinda rubbishy kneebar, very intense, you are not staying there very long." Noteworthy is that they are both 170 cm tall. It should also be mentioned that when Adam Ondra tried the route in 2017 he could also get a no hands rest but still thought it was 9b.

Steve comments: Knee pad technology has improved somewhat! With the pads I now use I’d have been able to rest better! At the time the pad I found most useful was a simple knee support bandage. I also sometimes used an original 5.10 pad but it kept slipping down. So the route was really a sprint from the top of Raindogs all the way up. But this is the progression of things. New tools come along that we use to give us the edge…. Shoes, sticky rubber, chalk, cams. And these tools make the climbing feel better. Which is good!

The kneebar with good pads will make it a little bit easier, but by how much I can’t say. If others propose a downgrade, fair enough. But pretty sure for me, and the way I climbed it, it was 9b. What more can I say? Do we have to get so obsessed by the grade? If we must… I thought 9b. Ondra thought so. Eder needed ‘9b’ leg power to do it that no one else has maybe? He has used new strengths applied to the route in an awesome way. Luckily I did it yonks ago, had such a good journey. And will be happy forever.

Eder comments: When I first tried the kneebar I couldn’t get no hands, took me 3-4 sessions to get 5 seconds no hands, and months training my legs so I could stay longer, last November managed for the first time 1 min on the kneebar and after a winter of training I got 3 min for the first time last month. The kneebar is hard very painful and super intense, what you see on the video is the outcome of loads of really hard work, loads of pain and loads off pinning off the kneebar buttering your knees… My mate Josh Ibertson is also trying the route with the same knee pads and he struggles to get 30 seconds no hands… he is been trying the route for as long as I have.

So the training, I did loads of strength training like weighted squad deadlifting. Also some pain tolerance training for my right toes, because the kneebar is so intense that my right toe will really hurt due to the pressure you inevitably apply on the heel. All that pressure transfers through the shoe getting really tight on the toes.

I also did loads of explosive jumping. Calf raises… but the specific for the route where kneebar behind de campus and body crunches every other day, and the pain tolerance by adding weight to my calf raises on really painful footholds. The toes were really painful due to the particularity of the foothold.

On this particular kneebar, (see the picture), I use my left leg to still push my right foot into place to keep a more stable pose. I found that the more comfortable way to stay on the kneebar.

World at War 8C by Sam Blackwell

World at War 8C by Sam Blackwell

Sam Blackwell has done the FA of World at War (8C) in Biblins Cave, which is a link-up of a 7C+ sit start into Spaceship 8B+.

"I started trying this without the intention of climbing the full line in 2020. I did Spaceship in 4/5 sessions and then last summer I went back and started trying adding the sit start of Godzilla. I had maybe three sessions before it got too warm and I got distracted by other things. This year I trained more specifically for World at war and the first session on it dropped matching the finish hold, then came back a few days later and did the same thing. I was shown some slightly different beta from the top and came back last Friday and finished it off during the first go of the day."

How come this is your first send in 2022?
This year I’ve just been busy with work and saving to convert a van. I sold my car so didn’t have a way of consistently getting to the crag, pretty much just trained inside January till May. Starting to get out again now though.

Eder Lomba does Rainman 9b

Steve McClure put up Rainman 9b at Malham in 2017 after projecting it for 128 days. It is considered the hardest route in Britain and now Eder Lomba has done the first repeat. It is a link-up that goes through the crux of Rainshadow 9a and then into Batman 9a before finishing up Bat Route 8c. Interestingly, the Spaniard who lives in Sheffield has previously just done two 9a's, Rainshadow and Batman. Rainman he did after working it for 46 days but then we could add some 30 days for the other two 9a's.

