9b to 9a logic for Akira (or even 8c+)


Sunday, 7 March

It is a well-known fact that vertical old-school climbs are often considered sandbagged by the modern generation, while the opposite is true for old steep climbs. As a matter of fact, most of the steep hardcore boulders from the early '00s have been, or are discussed to be, downgraded.

When Fred Rouhling put up the almost 15 meters roof Akira in 1995, he thought it was way harder than anything he had tried, so he graded it 9b. Several of the best at the time tried it but could not repeat it and some actually thought Rouhling had lied. Last November, Lucien Martinez and Seb Bouin made the first repeats quickly and, although not using a knee pad, suggest 9a for it. 8a have talked to all three involved and they agree on this explanation of why Akira went from 9b to 9a, and could possibly be even 8c+ with knee pads.

1. Less roof and core training
Back in 1995, Fred had little possibilities to train roofs and his core as such challenges almost did not exist. Today, the new generation trains on roofs and their core almost every session. Lifting up your feet in roofs and climbing feet first is a natural part of the game for many years now.

2. Scary due to stones, no crash pad or spotters
When Fred trained and later did Akira, the cave was full of stones on the ground, he had no crash pads and no spotters. Climbing with toe and heel hooking was dangerous, and in a video recorded in 2006 we can see that Fred climbs mainly footless, swinging around in a monkey style. In the Seb Bouin training video, we can see that the ground is flat, and that he has a tentative spotter and several crash pads.

3. Old shoes performing worse on toe- and heel hooking
Fred was climbing in some old EB's, which compared to modern shoes had less rubber on the toes and a less-developed heel hook box.

In sum, the modern style creates many different and better sequences and resting positions. Where Seb and Lucien are resting or going feet first, Fred was often desperate hanging around. Sure, Seb and Lucien did also have to use some moves monkey style without using their feet but immediately after they put up his shoes and started to rest. Another possible explanation could be that holds have broken and gotten bigger, which Fred originally suggested. Note also that none of the repeaters used knee pads and that the route could possibly be 8c+ with them. In any case, history shows that Fred was ahead of his time and his other hard FAs of the time have all been confirmed. It seems logical that he graded his hardest, by far, as a 9b in 1995 and that it became 9a in 2020. See also the 8a grading theory from 2005, that confirms this logic:

"Many years ago, climbing activities took place on vertical trad routes giving climbers certain abilities to succeed and grade these routes. Today, on the opposite, most training occurs in steep indoor gyms giving other prevailing skills for climbers. This has changed the community's time/success ratio on a different type of route/boulders, and grades have to be changed. In practice, this means that some steep old routes should be in the risk-zone of being downgraded."

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