/ NEWSFLASH: World's second Font 9A by Charles Albert

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UKC News - on 18 Jan 2019
Charles Albert working his problem No Kpote Only (9A)Charles Albert has climbed his project at Rocher Brule in Fontainebleau and given it a grade of Font 9A. French magazine Grimper broke the news in their latest issue and state that Charles named the problem No Kpote Only. This is only the second problem at the grade of 9A after Nalle Hukkataival climbed Burden of Dreams in 2016.

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USBRIT - on 18 Jan 2019
In reply to UKC News:

Way too exposed .

 

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C Witter on 18 Jan 2019
In reply to UKC News:

Cracking! Thanks for the video. Does the video show the complete problem, or only the attempt? I thought he was going to go further.

Also... I wonder if his feet are as callused as your average climber's hands? 

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remus - on 18 Jan 2019
In reply to C Witter:

Just an attempt. Where he falls off is about mid way through an 7C or 8A (depending on who you ask) that Charle's new line finishes up. 

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Nick Brown - UKC - on 18 Jan 2019
In reply to UKC News:

If you can bear to sit through the offensive music, this video shows the top of the boulder from about 12 minutes:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dG6xzlYepIo&feature=youtu.be&t=724

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HeMa on 18 Jan 2019
In reply to UKC News:

Charles has pretty good track record (numerous 8C's, both FAs and repeats, also outside 'Bleau )... but Nalle has a bit more extensive track record... and if I recall correctly, he took over 400 sessions (plus specific training). Now while I admid Charles is no n00b, his track record just isn't the same as Nalle's... and now to climb this grade in just 20 sessions (vs. 400)... well, at least he got some media attention... Let's just hope that some people now repeat this... I know that already quite a few strong lads have tried Burden (Webb, Woods, Timonov)... AFAIK not so much with the high end FAs from Charles (albeit, I do respect his tallent, and AFAIK he usually hasn't given many soft touches).

Edited to add, that 'Bleau does have a much longer season for hard climbing... I recall Nalle's words that he had like 10-20 sessions each spring & fall, so basically he had to "start" from scratch each spring/fall... in 'Bleau, the season is more like 50 to 80 per year, in a pretty much one "season" (compared to 20 to 40, split to 2 seasons per year)... so naturally this helps getting it done.

Post edited at 13:19
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Arms Cliff - on 18 Jan 2019
In reply to HeMa:

Maybe Charles is just better than Nalle so can do these things faster? He's climbed pretty much all of the hard problems in Font (and downclimbed some of them), and added the hardest, he lives there and rarely climbs elsewhere. 

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HeMa on 18 Jan 2019
In reply to Arms Cliff:

Like I said, he has mainly climbed in 'Bleau. But he has travelled and also climbed hard else where. So he is good... but that good...

He has a good track record up to 8C... But AFAIK the 8C+, not so much (few unrepeated FAs). So in order to really know if something is 9A... you should also have either climbed verified 8C+'s (atleast a few) or a have your 8C+'s verified by a few others with a good track record.

That said, I'm sure this is a hard one. And based on his climbing resume, it will be *atleast* 8C+. Time will tell.

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Arms Cliff - on 18 Jan 2019
In reply to HeMa:

Nalle spends his entire year jetsetting about, Charles rides his bicycle into the Forest, it’s unsurprising one has a more diverse ticklist! 

Post edited at 14:29
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AMorris - on 18 Jan 2019
In reply to Arms Cliff:

Maybe he is, but given their respective records, that would be difficult to defend. All I can say is that it's a very brave move from someone who has climbed 2 verified 8C's (at best) and no verified 8C+.

Post edited at 15:16
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Red Rover - on 18 Jan 2019
In reply to UKC News:

He climbed 9A in bare feet?

