Interview: Seb Bouin on his 430ft cave route and the future of endurance climbing – Climbing Magazine | Region & Cash

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Last week in Flatanger, Norway, Seb Bouin set up what may be the longest single pitch of hard rock climbing ever accomplished. At 430 feet long, its route, Nordic marathon (5.15b/c), is the first of the Flatangers epic hard cave routes to get from the deepest bottom of the cave to the true top of the wall. He says it’s unlikely it will be the last time.

Climb caught up with Bouin to talk about his journey, route and plans for tougher connections. Does 5.16a exist? Does 5.16b work?

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Seb Bouin climbs new 5.15b/c in a whopping 430ft pitch


Climb: How works Nordic marathon break down?

Bouin: There’s about 80 meters of roof climb – not really a roof, but almost – but the route follows the ground so you’re only about 20 meters off the ground up to the front wall where the last 40 or 50 meters are vertical. The rope technique is the same as in Be silent [Adam Ondra’s 5.15d] and Move [5.15b/c]. You lower the rope once [pulling the rope through the draw, you lower a bite down to your belayer, who has run up the hill to belay from higher up] and then change the ropes once [untie from the rope and clip into a new one that has been left waiting at the midway anchor].

The route shares the same start as Be silent. They do the same 8b [5.13d] up to a good knee bar. From there it continues into a good crack then up a sloping rail to the first anchor Nordic plumber. You can rest almost anywhere, but it drains your energy, so it’s best to move as quickly as possible. In the Nordic Plummer Anker lets you rest, but it’s definitely not very good. There is no knee bar or anything like that. You just have good grips and good feet, but you’re still on your arms. And you need to untie your knot and hook a new rope here, which takes some time. The degree would change if you had a good no-hands-rest kneebar and could start really fresh from that anchor. But this is not possible.

Climb: What is that second pitch? Thor’s hammer (5.15a) how?

Bouin: The first crux after the anchor of Nordic plumber is a 7C or 7C+ boulder problem [V9 or V10]. They’re in the roof, with two crimps and a left toe hook. You grab a bad sloper and then jump to a jug with your left hand. You need a lot of body tension for this because you don’t have a foot, only the toe hook. If you are fresh and excited, you can reach the pitcher. But if you lose tension, if your ass sags, you won’t reach it. The next crux is also 7C or 7C+, but it’s a whole different style. You’re in a crooked corner and it’s a tricky kneebar wrench. A very strange crux. Any mistake and you’re in the harness. The last crux is on the lip at about 8A [V11]. But it’s hard to rate. It might be a little easier on the ground, but you’re already climbing 80 meters on the roof. There’s one big step to becoming a sloper; It’s a long, explosive move, very risky, and I fell the whole time there. Then you have a heel hook and some crimps that are hard to grab when pumped up. Once on the lip you can just enjoy the last 45-50 meters which is like 7b maybe 7c [5.12 or 5.12+].

The difficult thing is the combination. If you had the 9a+ [5.15a] before the 8c [5.14b]you would never have a grade of 9b/9b+ [5.15b/c], because the 8c tires and makes the crux of the 9a+ very hard. Adam Ondra tried this line [Nordic Marathon] after he did it Be silent. He made the second pitch of Thor’s hammer first, then tried from the ground. At the first key point of the 9a + he fell because of his endurance. And after that you still have the second key point and the third key point.

Climb: How long were you on the wall during your show?

Bouin: I think it was about 45 minutes. Which is not that long considering the length of the route. But the perception of time is very different when you’re climbing hard than when you’re just sitting on the ground. Imagine you are climbing a boulder – it may only take 30 seconds, but during those 30 seconds you are making an effort and it feels longer. While 45 minutes isn’t generally a long time, 45 minutes feels long when you’re climbing hard.

Climb: What about the other launches?

Bouin: You can start from Nordic Plummerbut you can also start from Magnus Mitbø’s original route, Thor’s hammeror you can start with Move. away Move would be a really big challenge. Imagine: you would replace an 8c start with a 9b or 9b+. And I personally think Move is more like 9b+. It took me four trips to do this. So to repeat Move and then to do a 9a+ – that would be crazy. It would be a next step. Another perseverance step.

