Innovative 9A tricks by Lorenzi


Thursday, 11 February

Simon Lorenzi just made the FA of Soudain Seul, aka The Big Island assis, 9A, in Fontainbleau after some 25 sessions. In the end, the Belgian had to come up with two innovations to ascend this boulder. First, he removed the heel hook rubber and put it on his stiffer shoes. Second, by taping a pocketbook onto his knee under his kneepad, this 168 cm tall guy increased the length of his leg in order to get full use of a kneebar.

Customizing shoes by carving out ridges for better heal hooking, or by adding rubber for better toe hooking, have been practiced before. There are also shoes on the market with small rubber heal hook hooks/ridges. The use of double or even triple kneepads has also occurred, but Lorenzi is possibly the first to use a book under his kneepad.

There have been comments that this practice should be called aid climbing. However, it seems like people are mostly impressed by the innovation. Apart from the 8a Practice and Ethics from 2002, there few written ethical rules in climbing - instead, the word is spread around. Over time, ethics have also changed - chalk, pre-placed quick draws and kneepads are examples of innovations that were condemned in the beginning. Even in competition climbing, there are few rules and nothing says you cannot squeeze a book under your kneepad if it helps you. The latest news in comps is that some athletes bring in a fan, which by the way Lorenzi also used.

The 8a ethics use the traffic light system, providing examples of "yellow flag" behaviours, which anyhow make the ascents legitimate. We do not think you can draw an exact line for what is ok or not, but by giving examples of "grey areas" we hope climbers will regulate themself. At the same time, whenever climbers are using some greyish tricks, it is essential that you come clean, for example by openly stating that "I had three carabiners pre-clipped". Other climbers can then be credited for doing it in a better style.

Lorenzi should be applauded for his honesty and for sharing his extended leg tricks. Being honest is the way forward, especially for top climbers, and he should be credited for having done the FA of Soudain Seul. In my book, I nevertheless give him a yellow card. I mean, if you start building up big hooks on your knees which could be used on underclings on kneebars, I would personally think it is not a valid ascent. I have discussed this with several climbers and many top climbers agree that Lorenzi's 9A is ok but that we should not push this technique further.

Paul Robinson: "I think it is OK. I mean there is plastic inside of climbing shoes to make it stiffer so why can't you put that on a knee pad. Seems like the same to me."

I have also been discussing it with Lorenzi who comes with the great news that there is a video coming out revealing all his tricks. "For me I think it's something smart and it doesn't change the use that you can do with it. If you change completely the form and you can grab something with it, is not the same game. It is like dry-tooling in this case. I used a spray that physiotherapists use for the taping on my leg. The book wasn't really thick, like 3 cm. I tried with a bigger one and it was unstable."

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