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HeMa on 18 Jan 2019
In reply to AMorris:

To be fair, I seem to recall Mr. Barefoot has been in Rockland and climbed Monkey Wedding. So does have more than few confirmed 8Cs ticked. 

https://www.climbing.com/videos/charles-albert-sends-monkey-wedding-v15-barefoot/

And most likely Atleast the assis to an established 8C he did, should be 8C+ (After all, well known problem, so If the assis had been trivial it would have been climbed eaons ago).

but can’t remember him tickin’ other well established 8C+s. After all, climbing one or two often means that you don’t have a good idea of the actual grade.

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AMorris - on 18 Jan 2019
In reply to HeMa:

> To be fair, I seem to recall Mr. Barefoot has been in Rockland and climbed Monkey Wedding. So does have more than few confirmed 8Cs ticked. 

His confirmed 8C's are difficult to number since he has done 4 problems he says are 8C, 2 of them are first ascents and one appears to be a direct version of an 8C+ which cannot be done without going barefoot (reputedly). As far as I can tell the only 8C he has done the original way and seems to have agreed with the grade is Monkey Wedding.

To me this is not more than a few, this is at most a few.

This is not me saying his grading should be treated with suspicion at all, but I do think he runs the risk of a swift downgrade by throwing up such a large grade in font with relatively little experience of even 8C, let alone 8C+. Not that I am particularly worried that will affect him whatsoever, and why should it.

Ondra, get on it and clear all this up for us you frizzy haired giraffe-esque mutant you.

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Vybz - on 18 Jan 2019
In reply to AMorris:

He has climbed alongside Nalle, Webb, Graham, and plenty of the other international wads. Maybe he burns them all off. At the very least he'll know where his ability lies with respect to theirs, that'll go some way to help him figure out FA grades.

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AMorris - on 18 Jan 2019
In reply to Vybz:

Maybe he does indeed burn them off. Everyone else seems to know something I don't apparently.

However given how much wads seem to deliberate over grading, I think it's fairly unlikely that that kind of convoluted logic will help come to a reasonable conclusion (let me make it clear that I do not believe that he uses this logic to grade).

He is a mutant and a wad, no doubt. But as I said, it would not suprise me if this finds a downgrade given his relative inexperience in the area of cutting edge grades.

Either way good on him, clearly the line is nails, I'll congratulate anyone on ticking anything they tried hard at.

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Fishmate - on 19 Jan 2019
In reply to AMorris:

Just to offer perspective, as we know, prior to Charles' 9A only Nalle has claimed that grade. According to 99Boulders, 11 people have done 8C+, 11 have done 8C/8C+ and 128 have done 8C.

That would suggest hardly anyone has the experience to offer a 9A grade. I guess we all can agree, time will tell. We should find out this year, I reckon

Well done Charles, amazing effort whatever the grade!

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kuweso - on 19 Jan 2019
In reply to UKC News:

Every (r)evolutionary highend-grading creates its own discussion. That happened to anybody from Ben to Chris, to Nalle and so it happens to Charles - quite natural within the game! I have to admit, that I always was a friend of grade-inflation, for the simple reason, that too restrictive grading ends in packing too much different routes into a too narrow range, finally leading to rubbish like "a very easy 8c" to "an extreme hard 8c", which in other words is nothing else but talking metaphorically about different degrees. But let's leave grading philosophies aside. Some critics are based on the small ticklist that Charles shows in the sensible range. May be that often quantity and quality are correlated, but there is no natural law in it. Just to refresh memory, I saw some vids about "Monkey Wedding", one of the most repeated and well confirmed 8c-boulders in the world - first two Russians and one Japonese, 8c bouldercracks all, proving by doing. But what Charles did on the same problem, evidently, is from a different league - that was the performance of a potential 9a climber, doing a relaxing sunday afternoon walk on that 8c stuff. No doubt, that he is one of, if not the most talented boulder-rookie at the moment and, even without considering his footwear, with an unrepeated style. So no doubt about his grading capacity. My advice: give him some credit, repeat his stuff or simply shut up! Congratulations, Charles, I'm deeply impressed!  

