Back To Experience

Seb Bouin: The Silent Crusher

Saturday, February 11, 2017
Black Diamond Ambassador Seb Bouin has climbed a grip of 5.15’s, often sending routes like Chilam Balam (5.15a/b) while on a short break from his job as a sports teacher in Paris. But despite his next level abilities, the 23-year-old Frenchman doesn’t like to spray … so we’ll do it for him.
Video and Images: Bernardo Gimenez

Seb Bouin was a little worried. He was one week out from a trip to Siurana, Spain, and during an evening training session, he heard a nasty pop in his finger.

“I was training in Paris to prepare myself for La Rambla (9a+/5.15a),” says Bouin. Yet, I injured my finger ... So to climb La Rambla wasn't possible as there are some crimps in the crux.”

So Bouin improvised. He wasn’t about to cancel his trip to Spain; he just needed a new objective. In search of jugs not crimps, Bouin decided that the massive cave of Santa Linya was the solution. And the new project? Just a mellow, 160-foot, 5.15a called La Novena Enmienda.

Despite being injured, Bouin took down the route in style, explaining that the real difficulty was not re-injuring his finger in the process.

“I couldn't try the route tired,” says Bouin. “And some days, when my finger was hurting, I couldn't climb. That's why I’m happy that I did this route. It's good for my mind, and good for the next step. Even if it's not my maximal level, I enjoyed doing something where I've put in energy and risk.”

We reached out to Bouin to learn more about his background and hear what he has in mind for future projects … once his finger heals.


How long have you been climbing?

I started climbing 11 years ago.

Where are you from?

I come from the southeast of France—a really beautiful place to climb outside. You have a lot of crags in this area—Verdon Gorge, Nice, Buoux, St Léger du Ventoux, Mollans, Tarn.

How were you introduced to climbing?

My mother did a lot of outdoor sports (biking, running, mountaineering, kayaking, climbing). She always brought me to her sessions. Yet she was a beginner in all of them (OK, a beginner with a good level!!). Between all these sports, climbing was the one that attracted me the most. So we started to climb seriously together 11 years ago at the crags of southeastern France. And we progressed together.

Do you still get to climb often with your mom?

Yes, she is really motivated, and we like same kind of crags. When she has time, she can join me during a trip, or we can climb together in France. We progress together. It's funny! OK, I progress because I am young and put in a lot of energy towards becoming a professional climber. But, she also progresses each time with me—even if she is 48 years old. This summer she did her first 8a+ in the Verdon Gorge. So she is a good climbing partner.

She climbs hard as well?!

To speak grades she did some 8a's and one 8a+. Yet, she has big potential! I think she will progress a lot in the next few years. Her limits are not physical but mental. And she has started to understand how climbing functions. We'll see how she will continue, but I am pretty sure she will crush harder routes.

What do you consider your home crag?

I think the Verdon and crags on the north of Aix en Provence (Lourmarin, Mollans) are my favorite places in France. I feel good at these crags, even if I do some easy routes, or if I am not strong. These crags have watched me climb since I started. So I remember good moments when I go there.

And where do you climb most often now?

Now I don't have a place where I go often. I am working in Paris from September until the end of January. Yet, each weekend I would go to the south of France to climb and get some sun. After this period I have six months free and I travel during this time. For this year it will be Spain, England, France, Norway. When I travel I always have many projects to try in my head.

You work as a sports teacher? What’s your specialty?

All sports!!!! In France, when you teach sports in High School or Middle School, you have to be able to give lessons in handball, running, dancing, gymnastics, judo, circus, kayak, swimming, and a lot more ... you must be able to teach around 25 sports.

How do you balance work and climbing?

I try to climb as much as possible! When I work I climb after or before, yet, it's more training than climbing. I have two days in the weekend to go outside. I can have little projects only. When I have more time, in my 6 months off, I can try real projects where I need to be able to focus.

What are your top five hardest redpoints?

For me, my top five are:

Chilam Balam 9a+/b Kmira 9a+ (FA) L'homme demain 9a/+ (FA) Tierra negra 9a/+ Mangarbo 9a/+ (FA)

Do you consider yourself an endurance climber?

Yes, I am good at endurance. When I do all the moves on a route, I know I have the stamina to do it (sometimes after a lot of time). Yet I lack power. And I need time to move my ass on bouldery routes. I am working on this. I like every kind of style, short and bouldery, long and pumpy. I just search for natural holds, and as beautiful a route as possible.

You have a Verdon project (seen in the video above). Tell us about it.

La Rage d'Adam means "Adam's rage.” Yet in French it is also a quibble/word play. In fact, Adam and "la dent" sound similar in French. And "la rage de dent" means toothache. So the route took this name because Adam [Ondra] has an incredible rage inside him when he climbs.

This route was tried one day by Adam in the summer 2015, when he came to the Ramirole, Verdon.

I told Adam that it could be a good two-day project for him, around 9a+. Yet, the moves and the configuration were harder than expected. So Adam estimated the route too hard for two days, around 9b+ more or less.

How does it compare to your other hard ascents?

La Rage d'Adam is shorter and more bouldery. The difficult part ends around 20 meters. Yet, there is a lot of resistance! For me it's totally different to my kind of route. You don't need endurance but power resistance. I learned a lot during the time I worked this route. I climbed faster, with more power. This route is harder than all of my hardest ascents. This will be my focus for next summer.

What other challenges are you looking forward to in the future? La Dura Dura, or Change? It seems like you need a harder project!

Yes, I want to challenge myself!!! This summer I want to try Move 9b/9b+, an Adam Ondra route in Flatanger, Norway. This route represents a good challenge because the level is higher than all my hardest ascents. The route is far from home, and you have to be present in the moment. It's a real investment because there’s a big chance that you will come back without the route. But I would like to try a harder grade, and take the risk. As for La Dura Dura?? Change?? For the moment, I think it's too hard for me. Yet, I'm at the beginning of my career. Let's see in a few years.

OK, we’ve seen the video of you climbing La Salida del Sol (5.14c) with only one shoe. So, any chance you’re planning more toe-mono ascents?

Of course if the route is easier like that;)

Finally, you’re in Spain now. What are you trying?

I still have my injury, even if it's better, it's not totally healed. So big plans ... not yet. I'm trying two routes at the moment, Definition de Resistencia Démocrata in Bruises, Terradets, and Ciudad de Dos in Santa Linya.

And how hard are they?

9a (5.14d) and 9a/+ (5.14d/15a).

Featured Gear