French climber Seb Bouin has made the first ascent of a new 130m route through the steep roof of Hanshelleren Cave in Flatanger, Norway. The new line links existing routes Nordic Plumber 8c and the second pitch of Thor's Hammer 9a+ and then up the final headwall to the summit of the cave. Seb linked the full line and climbed it in a single 130m pitch, giving it an overall grade of 9b/+ and naming it Nordic Marathon.
Adam Ondra had imagined a major link-up spanning the longest and steepest section of the cave, which inspired Seb to give it a try.
Seb commented in a press release: "When Adam told me about his project to cross over the cave, and go from the ground to the summit, I was immediately amazed by this idea. The main goal of my trip was to check out this monster link-up. The idea was big, really big. But it's definitely the kind of challenge which attracts me. The bigger it is, more motivated I am."
There are three possible start routes for this link-up, each offering a different grade: Nordic Plumber 8c, Thor's Hammer 9a, or Move 9b/+. After the chosen start, the link-up then follows a cruxy 9a+ (Pitch 2 of Thor's Hammer), with a redpoint crux at the end (at 80m).
Seb's ultimate goal is to climb it in the hardest possible combination, starting with Move 9b/+. He made four trips to Flatanger to make the second ascent of Move in 2019 (UKC News). Seb said:
"Imagine starting from this one and finishing by a cruxy 9a+. Wow! However, I knew this would be too hard for a single trip. So first I decided to start from the easiest line (Nordic Plumber 8c) in order to get an idea of the challenge, and to be psychologically ready for the end when I start trying the harder version."
After first working and completing the second (9a+) section by jumaring into it, Seb then started trying from the ground, attempting to link into it from Nordic Plumber. The 130m-long route was a true test of his world-leading endurance. He explained:
"Coming into the 9a+ with my arms already so pumped in the last crimpy crux after 80m of climbing was insane. I was falling there a few times and then falling on the previous cruxes as well. The sheer size of the route makes it hard mentally. You can have one go every two days. It's so much climbing in one intense burst that you simply can't give two goes in a day. Then if you want to be as fresh as possible, you need a rest day in between. So it was quite hard psychologically to only give it one burn every two days. The pressure felt so high in this last crux."
Seb also experienced "insane" rope drag issues. He added:
"Even if I had already switched ropes once during the route, I had to untie my knot and solo the last 5/10 metres (really easy climbing)."
This year, Seb has continued to operate at the highest levels of difficulty in sport climbing. In May, he climbed what is potentially only the second 9c in the world with his first ascent of DNA at La Ramirole in the Verdon Gorge, France (UKC News). One week ago, he made the third ascent of Change (P1) 9a+ (with kneepads), also at the Hanshelleren Cave.