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Anak Verhoeven Sends Her Second 5.15a

Her first was the first ascent of Sweet Neuf in 2017

Belgian climber Anak Verhoeven has sent Joe Mama in Oliana, her second 5.15a. The 30-metre route was bolted by Joe Kinder and first climbed by Klemen Becan and repeated by climbers like Chris Sharma and Sean Bailey.

In 2017, she won the European Championship and made the first ascent of Sweet Neuf 5.15a before getting a serious elbow injury. The first woman to climb 5.15a was Margo Hayes in February 2017, a few months before Verhoeven sent Sweet Neuf. Ashima Shiraishi had climbed Open Your Mind Direct 5.14d/15a in 2013 and Josune Bereziartu had climbed Bimbaluna 5.14d/15a before that.

Before Sweet Neuf, Verhoeven had already climbed 26 routes 5.14a or harder, including Era Vella 5.14d, La Reina Mora 5.14+ and Broadway 5.14+. In 2019, Cédric Lachat did the second ascend of Sweet Neuf and confirmed the grade at 5.15a.

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Joe Mama, 9a+! 😃 I came to Oliana without having a particular route in mind that I wanted to try. Arriving at the crag, I made a quick decision: Joe Mama. In the time that followed, I went through the whole process of taming a route:
Finding the exact beta that suited me. Accepting hot temperatures and wet rock. Treating painful skin and taking extra rest days. 
I quickly felt at home in the route, but it wasn’t conquered yet! There are almost no places to shake out or take a breath. The crux is intense on tiny holds, followed by move after move of body tension and endurance. Quite a project… but abandoning didn’t feel like the right option. My first redpoint attempt came and I fell high up, in the crux. Two attempts later I chose a beta change which worked: I passed the crux move shortly after. But then I started falling at the crux move again. And again. And again. I just felt blocked every time I reached that spot and couldn’t move my body up. So, it was time for another change of beta. Just one extra foot movement made the difference and I was ready to keep going! But… the end of the trip was drawing near. Only 2 more climbing days were left. And I felt so close to sending… . . Another attempt. I passed the crux this time, with my new foot beta, but I fell some moves further, on a tricky deadpoint. Nooo… Again, I had to search for one more detail that needed to be changed. And I found it. My 10th redpoint attempt and the last one of that day.
I taped a finger with a bloody cut. I felt more tired than before. But I was determined to fight. I passed the crux and the deadpoint move too. Only one more risky move awaited me, right below the chain, but I didn’t want to let go. And I stuck it!
What a feeling to clip those chains!!! . . . Most of the trip was spent on Joe Mama, but during a day off my project, I also on-sighted Gorilas en la Niebla – 8b+, a nice and long Oliana classic. Photo by @ezrabyrne 📸 @lasportivagram @petzl_official @lecomte.alpirando @xcultclimbing @climbforhim @frigyesvandenauweele #rockclimbing #oliana #lleida #catalunya #equipetapassion #lasportiva #weareclimbers #xcultclimbing

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Sharma on Joe Mama