Seb Bouin Climbs “Change” & Gives His Grade

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Seb Bouin has sent “Change”, marking only the third time this route has ever been climbed. The Adam Ondra route was the first 9b+ / 5.15c in the world, originally climbed ten years ago in 2012.

On August the 8th Seb managed to complete both pitches of the huge cave problem. He did it with kneepads (like Stefano Ghisolfi did previously) and had a lot to say about the grading.

Seb had broken the route up and worked on the different pitches, managing to send each separately beforehand. To link the two requires a lot of stamina but does have a few places where a knee-bar leads to hands off rests, meaning a climber can shake out for a few minutes.

One interesting part of the route is that at the changeover in pitches, climbers girth hitch the rope into a bolt(without weighting it), the belayer unclips from it, then the climber pulls through the rope entirely and gets put back on belay. That stops the need for a super-long rope and the rope drag that occurs.

Take a look at Adam doing it on the route below at 4:20. Stefano Ghisolfi did a similar thing on his ascent in this video.

Adam Ondra on “Change” 9b+ back in 2012.

The route was proposed as the first 9b+ / 5.15c back in 2012 and is located in the famous Hanshelleren cave in Flatanger, Norway. The massive roof starts off lower down with some relatively easier grades but as the roof grows, bigger and harder routes pop up.

Some of those routes include Adam Ondra‘s routes “Move” 9b/+, and “Iron Curtain” 9b. There is also “Thor’s Hammer”, a 60-meter long 9a+ first climbed by Ondra but bolted by Magnus Midtbø (who’d eventually get the route sent in 2016).

While in the cave, Seb was working a few different routes and starting on an Ondra linkup called “Nordic Marathon”. The route is a stunning 130-meters long, starting on “Move” 9b and heading to the highest point of the cave. He managed it on July 25th, saying: “The sheer size of the route makes it hard mentally. You can have one go every two days

He had to battle with intense rope drag, switching ropes mid-climb, then untying en route and free soloing the last 5 to 10 meters – which he said was “really easy climbing”.

As a result, he had quite a few routes to compare in a similar style. All were long, very overhung, had rests that were easier with kneepads, and suited certain strengths and reaches. His edited comments from an in-depth Instagram post were: “Adam did the FA without kneepads. There are multiple kneebars which are crucial at different points of this route. The kneepads are helping, for sure. The question is: does it change the grade?

“The kneepads really help on the first crux (where Adam was twisting his back and shoulders). It’s still really hard, but a bit less than before I think. Kneepads make this one a bit less of a gamble.”

“Regarding Nordic Marathon, It’s definitely an atypical route, due to the size of this one (130m). I proposed the grade 9b/+. This route is 100% my climbing style. Still, it was hard to give a grade for such a long route.”

“It took me two weeks to send Nordic Marathon, and two weeks to send Change (with kneepads). Nordic Marathon felt a bit more exhausting in the process and also in the actual send. As Nordic Marathon is 100% my climbing style, I would say Change is a little bit easier.”

“I spent 4 travels of two weeks to do Move. It’s way more time than for the others. But at the same time, I have to consider that it was 3 years ago. As the kneepads don’t change the difficulty from the first ascent (without kneepads), I would say Move is a little bit harder than both Nordic Marathon and Change.
Change is still really exhausting with kneepads. I don’t think it can be only 9b.
So, personal opinions on the grades are :
Change 9b/+
Nordic Marathon 9b/+
Move 9b+

So after all that, Seb thinks that “Change” is a downgrade from 9b+ to a slash grade 9b/+, roughly matching the difficulty of his new route, and that “Move” is an upgrade from 9b/+ to a straight 9b+. Take a look at him on “Move” below. Full footage of the other two routes and “DNA” 9c are likely to be made into a feature documentary.

Seb Bouin does this fresh off the completion of his long-term project “DNA”, which he grades at 9c – aka only the second route this hard in the world. Header image by Marco Müller who also has a great YouTube channel.