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AMorris - on 19 Jan 2019
In reply to kuweso:

> Every (r)evolutionary highend-grading creates its own discussion. That happened to anybody from Ben to Chris, to Nalle and so it happens to Charles - quite natural within the game!

> give him some credit, repeat his stuff or simply shut up!

I quite like the discussion and sharing of opinions, myself...

I agree with you in the sense that I am actually glad he dropped the 9 bomb on it. 8C and 8C+ are clearly enormously broad grades because people are scared of giving anything 9A and recieving a downgrade. One might wonder what the situation would be if everyone worked off 'V' grading rather than font, but I digress.

When I said it was a brave move, I wasn't being snarky, I meant that he is a brave guy for just sacking off all that ego-sandbagging/timorous grading shite and risking taking the downgrade by dropping such a big grade on a problem in a highly accessible area which he did so quickly (relatively) in comparison to how much time was spent on the other 9A.

Time will of course tell what grade it is to the majority working at those levels, but I am glad for the proposition either way.

FWIW I reckon the line looks shit. But it looks hard as nails so I like it.

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Zillas - on 19 Jan 2019
In reply to AMorris:

Yep. As if you had any idea of what you're talking about.

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AMorris - on 20 Jan 2019
In reply to Zillas:

As much as anyone else here, I would imagine.

You should provide your razor sharp insight more often, it's invaluable.

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Michael Gordon - on 20 Jan 2019
In reply to UKC News:

Cool video. And like most, I struggle to believe what I'm seeing from a climber in bare feet! Amazing.

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kuweso - on 21 Jan 2019
In reply to UKC News:

With a a little distance to my former post, I see another emerging problem, related to Charles' particular style. If he progresses in highend bouldering - and dued to his age, there is no doubt that he will do - there might be some splitting in the top scene in order to different styles. May be there are some problems, where an essential toe-hook is only possible in barefoot-style, because there is no way to hook with the toe-box of any current climbing shoe. Inverse situations are also possible, because some crimp might require the strength of a last generation climbing shoe. Finally that will lead to endless discussions about grading in order to the applied style: two shoes - one shoe - no shoe. In the whole climbing history there were some barefooters between the majority of shoe-climbers. But since Bernd Arnold and the starting Wolfgang Güllich and a couple of Pfalz-Climbers, Charles is the first possible pacemaker of general difficulty evolution with his minority style, even with the little difference, that in edging boulder problems "shoe or no shoe" is not only a matter of preferences, but can be a question like "to be or not to be" . I guess that this is only the beginning of weird future discussions. Poor Charles, the scene impact of La Sportiva won't be a big support in that struggle.

Post edited at 11:23
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HeMa on 21 Jan 2019
In reply to kuweso:

Charles isn't the only one doing it (at a high level)...

https://www.climbing.com/news/mason-earle-sends-multi-year-crack-project-near-moab/

And Ondra (plus quite a few other top end climbers) have used different shoes on different feet for their hard sends... So I do agree that this specialization will start to happen more and more in the future...

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AlanLittle - on 21 Jan 2019
In reply to kuweso:

The grade is the grade of the easiest solution* whatever that may be. If its easiest barefoot, fine. If somebody suddenly discovers that Spantiks sized down five sizes are the best thing ever for micro edges and does a 9A wearing those, also fine.

(*) using whatever qualifies as generally accepted gear at the time: kneepads, crack gloves, cans of worms ...

