Loïc Zehani Does 6th 5.15b FA—And ‘Floatin’ (V16) Finally Repeated

This article originally appeared on Climbing

In an attempt to make space for the newsworthy ascents that occur with ever-increasing regularity, our weekly news roundup tries to celebrate a few outstanding climbs (or interesting events) that for one reason or another caught our attention. We hope you enjoy it. --The editors

Loic Zehani does yet another 5.15b first ascent

Ever surprised by just how many bone crushers are hiding out there in the world? I am, despite the fact that just about every week, it seems, another person--usually they’re under the age of 25--appears seemingly out of nowhere with one of the most impressive tick lists I've ever seen. This was my experience with Loic Zehani. But of course Zehani, who's from southern France, didn't just appear. He's been climbing since he was 10; he sent his first 5.13b at 11; he sent his first 5.14d at 14; and he's now sent 22 5.15's--many of them first ascents at Orgon, his local crag, located not far from Marseille France.

Last week, he clipped the chains on Quartier's Nord, his sixth 5.15b FA, which is the six-bolt direct start to a 5.14c called Bronx that was bolted by his father. "In total I think this route took me around twenty sessions," he wrote on "Amazing first part, natural and so powerful. It's maybe a V13 boulder out of the first twelve movements followed (without rest) by 10 movements that are around V9 or V10. After that you climb the second part of Bronx ."

Loic Zehani cutting feet on shallow pockets on one of the hard lower sections of his new 5.15b, Quartier's Nord
(Photo: Samantha Ducos)

The craziest thing? He did the route twice in one hour. On his first send, the wind knocked the camera out of position. So he decided to do it again, this time with the camera safely positioned inside the car. Seems a rare thing: claiming both the first and second ascents of a route. The only other time I can think of that happening on something super hard is Ryuichi Murai with his V16, Floatin.

Speaking of which...

Florian Wientjes gets the second (or third) ascent of Floatin (V16)

Jade, Off the Wagon, Amandla, Burden of Dreams. Some boulders, more than others, seem to encapsulate something basic and pure about bouldering: no frills, no jessery, just straight up tests of power. Ryuichi Murai's Floatin, to me, fits the bill. Formerly known as "The Launch Pad Project," it consists of just six moves (minus the topout, which looks rather hard actually). Of these six moves, Murai does three footless. After the crux first move, which Murai campuses, he does a foot-on rose-move, followed by an improbable footless unwind, followed by another campus move. The Mellow video, if you haven't seen it, is insane--as is the Epic TV video, “48 Hrs With Japan’s Strongest Outdoor Climber: Ryuichi Murai“, in which Murai, for fun, goes back and gets the second ascent of his own problem.

Now, two years after the FA, it has finally seen a non-Murai repeat, this time from Germany's Florian Wientjes, 29, who says it had long been a dream to go to Japan to try that boulder, which he says is the epitome of "pure power bouldering." Wientjes doesn't do it exactly like Murai; instead of campusing the first crux move, he uses the pogo beta pioneered by Toshi Takeuchi, who has tried the problem off and on for several years. Wientjes, who's previously flashed Amandla (V14) and climbed Off the Wagon Low (V16), trained specifically for Floatin for three months before heading to Japan, and he sent on his fifth day of effort.

A fun fact I learned about Wientjes while researching this: when he first saw the MoonBoard he "vehemently boycotted it" and "detested training on it." Fast forward a few years and he now describes it as his "number one training tool and one of my biggest passions." The lesson? "You have to give everything a chance."

Hazel Findlay and Angus Kille repeat 5.13 R in Black Canyon

The Hallucinogen Wall has some fun history. It was first climbed over 17 days in 1980 by Ed Webster, Bryan Becker, Bruce Lella, and Jim Newberry, who reached the canyon's rim several days after finishing their food, water, and--as the name suggests--a "big bag" of magic mushrooms. It got its first free(ish) ascent in 2004, but the climbers, Ryan Nelson and Jared Ogden, adopted a somewhat controversial "free aid" strategy, in which they used ice tools to surmount a desperately thin section on pitch 13 (the crux), which they called D10+. Then, in 2011, the late Hansjorg Auer, an Austrian alpinist and climber famous for his groundbreaking 2007 free solo of the Fish Route on the Marmoleda, in the Italian Dolomites, visited the U.S. and decided that the Hallucinogen had to go fully free. Working ground up, Auer spent three days on the climb, sussing the moves, then returned for a single day push. He had no problem with the crux--which he called "athletic, with good holds and cool heel-hooks," in his AAJ writeup--and finished the climb in under nine hours, leading every pitch.

Later, Auer described the climb to Hazel Findlay, who, as a result, has had the climb on her to-do list for 12 years. Now, she has finally made a visit, along with Welsh climber Angus Kille. They checked out the two crux pitches (both located high on the wall) by rappel, then descended into the canyon and climbed ground up.

"Having not done much trad or big days recently," Findlay wrote on Instagram, "it was a bit of a shock to the system to do such a sustained climb, but I switched into gear fairly quickly and we were able to free the route over 2 days. Ideally we would have done it in a day, but the crux pitch is right at the top and comes into the sun really early. With no cloudy days on the forecast and hot temps in the sun, we decided to go for the sleepover option to maximize time in the shade. I love sleeping on the wall and it was also a chance for us to refresh our wall skills for Yosemite next month."


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Check out this great video of Hayden Kennedy and Nik Berry doing an in-a-day ascent.

Dai Koyamada does yet another V15 FA

Whenever I find myself wasting precious energy complaining about aging--whenever I find myself nursing tweaky fingers and muttering about the fact that I may very well have already done the hardest move I'll ever do--I make a point to think about a certain 47-year-old Japanese boulderer named Dai Koyamada. You might have heard his name before. I mean, he's kind of a big deal. After all, he's been climbing 5.14d and V15 since the early 2000s. He owns one of the coolest looking gyms in Japan. And he's constantly, in his fifth decade of life, finding and putting up new hard lines. Last week, he just did yet another one, which he called Okuro, and which he's grade V15.

(Also: if you're sick of watching people constantly succeed, take a look at these bloopers he posted.)


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Quick note on mussy hooks and toprope anchors

After last week's tragic anchor-cleaning accident in Alabama, in which a beginner climber fell to her death after making a very easy-to-make mistake involving Mussy hooks, we thought we'd share the below primer by Alpine Savvy.


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Adam Ondra flashes another 5.14d

To test his fitness before the upcoming European qualification competition (an Olympic selection event), Ondra visited Sopota, Slovenia, to climb with local developer (and retired comp phenom) Jernej Kruder, who sprayed him down on Pescena Ura, a 5.14d whose crux involves "a powerful and coordination-demanding dyno." Of course, we wouldn't be writing about this if he hadn't stuck it--and now that he has, there's not much to say here except "he's done it again." This is Ondra's fifth first-try ascent of a 5.14d, but only his second flash, since he tends to put more emphasis on onsighting. An astonishing fact: according to his, he has onsighted 23 5.14c's, 69 5.14b's, and (gulp) 104 5.14a's.


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