After taking week to enjoy the ascent, Jakob Schubert has voiced his opinion on the grade of Project Big.
Describing the route, which he has renamed B.I.G (9c), as his 'most important ascent so far', Jakob told his instagram followers that the route, in his opinion, deserved the grade of 9c.
In grading the route 9c, Jakob joins Adam Ondra and Seb Bouin as the one of just three people to have climbed 9c. All three of the world's 9c routes, Silence (9c), DNA (9c), and B.I.G (9c) remain unrepeated.
'Took me a while to sort out my thoughts about my most important ascent so far', Jakob said on instagram, 'I'd like to start with a huge shoutout to Adam Ondra for bolting this incredible line and inviting me to try it with him. It was such a cool process, and in the end it does feel like a team ascent to me, since we helped each other so much and figured out the route much quicker that way'.
'I'd have never been able to send this beast without you, Adam, and fully appreciate the effort that goes into finding and bolting such a king line. Without a doubt, B.I.G is 5 stars and I can't wait for more people to try it!'
'When we started trying this route last year, I initially thought it could very easily be 9c, but after making a lot of progress very quickly and feeling pretty close on it after two weeks already, Adam and me both were pretty confident it would be 9b+'.
'But, somehow, we tried a lot more and didn't make much progress, and in hindsight I don't even think we were actually that close, because we were mostly struggling to stick the crux move and believed [that we would] be in for the send once that happens. Knowing how my attempts unfolded this season puts things into a different perspective, as I stuck that move four times without sending'.
'My reference for 9b+ is Perfecto Mundo which I sent in about three weeks of work, and which felt way easier to me than B.I.G. The only other guy who tried B.I.G. a lot is Adam, and I'm happy he shared all his opinions with me which definitely helped me draw my conclusions'.
'I felt at a point where I had found the most efficient way possible for me, the whole route was worked out perfectly, and I didn't see any room for improvement. So all that it came down to was my physical & mental shape which I think are very good right now. Given the current information that I have, and considering Adam's opinion, it feels right to propose 9c and I'm looking forward to seeing what time will tell'.
'Anyways, the one thing I know for sure is that it will always be one of my most memorable ascents'.
Jakob shared further thoughts on his thecrag profile, where he said 'B.I.G feels so strange to grade because it really doesn't feel that bad if you try just the moves. The crux is an 8a+ boulder problem and by now I have it dialled so well that I can do it easily even multiple times in a row. But because of the very powerful style of the boulder, it's way more difficult to do it after 80+ moves of climbing'.
'While in my eyes the range for grades up to 9b seem to have settled due to the amount of routes and ascents, this doesn't yet seem the case for 9b+ and 9c, where the possibilities for comparison are still very limited'.
'There are not even ten climbers that claim to have sent 9b+, and the total of routes graded 9b+ or harder is still below fifteen, most of which are yet to see repeats. This makes it obvious that confines for both 9b+ and 9c are still blurry and will develop over time and through ascents and shared opinions'.
Those shared opinions may not be too far away.
Two years ago the world had one 9c, Silence, and nobody was trying it. Now, however, we are in the midst of a new era where there are not only multiple routes at 9c, but every one of them has been tried, or is being projected, by the world's best climbers.
Stefano Ghisolfi, who showed a detailed understanding of B.I.G when he commentated on Jakob's fourth livestreamed redpoint attempt, has spent multiple seasons projecting Adam Ondra's Silence, and has worked out his own beta for the route's most challenging section. Seb Bouin made a recent ascent of Move Hard (9b), which he said could also be called 'Silence Easy', since it shares so much of the same climbing. Both Adam and Stefano made ascents of Move Hard whilst projecting Silence.
The world's second 9c, DNA, was climbed by Seb Bouin in 2022, and has seen perhaps the least attention of the three routes. However, Jakob visited the route earlier this year and managed to do all the moves within two days. Moreover, the route has surprisingly similar features to B.I.G - both feature a relatively 'easy' 8A+ boulder problem crux, both feature a long but much easier upper section, and the real challenge for both is stamina. Having won lead and combined gold in Bern just a month ago, as well as establishing the world's third 9c in B.I.G, Jakob appears to be in the form of his life, and DNA certainly seems to be a climb where his 'Project Big' fitness would serve him well.
Finally B.I.G itself. Whilst the route has barely been established for a week, it may yet be the first route to receive a repeat, with both Adam Ondra and Seb Bouin having dedicated time to the route whilst it was still a project. Adam looked close to sticking the crux move when he was last in Flatanger, but as we have since learned from Jakob, getting through that move doesn't necessarily mean that the route is over, so it's hard to know just how close Adam is. Whilst Stefano has had Silence as his main Flatanger focus for some time now, it hasn't stopped him from sneaking off to do 9b 'side projects' like Move Hard. Whilst I suspect he's too focused on Silence to give B.I.G any serious attempts, it wouldn't surprise me if he spent some time on the route working out beta for future seasons.