Jimmy Webb, on his first day of the season in Fontainebleau, France, walks away with the fifth ascent of l’Alchemiste.
Webb sent the famous Font problem in only three tries and suggested 8B (V13) for difficulty—two grades below the previously suggested 8C (V15).
This downgrade comes after a streak of recent l’Alchemiste ascents and discrepancies between the actual line and difficulty. The boulder problem came into fame after Marc Le Menestrel made the first ascent in 1996 and suggested 8B (V13), which was at the time the hardest boulder problem in the forest and the first of its grade.
After Le Menestrel made the first ascent, the boulder problem’s crux holds were chipped off and the problem was deemed “impossible” until Nalle Hukkataival
repeated l’Alchimiste using a slightly different variation to the original line. The new beta was dubbed “right exit,” and the original line,
Hukkataival never proposed a grade, reasoning in a Facebook post that he spent a long time working the problem but then sent very quickly after discovering
better beta. He wrote that trying the wrong method for weeks skewed his perspective, so he chose to leave the grading to future repeaters.
Albert, who spent four or five sessions working the “right exit,” decided to try the unrepeated “left exit” and topped-out during his first session focused
on the line. He suggested a new grade of 8B+ (V14) for the “left exit.” Albert returned a few days later and re-climbed it, twice, for video footage.
And then yesterday, Webb crushed the boulder problem in three tries, downgrading it to V13. He also spread light on the exit variations—which have
been considered two separate boulder problems by many climbers:
“I’m a bit confused by this right and left exit stuff,” Webb wrote on his 8a.nu scorecard. “It’s just one
wall…with just one line…and two different options for beta. That’s it. Pick the beta that suits your style and go for it.
“Nonetheless, a quality problem! Very psyched to be here.”