Last week, Théo Blass sent Souvenirs du pic (8c, 5.14b) near Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert, in Southern France. At 10-years-old, the French native becomes the youngest person to have ever climbed the grade. The first half of the route is steep and pumpy, while the second half is technical and finder intensive. Last year, Blass toproped a variation of the route, graded at 8b (5.13d). This year, he sent the entirety of Souvenirs du pic on lead in less than 10 sessions. Blass now joins a short list of extremely strong climbers who have climbed in the mid-5.14 range in early adolescence.
In 2004, an 11-year-old Czech boy by the name of Adam Ondra made history by redpointing Mascherina (5.14b) in the Grotta del Aeronauta, Italy. At that time he was the youngest person to do so. In 2012, Brooke Raboutou beat out Ondra’s record by a matter of months when she climbed Welcome to Tijuana (5.14b) in Rodellar, Spain, also at 11-years old. Ashima Shirashi sent two 5.14c’s in two days at 11-years-old with her back-to-back ascents of Southern Smoke and Lucifer in Kentucky's Red River Gorge in 2012. In 2016, Ukranian Illya Bakhmet-Smolensky climbed Pijane Trójkąty (5.14b) in Poland, also at 11-years-old. That leaves Théo Blass, at 10, as the youngest person ever to send 5.14b.
“Theo started climbing more regularly when he was 8 (he was climbing before, but quite irregularly),” Blass’s father told 8a.nu. “His progression was quite interesting: it took him a few months of projecting to send his first 6b+ (5.10d) on top rope and then he progressed from 6b+ to 8b (Bertane, 5.13d) at age nine in less than a year-and-a-half. His training is a bit chaotic and highly dependent on motivation, time of the year, and availability of other more fun activities (such as mountain biking, skiing, or building a shack in the garden).”
According to his father, Blass trained aggressively at their home bouldering wall during the beginning of the COVID-19 lockdown, but lost interest and did not train for the final month of lockdown. Nonetheless, within a few weeks of restrictions lifting, Blass sent his hardest route to date, breaking records along the way.
"Adult grades are a bit of a nonsense when it comes to kids,” Blass's father said. “Two of the hardest moves on the route for Théo are among the easiest for adults—so not worth getting too excited about grades (especially when you are under 4’7”).”
He continued, leaving a final note to the youth of the climbing community: “Even if fear, frustration and failure are part of the game, climbing kids of the world, enjoy every moment of climbing, projecting, trying hard, sending, and try to have fun, and confidence—the future belongs to you."