Seb Bouin sends of France’s first 9a „Hugh“ in the French climbing crag „Les Eaux-Claires“ as part of his vintage tour. „Hugh“ dates back to 1993 and was one of the world’s first 9a routes. In his other two projects „Akira“ (9b) and „De l’autre côté du ciel“ (9a), the weather thwarted his plans. All three routes are by Fred Rouhling.

„What a special route, a special place, and a special moment. We came back from the vintage rock tour week in the historical crag les eaux claires. I had three big objectives for this step : „Hugh“as first French 9a, „Akira“ proposed as first world 9b, and „de l’autre côté du ciel“ 9a. These three routes have a special style, the “ @fredrouhling style“. Big impressive moves on big holds. It’s quite cool to try these impressive routes. We got a really bad weather (raining all days, except the last one). I was lucky enough to send Hugh before the end of the trip (video coming on the next VRT episode :-). Yet I couldn’t send other projects. I spent one climbing day on „Akira“ and 4 goes on „de l’autre côté du ciel“. Situation is a bit weird due to the quarantine here. We had to come back. Yet, professional sportman can continue to practice. So I will check how it really works, but I will maybe go back to finish the job if it’s possible.“

First climbed at „Akira“ by Fred in 1995, the ascent of the route is controversial. So far, the route could not be repeated, although some tried the route. We can be curious what Seb Bouin will ultimately say.

„When it was put up in 1995 by Fred, only a handful of 9a (Action Directe, Bain de Sang, Om and Hugh) had been freed, 9a+ was still a few years away, and Fred was an unknown climber on the international scene. The grading of this route, a long roof problem that can be bouldered, leading to an easier face, was met with a lot of skepticism. Photo: (c) Hadrien Perrot Alex Huber said that Fred wasn’t experienced enough to grade a route this hard. Ben Moon said that the 9a wasn’t even established yet. Some said the route had been manufactured and that the holds had been filed after the ascent to make any repeat harder (a claim later debunked). Jibe Tribout explained that Fred was using very powerful and unorthodox methods but that some easier beta existed and would likely lead to a downgrade. Yet nobody has been able to repeat Fred’s ascent (which he worked for 3 months and was only witnessed by his wife/belayer but which Pete Ward and Tim Kemple from Climbing Magazine say is credible). Is it because of its manufactured reputation? Because the boulder problem is sketchy? Because the climb is in an area where there’s not much else to climb? A few well known climbers have tried the line such as Dani Andrada and Jibe Tribout but none have been able to snatched the second ascent. So go and try it…if you can!“ (Quelle: