Seb Bouin deciphers DNA, possible new 9c in Verdon Gorge, France
On Friday 29 April Sébastien Bouin made the first ascent of DNA in the Ramirole sector of the Verdon Gorge in France. The French climber has suggested the grade 9c, making it one of the most difficult sport climbs in the world.
After around 250 attempts spread over 150 days of work, on Friday 29 April French climber Sébastien Bouin freed his most difficult project to date in the Ramirole sector in France’s Verdon Gorge, calling it DNA and suggesting 9c. If the grade is confirmed, this would be only the second 9c in the world after Silence at Flatanger in Norway, freed by Adam Ondra in 2017 and so far unrepeated. In the summer of 2020 Alexander Megos freed Bibliographie at Céüse, but after the discovery of easier sequences by Stefano Ghisolfi and Sean Bailey the 9c dropped to 9b+.
Bouin scoped and bolted DNA in 2019, the same year in which he freed the 9b/+ La Rage d'Adam in the same ultra-overhanging sector, and in both 2020 and 2021 he invested 6 months of attempts. Last Friday the he finally clipped the anchors putting an end to a story he has described as "one of the longest, one of the most intense, and one of the most striking."
As to the grade, Bouin explained that he toyed between suggesting 9b+ or 9c. On his Instagram account he reasoned "I considered the feeling, the comparison with other routes (Bibliography, Move, Beyond,...) at the level of time and feeling, the climbing style. I questioned myself on my experience and my legitimacy. I also considered the fact that it is a FA. Choosing 9b+ would be playing it safe. Choosing 9c would be taking a risk.
I have been playing it safe since 2014 on this cliff by proposing very tight grades. And in the end, nobody has repeated one of these routes. Comparing this route to Bibliographie, Move, Beyond, it seems a step ahead (considering time invesment, feeling, and climbing style. Ramirole is 100% my climbing style).
To choose 9c is to take a risk. A risk of seeing your route downgraded. As there is only one 9c proposed in the world, it's quite hard to be sure and confident. I have never tried a route of such a difficulty. Would this route be in the same league as Silence? Have I not spent all this time partly because of the process of first ascension?
Despite these doubts, I take the risk of proposing the highest of the grades. The 9c should be taken as a "proposal", which now needs other climbers to give their opinions - to confirm or to adjust. This is how gradings are built: The sum of opinions makes the grading less and less subjective.
Our sport is beautiful, we don't need judges, we are the judges. Being an athlete and judging your own performance is beautiful, but at the same time difficult. That's why I would like to invite other climbers to come and try DNA. It's a beautiful route, in an incredible location, not too far from the rest of the world."
Photos by Lena Drapella