Action Directe 9a by Buster Martin

© Hannes Huch

Buster Martin has made the first British ascent of the historic Action Directe (9a) at Waldkopf in the Frankenjura, Germany. He ticked the line in just four sessions over two separate trips this year.

Buster Martin holds the swing on Action Directe 9a.   © Hannes Huch
Buster Martin holds the swing on Action Directe 9a.
© Hannes Huch

The line, first climbed in 1991 by Wolfgang Güllich, involves dynamic climbing between mono pockets and two-finger pockets on steep ground, with five bolts of intense climbing in around eleven to sixteen moves.

Güllich used innovative training techniques in preparation for the route, including plyometric work on his big invention of the time: the campus board.

Action Directe is generally regarded as the world's first 9a. Thirty years since the route's first ascent, it has only had just under thirty ascents overall (twenty-nine, with two disputed). 

Buster joins a very small and elite club alongside Alex Megos as the only climbers to have ticked both contenders for the 'world's first 9a' title: Hubble 9a at Raven Tor (originally graded 8c+ in 1990, but later upgraded to 9a) and Action Directe.

We sent Buster some questions about his training and working process on this iconic line.

You've been travelling recently. Where did you go and what did you do/climb? Did you feel well-prepared for Frankenjura?

I was in Asia for most of August until mid-September. I did some sport climbing on the beach in Thailand, deep water soloing, and multi-pitch towers straight out of the Andaman sea— a beautiful place with very welcoming people. I then spent three weeks in Indonesia, mostly to explore a cool place and do something different, but I also used this time to train.

We'd do trips for 1-3 days then come back to base for some training, although my fingerboard came everywhere with me. It might not seem like the perfect prep, but I got some very productive training done. I coach climbers remotely for a living and the crux of this is often helping people find training plans that work around busy lives and that are practical; usually, the training part is pretty basic.

So it was great to take all the inspiration from the climbers I work with and things I've learned and apply that to my own training and find something that worked in a slightly unconventional situation. I returned feeling much more comfortable and confident on pockets.

It's obviously an iconic line.....but why and when did you start seriously wanting to give it a go?

I'd wanted to try it for years but it was never on my radar as I was useless on pockets, but after having spent some time on the pockety routes of Cuenca and Margalef. I realised I'd built some strength and confidence and my thoughts turned to Action. 

What were your first attempts like on it?

The first attempt went well, I did all the moves other than the jump, which I didn't try. Next I had a surprise redpoint go when I made it through the jump first go! It was all very exciting just being there.

I had some good goes on those first two days in July and felt strong on the route, but I was getting shut down by a heel, the temperatures got hot and I decided to leave it until autumn. My sights were well and truly set after that.

Buster Martin on the steep, pocketed barrel of Action Directe 9a.   © Hannes Huch
Buster Martin on the steep, pocketed barrel of Action Directe 9a.
© Hannes Huch

How long have you been in the Frankenjura on this latest trip and what else have you ticked?

I've been in the Jura for a couple of weeks and sadly much of that time has been spent resting, waiting for my skin to grow back after I got a nasty flapper on my first session back. It's also been raining a lot. Luckily years of climbing in the UK has given me some patience in this department. I've still climbed a few classics. Chasin' the Trane (Helmut Albrecht Gedenkweg) (7c) and Hitchhike the Plane (7c+), two cool 7c+s which felt pretty desperate on the onsight with my 90 seconds of endurance. I also climbed Pain Makes Me Stronger, Every Day 8c+ in a few goes, a classic Jura micro route.

Did you train specifically for Frankenjura pockets/the route itself?

Yes, I trained very specifically for a short block when I was in Bali, although I was a bit unsure if I could make my training work as there is not much climbing there. So, I put a message out on Instagram, knowing that there must be a dedicated climber based there with a board. Fortunately, Mike Weeks and I connected and he massively helped me to accommodate my training. He has a great home wall in Bali and even had some pockets hand-made for me. 

How was the jump for you?

I never fell from the jump, as this type of move is something I'm really into. Although, on my first session back this autumn I gave myself a very deep flapper from the mono, meaning that trying it more was pretty much impossible. It seemed like a little cut but it hurt a lot, that sharp nervy sort of pain. Feeling confident about doing the route, I was happy to let myself heal and wait it out. 

Arriving back on Tuesday, the day of the send, the route was still wet. I gave it a quick pat down and it seemed OK. Back on the redpoint, I put my finger in the mono to set up for the jump….no chance. I switched it out for the ring finger—desperate, but I did it! 

Working it and most of my redpoints had felt pretty steady until I slipped off the heel. The actual ascent was a proper battle….using my ring finger for the jump, only two fingers rather than three on the next hold due to wetness, and then the following hold was totally unusable, so I switched the beta up on the fly. 

On the top section of the route where my heel slipped, I held the swing shocking technique, then fumbled the next two-finger pocket, only getting one finger in, moving through by the skin of my teeth, or the sharpness of the rock just keeping me on. The second-to-last foothold was also totally wet, but I was in full fight mode by then and I made it over the ledge slightly confused and amazed at what had just happened. It was nearly as desperate as my onsight of Hitchhike the Plane!

What's next for you?

I'm really psyched for historical sport climbing, so I'd like to do a bit more around here before heading to Ticino. 

Watch Buster's progress on the route leading up to the ascent via his Instagram clips:

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Buster Martin is only the second Brit to tick a confirmed 9a+, with his ascent of First Ley in November 2019. In 2018, he redpointed Rainshadow 9a not long after taking a 4-year break from climbing. He is the first brit...

Buster's Athlete Page 12 posts 3 videos

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12 Oct, 2022


Thoughts on first 9a in the world

Come onnnn it’s the juicy goss we were all looking for!?!?

I believe Natalie asked him shortly after he sent his answers across, so bear with - hopefully we’ll have an answer shortly.

Funnily enough we did broach the issue within this week’s Ticklist, which is coming out tomorrow, although most of what I say is both speculation and conjecture (which some may say is simply business as usual) 😅

12 Oct, 2022

Great news! Come on Buster don’t disappoint - don’t hold back! I want the juiciest answer going!

13 Oct, 2022

Yes Robbooooo conject and speculate 🤓 Rip the first 9a out of Franken and thrust it rightfully home into lovely Stoney for all eternity. The German climbing scene will wail and thrash and sup mournfully on a hefeweizen as nobody ever goes to Franken again and Ondra officially downgrades the whole country to 8c+ (soft). Ben will be given a knighthood but turn it down at the last moment whilst chucking chalk over the king and will dance off to France with Jerry who will have been secretly training for this moment so they can tick the Bombé Bleu (Project) in yoyo style and recrown Buoux as the most famous sport destination in France. Dave Mac will nod graciously and never leave Scotland again. 🙏

13 Oct, 2022

Call me pedantic but surely if "The line, first climbed in generally regarded as the world's first 9a."


"Hubble 9a at Raven Tor (originally graded 8c+ in 1990, but later upgraded to 9a)"

then isn't Hubble clearly the world's first 9a?

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