For 25 years, Fred Rouhling’s masterpiece Akira sat nearly untouched. Dust and cobwebs covered the holds. The chalk, once a beacon of light in a dark cave, both figuratively and literally, was fading. But in 1995, while Rouhling cared for his wife Celine, who was recovering from a serious spinal cord injury, this cave was a refuge for a worried man.
[Also Read Fred Rouhling’s Akira, World’s First Proposed 5.15b in 1995, Finally Repeated; Downgraded to 5.14d]
Located just 200 meters from his parent’s home, this limestone cave gave Rouhling a few hours of escape every day during his wife’s recovery. A place where he could relax his mind and let his body flow through 65 feet of overhanging crimps and pockets. When he completed the route, he called it Akira and proposed the unprecedented grade of 9b (5.15b). Considering that was two letter grades harder than anything in the world at the time, many considered Rouhling an eccentric who was out of touch. But after all these years, this route, which was once a mental sanctuary for a distraught husband, was left waiting for someone who could also find meaning in the movement. Fortunately, BD Athlete Seb Bouin was intrigued and journeyed to the village of Vilhonneur to uncover the mythical Akira.