This article originally appeared on Climbing
In 2022, Sebastien Bouin had perhaps the most impressive single year of sport climbing on record. In May, he clipped the chains on DNA, his years-long project in the Verdon Gorge, for which he proposed the world's hardest grade: 5.15d. In early July, he claimed the second ascent of Iron Curtain in Flatanger, Norway, which was established by Adam Ondra in 2013 and originally graded 5.15b. (Bouin, using kneepads, found an alternate beta that drops a letter grade.) In late July, he FA'd Nordic Marathon, grading it 5.15b/c. In August, he made the third ascent of Change (after Ondra and Stefano Ghisolfi) saying that it felt more like 5.15b/c than 5.15c. In October, he headed to the U.S. and made the 4th ascent of Jumbo Love. And then in November, he added a direct start to Jumbo Love, calling it Supreme Jumbo Love, 5.15c--the first proposed route of that grade in the Western Hemisphere.
Today, Bouin released a film (made by John Thornton) about Nordic Marathon. The route—which is the first of the Flatanger's epically hard cave routes to proceed from the very bottom of the cave to the true summit of the wall—links a long 5.14b called Nordic Plummer (first ascended in 2012 by Ethan Pringle) directly into the second pitch of Thor's Hammer, a gargantuan 5.15a bolted by Magnus Mitbo and first done by Adam Ondra in 2017. Realizing it was possible to do the climb in a single monster pitch, Ondra tried it several times from the Nordic Plummer start (there are several harder start options, including the first pitch of Thor's Hammer [5.14d/5.15a], Move [5.15c], and Silence [5.15d]), but he never made it past the first crux when trying it from the ground.
Despite the fact that he's an endurance specialist, Bouin found that the second pitch of Thor's Hammer (which has a crimpy redpoint crux at the 80-meter mark) got quite a bit harder when accessed via a long 5.14b.
"The sheer size of the route makes it hard mentally," he said in a press release. "You can have one go every two days. It's so much climbing in one intense burst that you simply can't give two goes in a day. Then if you want to be as fresh as possible, you need a rest day in between. So it was quite hard psychologically."
He fell multiple times at each of the route's three cruxes, including the last and hardest of them. And even with some complicated rope logistics--he switched ropes twice through the route to minimize rope drag--Bouin found the rope drag so extreme that he unclipped entirely for the last few feet of easy climbing to the route's anchor...
Check out the video.
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