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On May 22, 30-year-old French climber Mélissa Le Nevé clipped the chains on her project of six years: Action Directe (9a/5.14d). Located in Frankenjura, Germany, Action Directe is widely regarded as the world’s first 9a/5.14d, with its first ascent completed by the legendary Wolfgang Güllich in 1991. Forty-five feet of steep and notoriously difficult climbing—the crux is a dyno to a two-finger pocket—Action Directe remains a test piece for the grade to this day. There have been 27 documented ascents since 1991; Le Nevé is the first woman to complete the route.
“I was hoping this moment wiIl arrive for ages,” Le Nevé wrote on Instagram. “Never I would have imagined how emotional it would be to clip the anchor. I totally fell in love with the process, to solve the puzzle and unlock this jump. So obsessed that it taught me patience. Years of commitment, ups and downs, hope and many doubts.”
Le Nevé began gym climbing at age 15 and was a strong competition contender for years, earning the French women’s bouldering champion title in 2010 and 2013, and placing second in World Cup events in 2013 and 2016. She retired from comp climbing in 2016 and has since focused her efforts outdoors. Le Nevé is an all-around climber, having completed everything from 5.14 multi-pitch routes to V14 boulder problems.
Earlier this month, Le Nevé redpointed Bionic Commando, a 5.14c sport testpiece in German Bavaria—her third route of the grade—before refocusing her efforts on her longtime project Action Directe, which is now her most difficult redpoint. Le Nevé teamed up with professional climbing trainer Guillaume Levernier to work the route. Action Directe has a long history of concerted training regimens—after all, Güllich invented the campus board specifically to train for his first ascent.
Le Nevé’s partner, Fabian Buhl, wrote on Instagram: “I am super proud that [Melissa Le Nevé] did after six years of trying Action Directe. It is not only the first 9a, it is also a super special and power route. The motivation, dedication and sacrifice she invested all year round, in order to be more patient, stronger and smarter is one thing. The other huge part is the self belief into a dream!”
Le Nevé now joins the ranks of some of the strongest climbers in history who have finished Action Directe: Alex Megos, Adam Ondra, Dave Graham, and, of course, Wolfgang Güllich. She announced on Instagram that a film about her ascent will be included in Reel Rock 15.
“Action directe, Wolfgang Güllich. 9a. – The classic. The legend. The first,” wrote Le Nevé. “What a journey … what an inspiring person… what a fight… but also ‘une histoire d’amour’ [a love story]… everything I searched [for] in climbing.”