Climb: Do you think that brings 9c+ [5.16a] or even 10a [5.16b]?

Bouin: No no I think it would be 9c [5.15d]. Maybe hard 9c. For a 10a you could start with that Be silent. This link is there too. But I don’t think anyone wants to broadcast Be silent and then fall after. Because after that Be silent You would probably have to do the hardest part of it Move and then the second pitch of Thor’s hammer. So it’s crazy. Definitely crazy. But I think maybe 10a exists!

Climb: I’ve heard that at the very end of the route you detach from the rope entirely to reduce rope drag.

Bouin: Yes. So I actually bolted the end of the route. When Adam tried [in 2017], it ended just above the edge of the cave, on the vertical wall. We thought the idea of ​​going to the top was very cool, from the ground, traversing the cave and going up. If you know Flatanger and know the style of the cave it’s pretty cool to start from the cave and go all the way to the top. If you didn’t know anything about the rock, you would look at the line from the ground and think, “Wow. no This is totally insane. I’ll never make it.” But once I knew the crag and the style and the knee bars and how to take the rope down, I thought, ‘Yeah, it’s possible.’ ”

So I bolted the vertical wall – about 50 meters. But I only put six screws in, plus the one that was already there. When I sent the route it was wet and with a bolt every ten meters I was like, ‘Oh I’m so dumb I should have used more bolts.’ But the last five or ten meters were really dry and really easy . Like French 5th class [which ranges from 5.7 to 5.9]. And the rope resistance was so intense it weighed about 40 kilos, so I just untied the knot and it was done. But it was over. Falling almost impossible. And then you stand at the top and the view is beautiful and you have to go down without shoes.

Interview: How Seb Bouin sent the hardest note in the world

Climb: With a route as big as Nordic marathon, you only tried once every two days. Did you climb anything else or was that it?

Bouin: no I was just warming up doing the cruxes just to remember them and warm up the body. And then I would try. And then it was over. Of course I could climb more, but not if I wanted to be fresh for another attempt two days later.

Climb: How was it mentally falling at the top?

Bouin: The first attempts were ok. I wasn’t under any pressure. It was super fun to climb and I was just happy to have gotten to this point. But at some point you’re like, “I’d love to do the route,” and when you climb that long and you reach the last crux and then you fall, you’re like, “Oh no.” With each attempt, the pressure increased. In the end I got a bit lucky. Good conditions. Good figure. I could easily have spent another two weeks climbing. A problem with this type of route is that you need body tension and strength, but it goes down slowly by climbing the route. You need the strength to get through the key passages, but day by day your strength wanes and your stamina increases.

Climb: So have you Iron Curtain (originally rated 9b) and the first pitch of change (9a+) on this trip.

Bouin: Yes. I actually belayed Adam for the first ascent of Iron Curtain in 2013. So it was cool. But I used knee pads and with knee pads the crux changed. Adam got a 9a [5.14d] Route into an 8b [V13] Boulder problem, more or less. I did the same 9a but the way I did the boulder was 7c+ or 8a. Still pretty hard, but not the wild movement Adam did. So I think 9a+ with knee pads is more appropriate.

Actually I was quite surprised change because I always thought this pitch wasn’t for me. I found it too bouldering, too weird, too bad for the shoulder. But then Alex Rohr tried the first pitch and I thought maybe I should try his beta. For the first pitch there is a small crux before the main crux, then a small crux after the main crux. I flashed Crux One. Then the main key point which I flashed from the knee bar. And I also flashed the last key point. So I thought, “Oh, maybe I should try the route.” On my fourth try, I passed the crux but had trouble clipping and had to stop. So I changed my beta and then went the route on the eighth try. So it was pretty good. My goal will be to send the second pitch to the end of the journey – and then make a few attempts for the entire route. The second pitch is 9a, so I think I can do it if I can handle it. But we are leaving at the end of July which is soon so I don’t know if I will have time.

Climb: But will you come back?

Bouin: I’ll be back for Move integrallyMove to the second pitch of Thor’s hammer-and change for sure.

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