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Fred Rouhling talks Akira, downgrading and chipping in new interview

He famously graded a route 5.15b long before the grade was officially climbed, and that route is now 5.14d

In 1995, top climber Fred Rouhling made the first ascent of Akira at Le Périgord in France and graded it 5.15b. At the time, there were no routes graded 5.15, but in 1996 Alex Huber climbed Open Air 5.14d, which was later upgraded to 5.15a as the first of the grade.

Sébastien Bouin and Lucien Martinez repeated Akira last year, and both suggested it’s 5.14d, which is still impressive for the mid-1990s when there were only a handful of route in the world at the grade.

Akira climbs a 12-metre roof and heads into an eight-metre face. The route was clouded by controversy when first climbed due to the 5.15b suggestion. “Anyway, this route is hard,” commented Bouin, “and quite unbelievable for the 90s.”

After hearing the news of the repeats, Rouhling said, “Thanks to Seb Bouin’s Vintage Rock Tour… So, the starting boulder section would no longer be worth the original V13, but is now around V9, which would bring the overall difficulty down to 5.14d.”

Rouhling talks about the past and future of hard climbing: