Home > International

Was Ben Moon’s Hubble the World’s First 5.14d?

Buster Martin's new video interviews Ben Moon and documents his own 2020 send

Buster Martin just released a video of his 2020 send of Hubble at Raven Tor in the Peak District of England, U.K.; it’s the ninth repeat of the route in 30 years. He called the video The World’s First 9a, and for those not in the know, a 9a equates to 5.14d.

Hubble was first climbed in 1990 by Ben Moon, 23 at the time, as the world’s first 5.14c. The following year, Wolfgang Gullich made the first ascent of Action Directe at Frankenjura, Germany, and graded it 5.14c/d, but it was later upgraded to 5.14d.

Gullich was one of sport climbing’s leading climbers during his day, before his death in 1992. In 1984, he climbed the world’s first 5.13d with Kanal im Rücken at Frankenjura. In 1985, he climbed the first 5.14a with Punks in the Gym at Arapalies and in 1987 he climbed the first 5.14b with Wallstreet at Frankenjura.

When Aex Megos, 22 at the time, repeated Hubble in 2016, it had only been repeated by Malcolm Smith, John Gaskins, Steve Dunning and Steve McClure. Both Adam Ondra and Sean McColl had attempted it. Ondra was one of the first to suggest it was likely 5.14d.

After his send, Megos said, “Action Directe is 16 hard moves and Hubble is only four. Each of the four moves of Hubble is more difficult than any of Action Directe. I climbed three 5.14cs in Raven Tor: Hubble, Kabaah and Evolution. I had the most difficulty on Kabaah, although I still consider it 5.14c. Hubble is 5.14d for some and not for others.”

Megos was the only climber to send Hubble and Action Directe. Hubble took Megos two days, but he climbed Action Directe in two hours. At the time, Megos had climbed routes like First Round, First Minute 5.15b, Lucid Dreaming V15 and Biographie/Realization 5.15a in three attempts. In 2016, he also climbed Canada’s first 5.15 with Fight Club 5.15b.

In 2016, Will Bosi also repeated Hubble, and said, “In my opinion it’s 9a, I don’t have a lot to compare it with but it felt like a 8B+ [V14} boulder at least for the crux so it must be pretty hard.”

In 2019, Pete Dawson repeated Hubble and agreed that it was 5.14d. The BMC wrote about it in an article called Pete Dawson Ticks Hubble 9a.

Here’s Dawson’s beta: “The route starts from a big flake. Most people reach straight for a huge pinch. I was too short for this so I held an intermediate and a foothold to get the pinch. From the pinch you reach right to an undercut and move your feet above a lip and bring your left hand into a two-finger pocket undercut. This is the hardest move. Then you slap right for a slopey crimp, then there’s a big pinch, then an undercut crimp. Then I bring my feet above another lip and slap for a rough crimp. This is the redpoint crux.”

Matthew Wright became the ninth climber to redpoint Hubble this past September, shortly before Buster Martin, and suggested 5.14d. Hubble took Wright 25 sessions this year with 10 trying to do the moves, 10 to link them and five to redpoint. The hardest routes he’d previously climbed are Evolution 5.14c and Kaabah 5.14c, with his most difficult boulders being Serendipity V14 and Belly of the Beast V13/14.

Wright said that Hubble was the hardest climb he’d ever done and that it’s “certainly 9a.”

As Jens Larssen, owner of 8a.nu, once pointed out: “So, how could the history logically be re-written, as Ben Moon should be credited for skipping 8c+ [5.14c] and making the world’s first 9a? Maybe, beside some grade inflation, it is because the top old-school climbers spent much more time specializing on short power-endurance routes, often optimizing for just one insanely hard redpoint project, as there was not much else to do then.

“Most modern top climbers of today, instead, travel around the world doing as many routes in different styles as possible challenging both endurance and power at the same time.”

This isn’t the first historical route to possibly be upgraded. In 1996, Alex Huber made the first ascent of Open Air at Austria’s Schleier Waterfall and graded it 5.14d.

Adam Ondra made the second ascent when he was 15 and wrote on 8a.nu, “When Alex Huber did it, Action Directe (was) considered as 8c+ [5.14c], then 9a [5.14d] for this one was OK. Now when Action Directe is 9a [5.14d], this should be 9a+ [5.15a].”

If all of these adjustments stick, then Hubble was the world’s first 5.14d before Action Directe and Open Air was the world’s first 5.15a before Chris Sharma’s Biographie/Realization. But as Megos said, “8c+, 9a+ or 8b+. Who cares?! It’s the name that counts!”

In the below video, Martin interviews Ben Moon about Hubble’s grade and documents his own send. Martin was U.K.’s second climber to send 5.15a with First Ley in Margalef.

Buster Martin on Hubble