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Forum: GLOBAL / News / Fred Rouhling's Akira 8C+ instead of 9b? Login in to contribute
Fred Rouhling's Akira 8C+ instead of 9b?
OffLine 8a.nu
  2019-05-18 00:00:00    
In 1995, Fred Rouhling put up Akira at Le Périgord as the world's first 9b in 1995, when 9a+ did not exist, after several months of projecting. It starts with an horizontal 12 meter boulder roof and then you tie in and finish an eight meter 8a, video. Previously he had done some 9a and 8B+ out of which some are still not repeated. Back then and until Climbing.com presented an article in 2004 most thought he was a liar, although 8a had backed him up. Still, he has not gotten the full credit for taking the biggest grade step in the history of climbing.

Chatting with him you understand that possibly it would have been best to suggest 9a+ or even better 8C in 1995 and indicate that it could be harder waiting for an upgrade.

"For sure now it’s obvious but at that moment there was nothing comparable. There was not even any crash pads and no roof boulders in Fontainebleau or elsewhere. Fred Nicole open the first 8B+ Radja in 1995 the same year of Akira. If I have said 8C+ it would have been the same problem."

Fred has done a total of six FA 9a or harder including Salamandre 9a+ and the three unrepeated; De l’autre côté du ciel 9a, Mandallaz drive 9a, pictured, and Empreintes 9a+.

"I was quite obsessed with the limit between the possible and the impossible. It’s only in the first ascent that we can have this sensation.
It is not funny to have detractors but on the other hand to have done things that other consider impossible it’s a consecration especially if these climbers are supposed to be among the best."


Many of the best including Alex Huber (who was right about that 9b+ for Bernabe Fernandez was not possible and Dani Andrada, said they did not believe Fred. Today he thinks he is more poet than a sport climber.

"I enjoy spending time in contemplate nature, reading books and picking stones. I kept a lot of strength and I can still do 8A without training or tiredness, just happiness! I prefer do small boulder with only one or two hard moves. There are not so many in this style which are more than 8b. La Proue, one move 8B, is incredible. It was a nice opportunity to open Akira and I'm grateful for that."
Click to Enlarge Picture
OffLine Christian Mengel
  2019-05-18 20:39:44    
Why didn't you just give the link to Pete Ward´s / Tim Kemple´s excellent article - which I knew before but enjoy reading from time to time? This here something is just about grades and speculations...Ward and Kemple do their bit as well but they do it so much better! 
OffLine Jens Larssen
  2019-05-18 21:14:41    
This is not speculations as it is Fred new thoughts which he has never expressed before. Not even in the excellent Climbing article :)
OffLine JLH
  2019-05-18 22:25:28    
>"he has not gotten the full credit for taking the biggest grade step in the history of climbing."

Biggest step for those who don't know much about climbing history...
OffLine Sebastian Peace
  2019-05-19 00:13:56    
I find it quiet interesting to hear from this legend again. Thanks for reaching out to him, Jens. Chipping or not, he is a very strong climber and some of his routes like "De l'autre côté du ciel" just look amazing.
OffLine Steve
  2019-05-19 03:29:03    
I never understood, why so many "top climbers" criticized him, but no one apparently took the effort to go there and actually try the route to test its difficulty.
OffLine Robert Kasper
  2019-05-19 08:34:16    
Some guys went there and löst interest Ver fast because its chipped and chipped to suit fred very well. So i just think nobody rrally wanted to to it
OffLine Christian Mengel
  2019-05-19 10:35:50    
@Robert: I don't think chipped alone serves as a fully satisfactory answer. Rose was chipped, Le Plafond was chipped, Ground Zero is chipped, Underground, Güllich filled up Wallstreet to make it harder...
I guess some kind of regionalism and arrogance on others behalf played a role as well. None of the routes Fred has put up after his chipping days have neither seen much traffic nor been repeated fast so I guess credit has to be given where credit is due.
As pointed out in the climbing.com article, Fred is not really tall and his reach isn't gigantic. So reach doesn't count. I guess that only few people are basically strong enough to try them and some could do his routes if they invested the time - which they choose not to, which is fair enough, given the location of places such as Akira or the rather unforgiving and injury - prone style of savage mono pulling as opposed to pumpy tufa action.
Ever since reading said climbing.com article, I've sided with Rouhling and will do so unless someone actually goes, repeats Akira and calls it soft 9a.
As regards the missing track record often cited, I recommend Ward´s and Kemple´s excellent conclusion as regards taking Rouhlings quick ascents of long and roofy V14s as a track record.
OffLine Chaz-O
  2019-05-20 01:59:55    
This seems too long of a route to have a bouldering grade. I recall seeing a suggestion from 8a that the separation between boulders and sport route grades should be 12 moves, at which point endurance becomes a factor. Maybe a traverse grade is appropriate? Or perhaps Fred is trying to attract some attention to the route from the elite boulderers out there since the strongest sport climbers keep skipping this route. In any case, hopefully it will be repeated. It's a fascinating story of a route.
OffLine Jens Larssen
  2019-05-20 08:02:26    
@ Christian: I totally agree on what you say. Fred is 178 cm and there are many famous climbs that are chipped. I think the reason why it has not seen much traffic first of all come from it being very hard and that many did thought Fred was a liar at the beginning. It is also quite remote located.

8a has said that long boulders could be called boulder routes and be graded like 8Cc+. There are many boulders with like 20 or 30 moves like The Wheel of Life which has been graded both like a route 9a or like a boulder 8C.
OnLine rai
  2019-05-20 15:46:42    
Thanks Jens to bring this back to light. Angy Eiter has recently demostrated that you can "jump" to (few) 9a to 9b; always difficult to compare climbers between themselves and Fred to Angy, for obvious reasons; but at the time of the send, Fred was one of the few outstanding top performers (not looking to be under the spotlights), and I would really be pleased to see a second ascent there and maybe some justice there after a lot of hate...
OffLine bernd oman
  2019-05-22 14:05:39    
as far as i can remember (i‘m old enough) d. andrada tried the climb. not shure on this one.
i also recall, that fred did the moves in front of witnesses years after the ascent.
and he found some holds newly manufactured (?)
OffLine Sebastian Peace
  2019-05-23 23:29:26    
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OnLine rai
  2019-05-25 14:38:33    
Correct Bernd, Andrada and Tribout tried it, without success...