As my latest publications apparently again caused heavy critics in parts of the online climbing community, I was pleased by Jens Larssen to give some more credits. Here they are…
(The following is an excerpt from an email to Jens Larssen from 8a.nu.)
Meiose have been the first real downgrading proposal of my life, whereas e.g. my first 8c in Kochel from 2005 – the Soft Parade – has been upgraded to 8c+ because no one finds any holds in there (letting aside all of my hard routes and boulders that haven’t ever been tried seriously by others after the first glimpse). Another grade-irritation has only been temporarily, when in 2013 Adam clipped the anchor of Torture physique 2.0 (my FA) in the Gastlosen in CH from too far below at first (feeling it a little easier), but like this skipped the crux (it wasn’t me who set the chain) and then – when he know how I had climbed it – confirmed the grade. He confirmed as well Chromosome Y (my FA, too) in Charmey in 2014 flashing it and confirmed the grade of all of my earlier 9a-repititions Jungle Speed, A muerte and Cabane au Canada. All of them took me less work than my 9a FAs of these years as Force du rapport in Charmey.
The problem in Switzerland was, that there are actually no climbers of this level besides Alex Rohr who repeated Chromosome Y last year, scoring it 9a and saying in some ITW he could imagine 8c+/9a as well. My hard boulders at Cousimbert have been tried a little by some strong guys climbing up to 8B boulder, but none of them could even imagine to repeat (or do the single moves of) an 8A+ or 8B there. And the 8Cs took me often five to ten times more work under steady progress. The bouldering up there fits very much my style (grippy crimps, mini feet, wall climbing,…) and all repetitions of this time (around 2015) e.g. in Targassonne and Wallis felt much easier to me and worked out way faster (despite being much less my style).
Since I have kids I climb very locally, driving as few as possible due to time and environmental reasons. Siurana this year was my first rope climbing trip in Europe since 2011. In around 20 tries I came really close to Via de la Capella (linking it several times without the first four moves and falling on the fore last hard move coming from below), but with an amygdalitis, one week of antibios and a big cut in the end, time became too short until I had to look after my kids at home again. I would never think about giving 9b to a route that works out so well after so few tries. (The link of Fagus Magus I am working at the moment took me already up to 50 tries and I still will have to work it more.)
All the FAs of South America logically haven’t been tried, yet (besides Azul es el cielo de los ciegos in Piedra Parada that everyone finds pretty hard), as they are situated on 4000m and in a very harsh climate and thus need at least one month on nonspecific preparation to these very special conditions (time that only few elite climbers have). They are surely among the only 9a in the world the young very strong ones can’t do on sight or in two tries by passing by a day or two. (They rather risk an edema.)
This season now I repeated three 9a (as there are more close by in Germany as there were in CH). One of them easier, but despite the fact that Big Hammer apparently had been downgraded before officially, not even Google knows anything about it (thus by the large majority of all climbers it has been taken and sold as 9a). I invested some ten tries in two of these lines in 2016 but since the Altiplano trip only had to return 15-20 times (tries) to send the three of them (five tries for Big Hammer, six for Walk the Plank). In comparison my two 9a FA of this year (Fagus Magus and Home to Africa) took me more than a 100 tries before the Altiplano trip and more than 30 since then.
In general, for every new FA in the 9th grade by today I can pick a quotation from a range of three half grades (three plus grades). Either I stick to what most of the 9a scores in the world are like: the typical Spanish 9a where you rarely find any 8th grade boulder in there and that have suffered a perhaps 20% to 30% inflation over the last 15 years. Or you give 9a only when it meets the standard of more traditional spots like Céüse, the classic lines in Frankenjura, most of the stuff in the German speaking part of Switzerland or the bone hard FAs of Toni Lamprecht in Kochel (Nangiljana, formerly 8c, e.g. is definitely harder than 50% of all 9a scores in the world – I bet my right hand for it). Or you stick to the new understatement of the really strong ones (Meiose with a no hand knee bar, no one can place, (“rather easy 9a+”) as a reference point), that means about a 50% deflation. But then you have to downgrade 97% of all routes in the world – or you declare the grade 9a as the dead end for 95% of the climbers arriving there. As to preserve the existing quotations the grade 9a has to become quasi boundless, covering everything in between e.g. Jungle Speed (one 8A+/8B crux, a really good rest point and 7b+ to finish) and well Meiose (one 8A+/8B crux, no rest at all – even when you free both hands for two seconds this doesn’t become a real rest, and directly another 8A+/8B crux, to be finished in 7b+). I think every real climber can imagine the exponential potential that lies in linking two times the same difficulty without resting compared to only one time.
And to repeat that I am really not alone not sticking to this maximum understatement grading (MUG) just this example of Via de la Capella (without naming anyone): A guy that can climb pretty much every style on the same level sends a route in nine full days of work, giving it lower end 9b. Then goes to Andalusia, repeats 9b(/9b+) there in five tries, does not downgrade it. Normally – due to the golden rule of the french scale – in between five tries and about 40 tries (of steady progress) should lie at least three plus grades (9a vs. 9b+). (Check it for yourself in the 6th, 7th, or 8th grade – it comes pretty close.) Now this lower end 9b being about three half grades harder than a not downgraded 9b/9b+ is being tried by some of the strongest climbers in the world (rather top three, than top 20). The first boulder of the 9b is considered 8A+ by the first ascender, but no one has ever done just the single moves of it until today. It has been replaced by a much easier variant more to the right that lowers the difficulty of this first crux by at least two half grades, maybe three (I could to the whole first part second try on the new beta). In the upper part breaks a hold that affects the difficulty by one slash grade (quarter grade) or perhaps one half grade. Like this it gets repeated twice by climbers who are not at all suspicious of overrating routes – but in the same time is confirmed in it’s grade: 9b.
How can this be?
There must be others who don’t “obey” to the MUG ideas – clearly without saying it loudly.
I am not sure if Via de la Capella, the way it is climbed today, would fit into the grade 9a+. There are surely some 9a MUG FAs that are as hard or even harder – I think of Transciption in Charmey where you need extremely thick first finger digits to lock off the crux holds and that would cost me at least as much work as Via de la Capella.
I totally understand the self named critics of the climbing world to focus on someone comparatively unknown to unload their frustration, but let me assure you that for all of you making holidays in the Aegean, or in Turkey, Iberia or as well in younger spots and crags in middle Europe, your frustration would even grow much deeper when your hard worked first 7a or 8a would be “regraded” to 6c or 7b+.
The only way of fighting this frustration is getting a better climber! And as only professionals can train 30h to 40h per week, all the others have to find more efficient ways. This is where I am specialized in and about what I offer workshops. Thus come and have a look!