We’re calling it: Séb Bouin had probably the best 2019 of any sport climber around. And that’s in no small part to the way he closed the year (though, it’s not over yet!). On Monday, December 16, Bouin made the first of The Dream, a 9b (5.15b) in Brar, outside of Tirana, the capital of Albania.
Ondra bolted The Dream project (named for what “Ondra” means in Albanian) in October 2018. He only had two days to try the new line at the time, and couldn’t put it down, but described it as “5o meter perfection on some of the most amazing tufas I have ever climbed on.” He speculated that it would be 9b.
Watch Adam Ondra Work on The Dream Project Back in 2018
The route wasn’t in ideal condition when Bouin began trying it at the end of November. The tufas were seeping water. But he found a creative, modern solution to this problem, placing toilet paper at a strategic spot to sop up the water and keep the critical holds dry(ish).
Bouin confirmed Ondra’s grade suspicions when he finally sent, calling it 9b. “After a huge batle against water and conditions, I finally made the first ascent of this incredible line,” Bouin wrote in an email to Rock and Ice. He went on: “It’s exceptional to have a route in this level with so many tufas. Happy to close this project just before to leave [Albania], and just before Christmas.”
Now back to why Bouin might have had the best 2019 in terms of sport climbing on real rock: The Dream was his fourth climb 5.15b or harder, and his seventh 5.15 of the year in all. (He would have had five 5.15bs and eight total 5.15s, but he thought one 5.15b he did was 5.15a, and one 5.15a was 5.14d.) Bouin thought it was a letter easier.) Several were first ascents, several were repeats. Sure, several of the other world’s best sport climbers had their hands full with the competition schedule as they vied for the precious few Olympic berths. But even still: four 5.15bs is a stellar year, something that has only been bettered once, by Adam Ondra in 2017 (when he sent six 5.15b’s or harder, including the first ascent of Silence, the world’s first 5.15d).
Below is a refresher of Bouin’s other three hardest sends this year.
Mamichula (9b/5.15b) – April 2019
Séb Bouin has made the first repetition of Mamichula, a 9b (5.15b) in Oliana, Spain that Adam Ondra called “hard 9b” after establishing it in February 2017.
“What a day Yesterday,” Bouin told Rock and Ice in an email. “I had the best belayer possible for this route, my super Mami (mom).”
While it is Bouin’s hardest route to date on “paper,” he said that he is not sure it is his hardest in “reality.” Some of his hardest sends to date include Chilam Bilam, a 9b in Villanueva del Rosario, Spain; Les yeux plus gros que l’antre, a 9a+/9b (5.15a/b) in France, a first ascent by Bouin; and La Côte d’Usure, a 9a+ in the Verdon, France, also a first ascent.
Now that Bouin has deemed Mamichula to be easier than some of his other ascents which he graded lower, he’s eager for others to repeat his creations and see how hard they really are. “I am psyched to see some climbers in my latest mega lines in France,” he wrote.
Move (9b/+ 5.15b/c) – June 2019
Some projects simply take longer than others! Séb Bouin, the 26-year-old from France, has finally sent his nemesis project, Move, a 9b/+ (5.15b/c) established by Adam Ondra in Flatanger, Norway back in 2013. Bouin belayed Ondra on the first ascent nearly six years ago, and his redpoint is now the second.
“I started working this route in 2016-2017,” Bouin wrote in an email to Rock and Ice and other media. Over the next several years he made five trips to Norway—each roughly two to three weeks in length—to project the route.
He was inspired to try it not just because of its difficulty but because “it’s a MEGA LINE, it’s hard and beautiful,” he said. Move is 50 meters long and can be broken down into two distinct sections—an endurance-based 5.14d, followed by a bouldery 5.14d. The hardest single sequence occurs right near the end.
Bouin, who has established a number of exceedingly difficult climbs himself over the past few years, believes Move is the hardest route he’s ever done. “It could be easy 9b+ [5.15c] (Adam was thinking 9b+ but said 9b/+ because this route it’s not so much his style) or super hard 9b [5.15b],” Bouin wrote. “I think the 9b/+ grade could be the good one.”
In April of this year, Bouin repeated another Adam Ondra 9b, Mamichula, in Oliana, Spain. That was the first repetition of that climb as well. In 2017, Bouin made the first ascent of Les yeux plus gros que l’antre (9a+/b 5.15a/b). In 2015, he made the third ascent of the notoriously long and Chilam Balam (9b), Villanueva del Rosario, Spain.
Next for Bouin? Another project, of course! And he ended his email with a cheeky little line about what his next obsession might be: “The one to the right [of Move] looks like a good one!!! It’s called “Silence”….”
Le Rage d’Adam (9b/+ 5.15b/c) – September 2019
Bouin worked on the new route, in the Verdon Gorge, France, intermittently for four years, only putting it a concerted effort to finish it off this year. It begins with a 5.14b climbing before the crux boulder problem. “It’s around 10 amazing move on little pinches and underlings in a super [overhanging] part,” Bouin wrote on Instagram.
Adam Ondra had tried the route in the past, too, and Bouin solicited his advice on the grade—doesn’t hurt to have the world’s best climber in your corner vouching for you.
According to Bouin, Ondra wrote that when he tried the crux of La Rage d’Adam, “Even after 20 minutes I did not really imagine any possible sequence that could make it more climbable. After even minutes hanging in the bolts, I came up with some crazy gaston beta, but I could not do the moves either and dismissed the route as too hard to be climbable in the near future…
Ondra evidently thought Bouin’s grade suggestion was right on: “My guess is that it could be more of 9b/b+, if not even harder, based on my one and only experience of the route – which felt HARD!”