Simon Lorenzi has made the first ascent of the sit start to The Big Island at Coquibus Rumont in Fontainebleau, France, and has named it Soudain Seul. The project was an obvious challenge that started with Dave Graham's ascent of The Island (now considered 8B+) and then Vincent Pochon's The Big Island (8C) which added two obvious moves into the original. If the grade is confirmed, it would be the second Font 9A in the world.
Lorenzi began to think about the sit start to The Big Island after he made a quick ascent of the problem and was back in Fontainebleau two months afterwards, working the bottom section - an 8B in its own right and a very conditions dependant one. At 5ft5/168cm, Lorenzi is probably the shortest climber to have ticked The Big Island and for the sit start, he had to focus on stretching and use different beta for the upper section. He also used an unconventional technique of placing a book under a kneepad to help stiffen it and lengthen his leg, after previously attempting it with blocks of wood.
It took him six sessions to climb the 'complicated' lower section and at the end of the trip, he was ready to start attempting it from the start. After 8 days working it, he fell twice near the end. After this, it took him '15 sessions more of solving problems and find as many details as possible to reduce my energy [expenditure] in the first part.'
Right up until the day he climbed the problem, Lorenzi was finding new and intricate details that would help him. In total, it took him 25 sessions to complete the climb.
Below is a video of Dave Graham on the first ascent of The Island:
On the grade, Lorenzi has written this: 'I feel that it's somewhere between a hard 8C+ and 9A. I don't know if it's 9A/ V17 because I don't have enough experience to say and there is no other 9A in the style to compare. It seems that the other guys who tried it think more for the 9A/V17 grade but nobody really knows. After reflection, 9A/V17 looks to be the appropriate grade regarding where our sport is now. As always the time and the repetitions will tell us!'
Bouldering heavyweights Jimmy Webb and Jan Hojer have both seriously attempted the project in the past but ultimately, it was the Belgian competition climber who pipped them to the post.
As previously mentioned, if confirmed this would be the world's second Font 9A. The first was Nalle Hukkataival's Burden of Dreams in Lappnor which he climbed in 2016. Charles Albert suggested 9A for his problem No Kpote Only in Fontainebleau but subsequent climbers have suggested it may be nearer to 8C/+. As of this date, no suggested Font 9A has been confirmed.
Below is a video of Vincent Pochon on the first ascent of The Big Island: