This Boulder Was Graded V17, Until It Wasn’t

On March 27, the 23-year-old French climber Nico Pelorson did the second ascent Soudain Seul (aka The Big Island Sit), Simon Lorenzi’s proposed V17 in Font, suggesting a slight downgrade to V16.

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The French climber Nico Pelorson has made the second ascent of Soudain Seul, also known as Big Island Assis or Big Island Sit, after working the problem off and on since the fall of 2019. The problem is a proposed 9A/V17 put up by Simon Lorenzi in Fontainebleau in February 2021. Seul builds off of The Island, a Dave Graham 8C/V15—contemporary ascentionists usually call it 8B+/V14—from way back in 2008, which was in turn lengthened into The Big Island (8C/V15) by Vincent Pochon, who added a couple more moves. (This too is considered 8B+ by many.) Meanwhile Soudain Seul, which translates to “Suddenly Alone” in English, is a sit-start to the The Big Island.

Something of an undercover crusher, the 23-year-old Pelorson has been climbing since he was 11, and has put down a host of hard problems, mostly in his native France. Last fall he made waves after completing the third ascent of Charles Albert’s No Kpote Only (8C/V15), suggesting a downgrade to the climb from the barefoot climber’s original 9A (V17), which had put it alongside Nalle Hukkataival’s Burden of Dreams, in Lappnor, Finland as the only other proposed 9A at the time. Ryohei Kameyama, the Japanese climber who claimed Kpote Only’s second ascent, had already proposed a smaller downgrade to 8C+/9A. Daniel Woods proposed the most recent V17 just last week, with his first ascent of Return of the Sleepwalker.

Pelorson reported that No Kpote Only took him around 10 sessions, and added that the downgrade was due to a change in beta and the fact that he was wearing climbing shoes. “For me it’s the same difficulty as Délire Onirique (another V15 in Rocher St-Germain),” Pelorson told the French website Fanatic Climbing at the time. “It’s easier with climbing shoes for sure, and we have new beta… Instead of holding the bad two finger pocket and doing a cross like Charles, I put a right heel hook and go again from the crimp left hand to the gaston undercling right hand. You need to have good flexibility and good skin because it cuts your skin very quickly. ”

Now Pelorson has done the second ascent of Soudain Seul, Simon Lorenzi’s proposed V17, and subsequently suggested a downgrade for it as well. “For the rating, I would feel bad to claim to have passed one of the only 2 9As on earth when deep down, I think this block is not worth this sacred rating,” Pelorson told Fanatic. “8C+ seems more consistent to me. I think there are many climbers around the world who can claim to do it with sufficient investment, which would not be the case with a true 9A boulder. This is only my opinion and I respect Simon’s very much.”

Both Pelorson and Lorenzi used a book under their knee pads while sending. “[It was] a book that I found in a book box and that I didn’t like very much!” Pelorson said. He reported that he spent the better part of a year working on the problem with little success at first, before training hard during France’s second Covid-19 lockdown. He really began to make progress in the latter half of 2020. As far as the actual send, he called it “simply better luck than the previous go. No mistake, no slip, catching the holds perfectly in the right spot… everything went smoothly.” 

Pelorson added that surprisingly, it wasn’t just physical training that helped him send. Towards the end of his time working Soudain Seul, he began working part-time at a rehabilitation center, as part of his training to become a physiotherapist. “[This] allowed me to get the boulder out of my head a bit,” he said. “When working in rehabilitation all day with patients with MS, hemiplegia, Parkinson’s disease… it really puts things into perspective…”

Post-send, Pelorson reported on Instagram, “Now, time to rest before new projects like Total Éclipse [8A+/V12] or Gourmandise [8B/V13].”