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kuweso - on 21 Jan 2019
In reply to HeMa:

I think you misunderstood my argument. Everybody applies what suits to him/her in order to complete the personal challenge. The problem is in the grading at topscene level, because on one hand the gradings convey possible top 10 (20, 30, etc.) lists of the hardest boulders elsewhere, on the other hand they form the personal tracklist of each climber. And there is the problem: which is the relevant grading version? - The Scarpa left, Sportiva right, the one shoe, one barefoot, the two shoes of the same brand or the pure barefoot style? Who is right (or at least more right)? The mixed gear climber, the regular shoe-climber  or the barefoot-climber? The first right to grade, I guess, is always the one of the climber who made the FA. But what's the truth after 4 or 5 reps in different styles? Not as easy as it looks! Of course you can defend the purest style of "(wo)man against rock" - barefoot! You also can defend that the climbing mainstream is shoe-climbing (two shoes of the same brand, of course). Both sound reasonable, but you also can argue in a semi-classic way, that the degree is defined by the easiest way to get up the track (any suitable gear, while the climbing style is "free"). Guidebooks and personal agendas will increase considerably to report that in a reliable way. Not so easy, as I told!

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kuweso - on 21 Jan 2019
In reply to AlanLittle:

Sorry Alan, I was still writing the other comment, while you posted yours. Of course a valid argument, but only one of the possibles. I guess, the discussion is just about to start.

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HeMa on 21 Jan 2019
In reply to kuweso:

His point is the baseline though...

A grade of a given route/problem is using the easiest method, with the allowed aids of that time (a'la kneepads, barefoot, tape or crack gloves).

 

If you climb a problem/route with wrong beta or equipment... it doesn't change the grade of the route problem, just that you made wrong choices...

 

So, you boulder up a F6a slab without hands... the problem is still only F6a, you just made it harder on yer self... Same thing, if you start an HVS offwidth armed with only micro-nuts... it'll prolly feel rather ballsy, but again with the right equipment it could even be a pleasent outing (as much as OW can be).

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kuweso - on 21 Jan 2019
In reply to HeMa:

Just imagine the following situation: Charles or some other barefooter sets up a clean no rest boulder in his style, calling it 8c+. Another crack comes along, takes the easy way of the sitstart with two shoes. After three moves, with his 8 ounce tape glove he hammers a fist like George Foreman into an offwidth slot, that the other one neither could use for a solid hold, takes off the first shoe, because the next section is way easier in one-shoe style, stepping up to a tufa-like structure, jamming his kneepad and taking off the second shoe, because for some reason the easiest way of the topout is barefooting. Back to the ground he degrades  the boulder to "easy 8b+", decorated with the message, that it's all question of the right gear at any moment. Brave new world and freeclimbing spirit at its top, isn't it? 

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HeMa on 21 Jan 2019
In reply to kuweso:

Yes, unfortunately that is the name of the game...

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Michael Gordon - on 21 Jan 2019
In reply to kuweso:

I think you are over complicating things. Surely it doesn't really matter what footwear you use as long as people judge it to be a free ascent? And as always, no matter how the FA climbs something, unless there is a very good reason otherwise the suggested grade stands until the climb is repeated and a consensus starts to emerge.

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john arran - on 21 Jan 2019
In reply to kuweso:

 Any route/problem is graded to reflect the chances of climbers operating around that standard getting up it. If barefoot is the only reasonably option for a particular problem, and most climbers are so unfamiliar with barefoot climbing they can't easily adapt, then it's a higher grade, simply because fewer folk are capable of getting up it. If barefoot climbing becale 'en vogue' then such a route might end up being downgraded, simply because a greater proportion of climbers would then - due to increased familiarity with barefoot technique and probably better toe strength - be able to get up it.

A similar thing happened in the 90s with the explosion of overhanging bouldering walls; all the fingery limestone 8b's got downgraded to 8a+. The opposite has probably happened with offwidths.

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kuweso - on 21 Jan 2019
In reply to Michael Gordon:

Of course I'm exagerating. But in more than 40 years in or close to the climbing scene there is no idiot discussion about grading, about style, about what is allowed and what not, about what no more or even not, which I didn't have to listen to (for certain: at any level from low class amateur to top climbers). As an - at most - advanced amateur, at a personal level I never had any ethic problem, because the only important person, that I could cheat, was myself. But top level climbing is nowadays, willing or unwilling, kind of a public spectacle, which claims for some clear orientation and may be only for the reason, that at least World War III won't start because of some grading and style differences. (I'm still exagerating, I know!)

