No Pain No Gain 9a+ by Anak Verhoeven

© Sébastien Richard

Belgian climber Anak Verhoeven has made the First Female Ascent of Dani Fuertes' route No pain no gain (9a+), a 40-metre limestone route in Rodellar.

The 26-year-old first started working the route in late September, before returning to Spain earlier this month to get back on the route, refine her beta, and start making big links. She spent just eight days in total working the route before completing it.

Taking to instagram to break the news, Verhoeven said:

'I had an encouraging first send attempt in which I fell high up, right before coming out of the roof. Sending felt within reach. But then a weather change was predicted.

'The conditions were not ideal; but heavy air and no wind are still better than wet holds! So I went for my second redpoint try and felt solid … When I reached the end of the last crux, I fought to stay on and managed to keep going. A big rest brought relief and gave me the energy for the last tricky boulder. And then I clipped the chains. A few hours later it started raining. No pain, no gain, just before the rain'. 

Whilst Seb Bouin suggested a downgrade of No pain no gain to 9a after repeating the route in 2020, Verhoeven has said that, in her experience, the climb felt like 'solid 9a+':

'As a side note on the grade of No pain no gain: A hold broke out in the summer of 2020. According to some strong climbers (who knew the route before that happened), the crux is now harder that the hold is gone. I myself don't know how it was prior to the breaking, but the route seems to be a solid 9a+ now'.

In 2017, Verhoeven became the first woman to make the First Ascent of a 9a, with Sang Neuf 9a. Shortly after, she climbed an extension of the route, Sweet neuf (9a+), to become the second woman to climb 9a+ (or 5.15a), and the first woman to establish a route at the grade.

Before stepping away from the competition circuit to focus on rock, Verhoeven also had considerable World Cup success, winning a total of nineteen World Cup medals, three of which were gold.

With Verhoeven having now made sixteen ascents at 8c+/9a and harder, with multiple ascents at 9a+, it can only be a matter of time before we see her knocking on the door of 9b.

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