Seb Bouin Climbs Three 9bs In A Month At Flatanger

French phenom Seb Bouin has been in terrific climbing form lately. Having dispatched his long term project DNA (9c/39) in the Verdon Gorge earlier this year, he's now been more focused on repeating other hard routes. A trip to the Hanshelleren Cave in Flatanger, Norway gave him plenty of hard routes to try, with many unrepeated and extremely difficult Adam Ondra routes located at this crag.

In the second week of July, Bouin made the second ascent of Ondra's Iron Curtain (9b/37). This route had remained unrepeated since Ondra established it in 2013. On his first ascent Ondra didn't use kneepads, as their use wasn't yet widely accepted in Europe. Bouin is rarely seen without kneepads and was able to use a kneebar to find a slightly easier way through the crux, suggesting the route might be only 9a+/36 (still harder than anything in New Zealand). There seems to be a healthy respect between Bouin and Ondra and both discussed this likely grade modification like adults.

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Next up, Bouin tackled a monster link up envisioned by Ondra, but as-yet unclimbed. The new route links the first pitch of Nordic Plumber (8c/33) and the cruxy second pitch of Thor’s Hammer (9a+/36) before climbing the final headwall above the cave. He named this Nordic Marathon, for obvious reasons, this route is a whopping 130m long and estimated as 9b/37 or 9b+/38. 

With some time still left in his trip, Bouin then turned his attention to the second pitch of Change (9b+/38). This route was first climbed by Adam Ondra in 2012 and hailed as the world's first 9b+/ 38. Bouin had climbed the first pitch (9a+/36) as a side project while working on Nordic Marathon, so once that route was done the obvious thing was to work out the second pitch extension, which bumps the whole route up two grades. He climbed this second pitch with four days left in his trip, leaving him little time remaining to link the two together to earn the full 9b+ tick. With such a successful trip already, Seb reported he felt little pressure to get this done and that perhaps helped him climb it on an unexpected good conditions day. He reported having tried it in warm and humid conditions the day before—without success—and only attempted it on this day because he was at the crag anyway and realised the conditions were unusually good. An error-free attempt gave him the tick of the route and the third ascent, after Adam Ondra and a repetition by Stefano Ghisolfi in 2020.

Bouin's first ascents in the 9b and above range are largely unrepeated and haven't seen a lot of attention from other top level climbers. If any doubted the grades he'd given some routes, there is now no question he has the form and ability to climb at the very highest level.