Trip Tik Tonik 9a by Jules Marchaland

Trip Tik Tonik 9a by Jules Marchaland

Jules Marchaland, who has done two 8c+ the last three weeks, has done his first 9a, Trip Tik Tonik in Gorges du Loup. "It is for sure the most beautiful route I have ever tried in my life! It’s an 8b/+ at the start (maybe 20 moves) and then you have a hard boulder on small and a big pinch. After the boulder you have a good rest and you have to do a long 8b very long. The moves are not very hard but it's hard because you repeat, "I can’t fall... I can’t fall" 🤣." (c) Matthieu Marin

You did your first 8c+ in 2017 (at age 16) but then no hard routes until last year?
I did not send any hard routes between 2018 and 2020 because at my home crag (Gorges du loup and Déversé) I began trying the remaining harder routes but my level was too low. Eventually, I climbed less because I became less motivated. In the years before I climbed regularly but never trained seriously. This year I motivated myself to train more, and it works, I'm so happy to see that the work pays off!

What are your summer plans?
I have some work (building scenes for concerts or events), and then I aim for the French championships on June 4/5. After that, I want to try Kick ass and Kinematix, two 9a's at my home crag. Maybe also some small trips in Céüse and Briancon this summer.

Prehistorik 8B/+ and Rustam Direct 8B by Lucie Hrozová

Prehistorik 8B/+ and Rustam Direct 8B by Lucie Hrozová

Lucie Hrozová has done Prehistorik (8B/+) in Labské Údolí. The picture is from last month when she did Rustam Direct (8B) in Holstejn. In the female ranking game, she advances to #4.

How was the sending day fighting your compartment syndrome in your forearms? It seems like a long boulder?
Yes, it is a long one but at least it is the first moves that are hard. Then I rested for a long time in the hole on my knee (no knee pad) so I got some bruises 😅. I had a good day for my arms 🙏🙏 , very happy and grateful for that, because I know it could get worse really quickly.

How much and how have you been training/climbing lately?
So like now, I was trying one day on, two days off. I want to try one on and one off. If I have boulder I know I will only make a few tries, I want to try like just a bit Saturday and a few tries Sunday. To be climbing the whole weekend it will be somewhere farther away, let's see, it is not predictable at all, how the arms will be in the future.

How many sessions did it take to send?
I don't know exactly. I tried it a few times last year but I had a big pain in one of my fingers so I stopped trying it. This year I tried it again but I wasn't sure because the finger is not completely ok if it goes. So I pretty much really surprised myself.

The 33-year-old has won 14 WC medals in Ice Climbing and she has also done one of the hardest mix routes in the world, Saphira M15-. This career came to a halt due to a serious shoulder injury. Then in 2019, she did an 8c but she had to stop due to Compartment syndrome. Instead, in May 2020 she started bouldering and within six months she did her first 8A+. More info on comparment syndrome from an 8a training article in 2010.

Dad Bod 9a by Owen Whaley (18)

Dad Bod 9a by Owen Whaley (18)

Owen Whaley has done his second 9a, Dad Bod in Robbers Roost. "Psyched on this one! Good knee bar down low makes it slightly easier. Top was exiting when a hold broke going for the clipping jug. Super Fun." (c) Matt Levy

Could you say something about the process how you took it down?
Last year, I climbed Manphibian (9A), Andy Raether’s extension to his climb Spyfiction (8C+). In the fall, I decided to try Dad Bod (9A), another great Andy Raether route that is a harder start to Spyfiction. It’s bouldery almost immediately off the ground. The two-move crux comes at the fourth bolt. Then, you have to keep it together through Spyfiction to the anchors. I found a good kneebar right before the crux that made the clip and intro moves before the crux easier. I had tried the route a few times this season in between competitions. When I returned from a week at the North American Cup Series, I decided to go out and have a fun day on the rock. Surprisingly, I was able to do the route on my second try of the day. Excited to spend more time trying hard routes this summer.

Ben Hanna portrait doing Lee Majors 8c+ (9a)

Ben Hanna did the second repeat of Nathaniel Coleman's Lee Majors in The Dry in January, giving it a personal 8c+ grade. In the portrait video he talks about his climbing lifestyle and struggling with anxiety. He has been competing actively since 2012 and in Meiringen last month he was #9 in the qualification and later #15 in the semi, which was his best result ever.