Seb Bouin: The Motivation to MOVE 9b/b+
Describe what it’s like to climb “Move” 9b/9b+.
This route is located in Norway, and has become a goal in itself and a source of motivation for me to train in order to progress. The whole process of working and trying to send this route has required and will require a lot of investment, self-discipline, sacrifice and motivation on my behalf. The route grade is higher than my current grade, but I enjoy trying things that seem nearly impossible or very complicated to achieve. The fight will be harder but a lot more interesting. I need to push and surpass my limits once more; an extreme objective will allow me to do this. It has become the sole focus of my life. In trying this route, I want to see how far I am able to push myself.
Photos: Raphael Fourau
Why choose this route? Why go so far from France?
During my first trip to Flatanger with Adam Ondra and Eric Grandelius in 2013, we developed and bolted some routes in this huge cave. This place completely disoriented me. The landscape, the rock and the conditions for climbing are incredible. During the summer it is fresh, which is a better environment for trying hard routes. I like the style of the routes: big overhangs, beautiful carved granite. That's what has drawn me back.
During the first trip, Adam had equipped several routes including Move. The first part of this route is graded 9a, which for me was quite a challenge at the time (though I have since completed around thirty routes between 9a and 9a+/b). The route, however, did not have a definitive end. I wanted a route that finished somewhere and not one which stopped right in the middle of another, so I equipped a variant which allowed me to extend the ‘first 9a’. I named this route “Little Badder” (in homage to my deplorable English at the time). It took me two weeks to complete a first ascent of this route. During this time Adam worked and sent Move 9b/9b+. At the time Move represented something rather exceptional and unattainable. Now, it is the logical next step. I am happy because I once thought this to be impossible. I have always been motivated by this route. Since 2013, I have sent other routes in this cave, one of which being Thor’s Hammer.
What is the challenge presented by a project that is so geographically far from home?
Firstly, the distance of the route from my hometown is part of the challenge. You cannot return to the project when you want. The route must be sent during the trip. It is not like projecting a route that is close to home and where you can return when you feel in good shape. You have to be focused and present in the moment. The deadline of the return trip home adds a certain amount of pressure to the challenge. It can sometimes be hard to handle, especially as the route was way above my usual grade. Success was, therefore, uncertain and the bet a bit crazy.
It is important and necessary to accept this uncertainty in order to stack the odds on your side. If I were to think ceaselessly of all the different constraints, I could lose sight of my goal. It is like a competition, even if it is far, hard and you are sick etc. you must remain focused on the objective in order to forget all the sacrifices and constraints made. You must focus on the pleasing side of the climb and live in the moment.
Secondly, it is a challenge in itself to stay focused on one route during the whole trip. Even if a lot of satisfaction is obtained from projecting one route, it can be hard not to take a break, to change and to try another route during the trip. The diversity is both a source of temptation and motivation.
The best compromise I found was to go on fairly short trips (two weeks at a time) to Norway. I was then able to come back to France to try other routes and train. This allowed me to take my mind off the project and to progress physically. I had, however, attacked the season late (end of July) because I had to complete the climbing guide course. I had in fact until September to finish the project. This did not give me a lot of time to make round trips. I opted to alternate fortnightly trips with fortnightly training periods.
Why the name Move? And give us a description of the route.
The physical difficulty of this route is situated 50 metres from the ground. There is a powerful boulder-style move on the left shoulder that causes a problem when trying to send it. This movement is key to the route hence the name. This crux is really hard to master when you are pumped. Every move must be well known and rehearsed in order to be able to do it with the tiredness of the first part in your arms.
The route is divided into two consecutive 9a’s. The first one is a 45-metre long resistance route that requires a lot of endurance to send. The second is a boulder 10-metre route. The problem with this route is that the boulder 9a follows the more resistance route. The first 9a can drain you of the necessary explosiveness needed to do the powerful crux move further on. You have to be able to send the 9a without any problems in order to arrive at the second 9a, completely fresh. The mastery of the crux caused me more of a problem than the length of the route. I dedicated a whole trip to the second 9a so that I could integrate it well into the route.
I found this movement very demanding and it cost me a lot. I had to prepare myself especially for this crux. During my training cycles, I completed weight-training circuits which aimed to develop my shoulder muscles. This allowed me to be stronger and more stable in the crux.
How did you project the route?
The way in which I projected the route was pretty usual. I would not begin systematically from the bottom. I had fixed a static rope at the beginning of the second 9a. This allowed me to try the end of the route first. Once I had managed to send this part of the route I would lower the static rope a little bit further down to try the end a bit more pumped. To finish, I would try from the ground. This method is excellent because you achieve a sense of success even if you don’t send the route. Intermediary objectives are fixed.
During my first trip, I spent all my time on the final section. I knew I had to master this section before really being able to try the route. Unfortunately, I was not able to send this second section during my first trip which was very frustrating. Two options presented themselves to me. I could either abandon the project or increase my efforts and adopt a more specific training programme. I wanted to try my luck once more during a second trip. Meanwhile I knew that I would have to train seriously. It was a bit crazy to want to go back after an epic fail.
There was no room for slacking on the training front. The two-week plan back in France was: daily climbing at Ramirole in the Gorges du Verdons, the cave of overhangs, and weight-training circuits every two days in order to strengthen my shoulders.
The training paid off. During the second trip, I managed to send the second section (the intense 9a) on the second day. I then tried to start the route from a lower point during this trip.
In order to surpass yourself you must accept failure, analyse it, understand its causes and work on your weaknesses.
What are your training methods?
Training only in climbing gyms is not an option for me. I must climb outdoors regardless of the project otherwise I lose my motivation and motivation is the key to success in big projects. So, I developed a training programme based around climbing routes outdoors every day and indoor circuit training every other evening to get me to the stage I needed in the short time I had allowed. The downside was I did not have time to rest between the sessions. At the time, this did not seem very important. This assumption turned out to be a fatal error on my behalf…
Back in the valley we all smiled. What a line, what day, what a team!
What progress did you make on the route?
During the second trip, I primarily worked the route. I made a serious run from the bottom the last day and I fell at the crux. Between the second and third trip, I adopted the same training programme as before.
During the third trip, however, I began to feel the mental and physical consequences of not taking more rest between the training periods and the trips. My shoulders ached, my fingers too. My motivation levels dwindled. During this trip, I fell seven times at the crux, when starting from the bottom. I ended up injuring a ligament in one of my fingers. A consequence of the build-up of too much mental and physical pressures.
There was, therefore, no success this year but a lot of progress was made. This will allow me to come back stronger next year. I learnt a lot from my errors and my undertakings during these trips. What I experienced will allow me to avoid committing the same mistakes and to come back more organised. "I never lose, either I win, or I learn" Nelson Mandela.
The road to success is long and complicated but that is what makes it interesting.
What’s the key to your commitment?
Staying motivated is a key factor for me in this type of project. I was not able to keep my motivation intact until the end. If you are not 100% motivated it is very hard to keep going. You must find the balance between stubbornness and pleasure.
The route, the location and the emulation motivated me considerably but to the point where I invested too much of myself, physically and mentally. I even went to Norway on my own to climb with the locals. Despite everything, this whole experience remains an incredible one. I hope to be able to return to the route and place in due course.