Simon Lorenzi talks Soudain seul, his 9A boulder problem at Fontainebleau in France
Interview with Simon Lorenzi after the first ascent of Soudain seul, ie the sit start to Big Island at Fontainebleau in France, which the Belgian rock climber has graded 9A.
Last week Belgium's Simon Lorenzi made the long-awaited first ascent of the sit down start to The Big Island at Fontainebleau in France, completing therefore one of the most famous projects of the forest. The extended line has now been called Soudain seul and graded 9A and, after Burden of Dreams put up by Nalle Hukkataival in 2016, is only the second boulder problem in the world of these inordinate difficulties. And obviously, while waiting for grade confirmation, stunningly beautiful.
Simon congratulations! You sent one the most famous projects in the forest!
This boulder has been known about for years. It was first climbed by Dave Graham in 2008 as The island 8C. Two years later Vincent Pochon established The big island 8C, that added two small moves and started in my opinion from a more logical position. Due to the incredible line and the fact that it’s situated in the amazing forest of Fontainebleau this boulder quickly became one of the famous in the world.
You climbed Big Island in October, in just two sessions!
Honestly those were perhaps the best two days of climbing that I’ve ever had. The boulder is perfect and really suited my style. When I first got there I was so excited and happy to try this dream line that I didn’t rest for more than 1 minute until I figured out all the moves, which was actually quite hard because I had to find a new solution for the crux. After that I almost sent it on my second go from the start, but I began to get more and more tired after having climbed it all day, since I hoped to do it on my first session. Unfortunately I was too tired that day. When I returned the next day my muscles were still sore but fortunately I sent it on my 4th try.
What about that new beta?
Instead of doing the big move to the right I place my left heel really high and then cross my left hand to the hold usually first used with the right. Then I match to go to the crimp. With this new beta I sent it way faster than expected. An absolute dream of mine became true that day and, at the same time, a bigger one was suddenly born.
Until then what were your hardest sends?
The hardest boulder that I did before was Dreamtime at Cresciano in 2018. It took me two really small sessions. My best performance at Font before Soudain seul (Big island assis) was flashing the 8B L'Insoutenable Légèreté de l'être. I have to say flashing is one of my favorite games in climbing because it's hard but oh so satisfying!
Simon you’re not only a boulderer. You chose a good sports climb for your first 9a…
Yes for sure! Frankenjura is maybe my favourite areas and for sure the place where I’ve climbed the most. I did my first 8b there and also my first 8b+, Stone love, which until only a few days ago was my most memorable ascent. In autumn 2015 I repeated Wolfgang Güllich’s 8c Wallstreet after just a few days work, so I decided to go check out Action Directe, known as the world’s first 9a. I really wanted this one for my first 9a because of what it has come to represent. And it took me 11 days of work in total. Frankenjura is definitely one of the best areas in the world for short routes on amazing limestone!
And what about competitions? You were World Champion of your category a few years ago
Competitions are what I’m been training for, for years now. But it seems that my training is working better outdoors than indoors! Yes, my best result was in 2016 when I won the Lead World Youth Championship. In 2017 I placed 10th at the World Cup in Kranj, and haven’t performed better since unfortunately. But I’m looking forward to competitions and I’d love to qualify for a World Cup Finals this year. And I’ll also be training hard in order to qualify for the 2024 Olympics.
Let's return to the present day. Tell us about the sit start. What makes it so difficult?
The first part has already been done before by a few people. It’s hard because it’s tricky and conditions dependant, much more than the second part. Having said that, there are a few burly moves on underclings and few moves on crimps where the core is really engaged. That obviously makes you tired before reaching the end. The problem was that I was spending too much energy in the beginning, and also, I wasn’t succeeding on the first part at every attempt. Sometimes I got close to the top but I was absolutely exhausted, with no chance of doing the last 3 moves. The key to success was discovering micro adjustments to save energy and become more consistent on the starting moves.
You also used a book under a kneepad...
Yes, my leg was too short for the most important kneebar so I put a little book under the kneepad. And I had to wear "stiff" climbing shoes because soft shoes bent too much, meaning that all the pressure in the kneebar was lost. For someone my size, every centimeter was important in this kneebar!
9A… That’s a big, big number Simon!
Yes, grading it was not easy for me because I have no experience at this level. I wanted to propose the most appropriate grade but it’s hard to know when you don’t have comparison. It was also important for me to suggest a grade I honestly believe in, not one which might have a bigger impact media wise. I can’t wait to see someone else send it and hear their point of view!
So how do you feelnow? Regardless of its grade, establishing such a beautiful boulder in the birthplace of bouldering must be quite something!
I’m so happy to have achieved a goal that I never thought possible few years ago. And for sure now I’m really hungry for more! Sending such a historical boulder on the day before my birthday is the best present that I’ve ever had!