Obviously a part of this "clamor" is due to the notoriety of the route and its grade, first ascend in 1993 by Fred Nicole in Switerland's Saint Loup. The repeat of a 9a - as confirmed by Fred and François Nicole, Fred Rouhling and Josune Bereciartu - always makes headline news. But one cannot hide the fact that the age of the climbers played an important role, too. Their ascent of "Bain" is definitely newsworthy!
Yes, because one has to be happily surprised by Manolo's latest ascent, since he has reached this climbing apex at the tender age of nigh 48 (it's his birthday soon). What a great present the Wizard, as he is affectionately known, has given to himself. And the performance of his adventure partner Riccardo Scarian is worth underlining too; no longer a young hotshot at 38, he was the first to reach the chain of this vertical and smooth Bain slab.
For both of them the Swiss ascent turned out to be a great confirmation after numerous successful ascents together, such as the 8c at Fonsazo and the one "at altitude" on Cani Morti on the Campanile Basso di Lastei. Bain de Sang was a check and comparison that the two wanted to play away from home, containing all the implications of an 800km drive to the problem.
There was the curiosity of attempting this "Bain de Sang" which ;anolo describes as a smooth, vertical 20m slab with a first physical section and a rest, followed by a second section with two slight ripples and a delicate finishing crux. A slab, or a touch-and-go route which the two interpreted as follows: "if we can climb 9a, then this is the right "terrain" for us..."
So last year they began to get a taste of the problem with two trips to Switzerland which, despite terrible weather, allowed them to get an idea of its magnitude. A problem which at first sight seems climbable, but which just like all slabs hides insidious perils, elevated to the nth degree to honor the maximum grade given to this route. The name of the game for "Bain" is touch-and-go and as Manolo himself says: "even the smallest of errors results in a fall: lose your interior rhythm and subtleness for a fraction of a second and you're off!"
And this is not dissimilar to last Friday's attempts (two each) which removed Sky and Manolo from their "blood bath" of doubts. On the first round Riccardo Scarian immediately felt the route was his, he was already high and close to the finish. He thought he'd done it and... this distraction cost him dearly, down he flew, only to start all over again. The great rattle snake slab had found another victim... Now it was Manolo's turn, but his spirits weren't high as one of his fingers was tweaked, yet another problem to add to his long lost of injuries. So he didn't know how, and if, he'd climb through the crux: a monodoigt which had to be climbed with that injured finger. The first attempt was a test therefore and also the solution to the enigma. "If I caress the holds instead of pulling and squeezing the life out of them, if I trust in all my balance, then perhaps I can do it."
After an hour searching for maximum concentration the time finally came for Riccardo's second attempt: "I was up there in a flash, playing out the route on the last moves, the hardest and most on-off section. Three deep breaths and off I went, I couldn't make a mistake here, I set off determined, crimped the last three crux holds, done! All I had to do know was keep calm and reach the chain which wass up there, just a few holds away. A cry of adrenaline release and I clipped the chain. In that moment I felt no emotions at all, perhaps still immersed in the blood bath!" Sky's joy is immense, and even two days later he's still incapable of finding the right words. He solved the problem extremely quickly, this is definitely highly satisfactory.
Manolo on the other hand still had everything to play for, and at this point he hads to be careful not to succumb to tension. He knew this was a sort of last chance, or rather, an all or nothing go. The first section went well to the rest, then he had to climb "on eggshells" as Manolo put it, to start the tender dance of tiptoeing and caressing of holds. "I felt the cold-blooded nature of a killer" he said, a state of mind known only to those who have danced this delicate balance up to the finishing holds.
2 successes, Sky and Manolo both top out. What a great story "It was something extremely personal" Manolo told us "and I can't help loving and feeling grateful to this route." Something extremely personal which no doubt we'll talk about it the future, because it doesn't often happen that we're in touch with someone who has climbed every grade ever climbed in this sport. The oldest ever to climb 9a: a wizard worthy of the Guinness book of world records!