UKC

DNA 9c (?) by Seb BouinNewsflash

© Lena Drapella

French climber Seb Bouin has finally ticked his long-term project DNA at la Ramirole in the Verdon Gorge, France and has suggested the grade of 9c, making it potentially the second 9c in the world after Adam Ondra's Silence.

Seb Bouin on DNA, his hardest route at La Ramirole and potentially the second 9c in the world.  © Lena Drapella
Seb Bouin on DNA, his hardest route at La Ramirole and potentially the second 9c in the world.
© Lena Drapella

Seb bolted the line in 2019 after making the first ascent of La Rage d'Adam 9b/+ (UKC News).

"I wanted another challenge, something even harder. I told myself that I needed a route that was really above my level so I could push myself," he told his sponsor, Black Diamond. 

Having spent over ten years projecting and making first ascents at La Ramirole, Seb noticed that the steep crag offered potential for an especially hard line. He said:

"Looking closely at the wall, I saw that there was a line right in the middle, through the huge cave, in a section with few holds. I told myself I had to try, even if it might not work. When I put the bolts in, I could see some holds. But I really didn't know what to think. The overhang was so big. "

After nearly three years of effort and around 250 attempts, with solid sessions throughout 2021 and 2022, Seb finally ticked the route on his second trip this spring following a two-week consolidation period in April, where he reacquainted himself with the moves.

Perfect conditions arrived, but Seb felt tired and stressed. With low expectations, he attempted the line and surprised himself. He commented:

"At the start of the route, I felt like I was flying, with no fatigue. I was on autopilot without thinking, like a robot doing the same task hundreds of times. I arrived at the crux and stuck the holds. Incredible. But at the same time, I had to stay lucid and not fall on the last 8c+ section. 

"When I got to the top of the last hard part, I didn't quite understand, I had so many doubts, I was so afraid of the last moves for fear of falling. I was there, the DNA project was done. I spent so much time doing the same moves, falling dozens and dozens of times in the same place. It's still hard to realise."

Seb Bouin hangs out in DNA 9c (?).  © Lena Drapella
Seb Bouin hangs out in DNA 9c (?).
© Lena Drapella

DNA follows 8c climbing for five quickdraws before reaching a rest and an 8A boulder crux. Seb explained:

"It is a rather special bouldering move. You have to throw a right foot like in the modern bouldering competitions. Then you must propel yourself on a very, very far tufa. The physicality of the move makes it low percentage. It's really random."

Another boulder crux higher up weighs in at 8A+:

"This crux is really physical, with a left-hand pinch to hold in order to go to an undercling that often slips. This section is quite dependent on friction. The weather conditions play a big role."

A rest enables some recovery before an 8c+ section to finish.

Seb emphasised the quality of the line and its minimal environmental impact. He said:

"Finding and bolting a project like this right next to home is a future solution. No planes, not too much travel. It's one of the most beautiful lines in the world."

Regarding the difficulty, Seb has proposed 9c, but will share further thoughts in time. On Instagram, he wrote:

"It's the most challenging project I've ever done. It's the hardest route I've ever tried and climbed in my climbing career. This route marks a milestone in my climbing life. This line completes a series of other first ascents on the cliff of la Ramirole in Verdon. For the moment, none of these routes have been repeated. The question of grading doesn't feel so important right now for me, but it is inevitable. I spent a few nights thinking about it. I think this question requires a proper post which I'll do shortly to explain everything that weighed in the balance."

In Black Diamond's article, Seb explained that the line feels "really a step above" than Move 9b/+, or Bibliographie 9b+ (which he did not complete, but has come close to ticking), and that the spent more time on DNA than any other project. However, he also acknowledged that the route suits his style, which could add further justification for grading it 9c given his struggle. He told Black Diamond:

"Of course, proposing 9c is taking a risk. A risk to see the route downgraded.  As there is currently only one other route in the world proposed at a similar grade, it's hard to be sure and confident. I have never tried a similar route with a similar difficulty to DNA. 9c is my "proposition" for DNA, which now needs other climbers to give their consensus—to either confirm or adjust. This is the way for grading a route, the sum of the community's opinion makes the grade.  Our sport is beautiful, we don't need judges, we are the judges. It's beautiful, but at the same time quite hard in this kind of situation, at the very cutting edge."

"That's why I would love to invite the world's top climbers to come and give DNA a go," he concluded.

At 29, Seb is one of the most prolific first ascensionists in the world, adding DNA to a ticklist of over 60 climbs from 9a-9b/+, many of which remain unrepeated.


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5 May, 2022

Really hope the grade sticks.

About time Verdon was back in the world's conscience.

5 May, 2022

Man claims 9c FA based on a 9b/+ climb he could not complete.

6 May, 2022
Well you'd better downgrade Silence too then.

To Shani : - No, 9c

6 May, 2022

Time will tell if he’s graded it right, but there’s not many people better placed to grade hard routes. He’s done so many routes at the very top grades, repeats and first ascents and I think if anything has a reputation for grading stuff stiffly.

6 May, 2022

I think he made the second ascent of Move 9b/+.

The article says that he came close but hasn't repeated Alex Megos 9b+.

At least, that's how I read it.

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