Action Directe 9a by Buster Martin

11 October 2022

Buster Martin has done Action Directe (9a) in Frankenjura after projecting it for only five days. Wolfgang Güllich did the first ascent in 1991 and it is considered the first 9a in the world, although it was originally given the german XI grade which corresponded to 8c+/9a. Since Güllich's ascent better beta has been found and Buster comments. "Wolfgang's sequences look much harder, I didn’t even try.

As of today, Action Directe has been repeated 27 times, but it's only been climbed twice over the last three years. Another contender for the first 9a in the world is Ben Moon's HUBBLE (8c+) established in 1990, which some have thought merits the 9a grade including Buster who repeated it in 2020. (c) Hannes Huch and Buster's Insta about the actual send.

Can you tell us more about your ascent and the process? Did you use a replica etc?
I ruptured a pulley last year. The first part of my rehab involved lots open-handed grips, later when I was nearly back to full fitness I moved onto monos, to make sure I’d reconditioned myself and was prepared for whatever I might come up against. Then heading out to Cuenca and Margalef (lots of pockets) got me feeling really confident, a previous weakness of mine. I started to think about trying Action.

I headed out in June/July but it was too hot so I ended up climbing in Magic Wood and did my first 8B+, The Never Ending Story (8B+). The temps cooled and I got a couple of sessions in. It felt like it could have gone but I was slipping off a heel hook mid-way up the route. After a trip to Asia, where I traveled and did some training I returned in September and got it done, but only after a heartbreaker last move attempt.

Did you set up and follow any training plan?
(Buster is a training coach who runs online coaching through Kaizenclimbing. Here is and interesting Insta post about weight training on finger board. )
I can’t say I did any campusing on 1 finger! My training wasn't anything complicated, the challenging part is adjusting and making the training fit around rock climbing and the rest of my life. I used the fingerboard to prepare my fingers in a slow, heavy and controlled way. 3-finger drag and half crimp for shorter more intense hangs as well as some slightly less intense hangs on monos and pockets. After all this training I could add 20kg for a Beast maker 1 arm hang on 3 finger drag and 48kg for 2 arms hang on the monos.

The fingerboarding was good but climbing on pockets on the (training) board really tied things together and got me ready. More contact strength and pulling through on holds as well as learning to relax on scary monos. On the board I was doing some limit bouldering as well as some longer boulder problems and intervals for the specific power endurance. For reducing injury risk and body strength, weights were an important part of my training. Deadlifts for tension and the strength in my hips to throw them into the wall for the dyno. Bench press for keeping the shoulders strong for some of the wide and compressing moves.

For power: high velocity pull-ups at bodyweight for power in the arms, jump, and catch exercises for contact strength. This trained the two separately but to put things together and get specific coordination and for history's sake I used the Campus board! Ladders on 2 fingers and some big moves, even building up to 1-6-10.

Which in your opinion is harder Hubble or AD? You marked both as, "soft"?
That’s not something I’ve thought about too much. They are both different routes and I climbed them at different points in my climbing career with different fitness levels. I climbed Action because it’s action and Hubble because it’s hubble, both of them massively significant in their own right and sharing a similar place in history. I love the history, but do we really need to compare the biceps between Ben and the late Wolfgang Gullich? Biographie and la Rambla don't seem to be leveled up or compared so why should these two routes? The consensus for Hubble seems to be 9a, and whilst that may change the history books, I don't think that takes anything away from the iconic Action Direct. The Monos, the line, the beautiful setting and most importantly the legacy of Wolfgang and the way he pushed things forward in sport climbing and training. A true legend and a legendary route, the best I’ve done.

Why do you think this is only the third ascent in the last 3.5 years, while at the same time we have seen possibly 500 ascents of much less famous 9a's?
Frankenjura doesn't seem like the most trendy place anymore, known for a savage and specific style, where you have to work hard for your ascent. I’m sure if Action was somewhere busier with better weather such as Catalunya it would have had many more ascents.

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