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kuweso - on 21 Jan 2019
In reply to john arran:

I totally agree with the idea of acting around a certain standard and the influence which that might have on grading. But that will not resolve the problem of possible different perceptions of degree based on different styles/gears. First of all, I think, downgrading or upgrading is only valid within the same style. So a barefoot 8c will be a barefoot 8c until one or more other barefooters say that it seems to be only 8b+. The same to "shoe problems". All mixed forms in my opinion are non-styles, just tricks to tape a personal weakness at whatever the level might be.  Of course, anybody is free to use them just to tear down the beast, but without any license of grading. Sounds restrictive, but I think the only respectful way to treat the achievements of other climbers. In sportsclimbing nobody would give license to bolt a tradroute in order to enable an easy onsight, right?  And of course, nobody who ever made a trad ascent of a bolted route claimed for a higher grade because of the plus of energy and risk he had inverted.  

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HeMa on 22 Jan 2019
In reply to kuweso:

> First of all, I think, downgrading or upgrading is only valid within the same style. 

Yes, but barefoot is not considered a style as such (currently). It's a tool in the arsenal of the climber, same as with all kinds of different climbing shoes, taping up, and kneepads.

It's the problem that that has a grade (easiest way up it, using the tools deemed acceptable at the time).

So if I were to crimp and layback my way up The File (VS 4c), I could claim E2... after all, it's much harder that way.

Bare foot is a climbing 'style', just as jammin' or laybacking and crimping are... Now were I to climb the File barefooted as well... surely it would again get a different grade... Nope, doesn't work like that.

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AlanLittle - on 22 Jan 2019
In reply to kuweso:

HeMa is right. If Jimmy Webb comes along tomorrow, does it  and says it's 8C with shoes, then it's 8C and making it harder for oneself by doing it barefoot is just a party trick.

Not saying that will happen. And the opposite also applies: if it's harder with shoes those who choose not to use the optimum (lack of) equipment don't get to claim an extra grade

Post edited at 06:53
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Michael Gordon - on 22 Jan 2019
In reply to AlanLittle:

I would still go with consensus if it reflects the way a route/problem will usually be climbed. So if three people say one grade (regardless of higher or lower) and one says another grade after climbing it with different footwear, the standard thing for a guidebook would be to go with the majority. After all, the whole point in grades is to provide information for those who haven't yet done the climb.

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john arran - on 22 Jan 2019
In reply to Michael Gordon:

> I would still go with consensus if it reflects the way a route/problem will usually be climbed.

... which is a can of worms itself. With trad grades on one end of the scale and boulder grades on the other, grades try to reflect everything from 'will typically feel about x' to 'can be climbed at y'.

There's no one-size-fits-all solution without further information, or at least accepted convention.

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HeMa on 22 Jan 2019
In reply to john arran:

True, and at  the very top end level of boulders, attributes of the climbers start to play a major role.

Latest hard boulder (Sleepwalker) is a good example... Jimmy is a big lad and had the arm-span to do the crux move. Woods made the 2nd ascent, and while being smaller, he has a rather big wing span. Originally the project was Nalle's and since he doesn't have the reach, his sequence is harder (well, he hasn't climbed it yet).

