Shadows of 9B - Part V The short history of rock climbing 2003-2006
Meanwhile, in a small village near Malaga hid a quite big demon in the form of 82-meter long route including 50 meters of roof, which gave a total of about 400 moves. The line was looked out by the famous Bernabé Fernandez, mustering on that occasion a few guys with famous names like Sharma or Andrada in order to give even a cursory evaluation of the difficulties. And with that, as it turned out, there was no problem, because everyone agreeably stated that the project was fucking hardcore - if possible to do at all... And we could confine to that statement, enjoying the fact that Fernandez had found a futuristic line for our children, if , in summer 2003, he would not have sent to the Desnivel's editors a relation together with pictures from sending this route, named Chilam Balam, and 'timid' proposal of 9b+ grade. It froze entire sunny Spain and several thousands kilometers of ground around it. There was no doubt that Chilam Balam could be 9b+, but was anybody able to jump over two grade steps, with 9a+ formed barely two years before? The first stone was thrown by Dani Andrada, who attempted to send the route three weeks later. He pointed out that the barely seen traces of chalk and ruber stripped off the boots were too little for three years of Fernández's work - especially in a crux section. Then the massive mud slinging began. Who was the belayer during the ascent? Accidentally Fernández met some random guy in a pub. And where are the other belayers, in the end there had to be more that one of them? Has the photographer seen the whole ascent? Well, he saw the greater part. So maybe Bernabé would send the route once again in the presence witnesses? There's no way, he climbs for himself and not for the public. Well then why did he send a note to Desnivel? The truth probably will be never known, but we learned a lot about ethics, which strictly commanded to believe a word of a climber. One way or another, the searching of higher degree had begun, or at least of that missing link, if you take the right of Bernabé Fernández...
Another very important news came in 2006 – again of course, thanks to Chris Sharma, who was fascinated by DWS climbing and just decided to come to grips in this style with a passage on a Realizations scale. At instigation of the DWS' guru Miguel Riera, Chris focused on a lovely arch Es Pontas on Mallorca. He ended his work on the line after a year. Within this space of time he made more than 70 failed attempts resulting in "launching" from 10 meters height. Grade was quite difficult to estimate, especially since, Sharma as usual shirked responsibility, commenting that he had reached his limit. Taking this into account, adding Realization itself, the character of the route and the time spent on working it out and probably some progress in his climbing skills – the route can be estimated... 9a+ at least. Although perhaps more? And you can’t see any daredevils eager to repeat it... In the following year, the older masters, Dani Andrada and Fred Rouhling, let us hear from them. The former, indefatigable contractor of countless extreme projects in northern Spain had chosen, among other places, the Ali Baba cave in Rodellar. The nature of the local climbing is in a way similar to that known from Akira – the low roof of the cave can be climbed without a rope, which is pretty much like a boulder, but rather longish. At the beginning Ali Baba 8c+ and Hulk 8c were created, then Hulk was extended giving rise to the new variant called Hulk extension 8c+. There it was - a simple way to integrate the two lines in Ali Hulk 9a, whose extention could raise the rate to 9a+, and the adding of sit-down start – to 9b... Phew... Maybe it is a bit complicated, it can be very boulder-like but some idea of the next level could already be gained.
The latter of these men - Fred Rouhling did not give the satisfaction coming out of the dispute about Akira to his opponents and he was consistently pursuing his new projects, simultanously giving them, most importantly, fairly robust grades. But still the only ones able to verify the rates of his routes were the climbers who repeated them because the Frenchman was on his guard against giving any numbers, saying that it would be something around 9in the best case... It wasn’t different with Salamandre in St. Pierre en Faucigny - 30 meters high route offering fingery, exactly one-fingery moves. In spite of feeling attracted to such type of climbing, Fred was forced to do workouts on the campus board with 1cm slats. Since the line was already known and had been previously bolted, the community had already some idea of the difficulties, which surely licked 9b.