Legacy after Güllich - Part III
The short history of rock climbing 1990-2000
Entering the 90s, no one was aware how long it would take for another breakthrough. We can assume that if the car accident, Güllich (an obvious pretender to the throne) died in, hadn’t happened, the “digit” would have been pushed even faster, and according to theory of "morphic resonance" we would currently climb much harder routes. On the other hand Wolfgang was not light-years ahead of his time. He made a lot of first higher grades, but no more than year or two before the others. Thus, there still was somebody to make the relay running... Bold 9a formed another, and so we come to the memorable year 1995, when Fred Rouhling announced all around that he sent the roof of the Les Eaux Claires cave, named Akira, grading it impudently 9b. All hell broke loose. Overflowing wave of criticism of the media supported by mentors from the top climbers teams, picked Rouhling to pieces. Toughest opponents have cast doubt not only on the grade, but also even on the mere fact of sending the line. And as if it wasn’t enough, few boulders opened by French climbers were vandalized, and the same happened with Akira (tear off or devastation?), changing its difficulties. Obviously, we should not have denied Rouhling’s power since confirmation of his several routs and problems but he felt into disgrace, and the disgust had remained for many years and was finally exemplified by the journalistic investigation made nearly 10 years later by an American Climbing. The whole affair around Akira had somewhat deeper implications what was so interesting also for one of the illustrious opponents - Alex Huber.
Nobody would probably have wished to be in Rouhling's shoes, therefore one did not profuse in possible degrees, muttering rather about degrading of some routes, even such as Action Direct, although it had only one repetition at that time. The time of the inflation and depreciation began. Coming back to Huber, in 1996 he led the Open Air route and proposed for it 9a "digit". Only 12-years later Adam Ondra considered that grade too low. Well, maybe it was not what Alex was aiming at, but the glory passed irrevocably... Another attempt to overcome the scale was undertaken in 1998 by Spanish Bernabé Fernández, who led the line Orujo 9a+ with three additional screwed on holds. But he had to face the determined opposition of Spanish climbers. He returned to reclimb the route and he managed to lead it using only one artificial hold. But this still was not enough for the climbing community, which announced that Orujo was rather 9a anyway - at least from the moral point of view...
The rules of ethic and style in sport climbing were crystallized. As it is commonly believed a climber is able to distinguish correctly between OS, flash and RP. However rock cutting, which was common in the 80s, was subjected to widespread ostracism of the community. Certainly, this was because of the definite influence of the increasing interest in environmental issues in society as a whole. And because of the increasing popularity, climbers started to be seen as partners or on the contrary - as a problem, depending on local conditioning. That accelerated establishing of various organizations representing climbers, such as Access Fund in the United States, what on the other hand once again peeled off the idea of "free climbing" thrusting it into the framework of the society of the order. The revival and renaissance of the traditional climbing is also worth noting, although the term “birth of a new incarnation” would be more adequate. On way or another, it harnessed practices peeped from sport climbing, and it was well-established by popular and cult movie "Hard Grit". It seemed to be the resultant of seeking more and more difficult routes and local conditions (either climbing ethics or restrictions from above), which in extreme cases assumed the form of a hybrid (trad routes with abseiling rings or the minimum amount of still bolts).
 Piotr Korczak, "Against the tradition " A/Zero 16/2009, Warsaw