But the grading is supposed to work on consensus... FA proposes, later repeats give their opinion and finally a consensus forms...  https://www.99boulders.com/hardest-boulder-problems sort of lists these (but he'll need to revise the material, hasn't been updated since 2018). How ever, this one is up to date, and gives better statistical material. http://www.hardclimbs.info/climbs?join_model=grade&sort_column=grades.rank&sort_direction=desc

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kuweso - on 22 Jan 2019
In reply to HeMa:

I think the main problem is, that there is no definition of style, when anything what is not fixed formerly in the route (bolt, nut, cliff and so one) is considered a lícit tool. Well, feet without shoes a tool? I think they are just part of the human body and so a priori natural part of the struggle "body against rock". Shoes are a tool, but as we don´t live in times before the stone age, they are also kind of a common "physical" standard, also acceptable in special forms for special reasons - in that way quite natural ("no tool"). Tape gloves, kneepads have a clear destination: avoiding harm. Up to this level anything allright. What I called  non-styles in another post is anything that creates some artificial advantage, leaving behind the idea of natural instinct like avoiding harm for instance. For better understanding: In modern times it's highly natural wearing a pair of shoes, but neither sandals on one and boots on the other nor one foot dressed and the other not. No problem, if Adam lifts up six different pairs of shoes to the portaledges of Dawn Wall, no problem when he dresses the one, that might fit better for the next pitch - but at least one pair for one pitch seems too me better style in the natural way than mixing wild shoe-cocktails in order to weird rock morphology. Decision and coherence is also a factor of quality. Using tape or kneepads to protect the hand or knee from injury sounds natural, but not for fitting to a special crack-width or inventing rests, that in "pure" way don´t exist. Just do satisfy personal ambitions, of course, anything fits, but any comparison should have a well-defined "tertium comparationis", at least in logics and sports and that's a human agreement. The rock itself might be anything, but not a referee in human affairs.

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Denislejeune - on 25 Jan 2019
In reply to UKC News:

Just so you know, in the interview Albert gave Grimper he also said he thinks 9b+ boulders (prompted by the journo) are out there and can be climbed. And if you read between the lines, you understand he's working on problems which he thinks are harder than 9a. So there.

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HeMa on 25 Jan 2019
In reply to Denislejeune:

That’s quite a statement, considering he hasn’t done all that many 8Cs and no one has repeated his proposed 8C+s.

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kuweso - on 25 Jan 2019
In reply to HeMa:

Of course, it's just a statement. For certain, he didn't say even that he will be the man who'll climb them. But the vision reminds me what I put into my first post here: Not only climbers evolve little by little, gradings have to do so, too. At the moment, we have some dozens of 8c problems, more or less confirmed, some with reps of skinny 15 year old girl-rookies, some of them set up by longrunning, experienced worldclass-boulderers, some without rep, some former 8c+ proposals, later on degraded, 3 or 4 confirmed and 3 or 4  unconfirmed 8c+, one resisting and one recent 9a - Looking at the numbers: Does that really seem a believable report of more than 15 years of constant bouldering evolution and mre than one generation relay or just reflects the individual insecurity within an also increasing competition spirit, ambitions, doubts, mutual critics, where nearly nobody dares to do the next step forward to get grading according to general and individual progress. So keeping a straight linear progression in grading, 9a should already exist, even 9a+ may be. All in all, 9b+ seems still far away, but not totally out of sight. Some revision is necessary to avoid that the bouldering 8c will not be the modern brother of the ancient alpine 6th degree, considering 6+ the end of human climbing evolution. The future will show.

 

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Martin Bagshaw - on 25 Jan 2019
In reply to kuweso:

I think one of your replies (at a glance on this thread) reminded me of this a little bit: http://steviehaston.blogspot.com/2010/03/my-bestest-route-cannabis-by-stevie.html

The guy climbed a boulder problem at the top end of what is humanly possible, barefoot! Does it matter if it is 8C+ or 9A?

Perhaps (judging from your previous response) bouldering grades are at the risk of stagnating (much like the defunct uk technical grade did)? I do know bugger all about bouldering though...

Post edited at 23:42
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L jaaneman - on 04 Feb 2019

"In this issue, the Charles Albert climbing UFO is honored for its success in the second 9A of the world, it is in any case the grade he proposes. The complete story of this historical achievement as well as an interview with him can be found exclusively in the pages of the magazine."

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