Big Island Sitter goes to Lorenzi at Font 9a?
- Thursday 11th February 2021
After a concentrated effort, Belgian climber Simon Lorenzi has done the first ascent of The Big Island Sit-Start at a possible grade of Font 9a.
If the grade sticks, Lorenzi’s Sit-Start to The Big Island, which he named Soudain Seul, would be right up there with Nalle Hukkataival's Burden of Dreams in Lappnor at Font 9a.
Using customised shoes and a beefing-up his kneepad - with a book no less - Simon Lorenzi’s ascent of The Big Island Sit Start completes the long gestation period for the world-renown, classic Fontainebleau testpiece. Lorenzi’s is the third iteration of the problem. Originally, The Island was first climbed by Dave Graham at Font 8c back in 2008. Graham’s ascent itself made headlines because it was hailed as “the last great problem “ in the Forest. Graham originally saw the then project back when he climbed in the Forest as a teenager with the likes of Jacky Goddoffe. Although Graham originally graded The Island Font 8c (V15) it has settled down a notch easier at Font 8b+/V14.
The two-move extension to The Island came next in 2010 by Vincent Pochon. The Big Island, as Pochon’s new extended version was called, was itself graded Font 8c (V15).
It appears that Lorenzi originally said that the moves on his new sit-start alone weighed-in at hard Font 8b (V13) but that it was actually harder than the stand-up version, ie The Island, and harder than any of the other Font 8b (V13) that he has climbed. Subsequent reports appear to suggest that Font 8b+ (V14) would be a better reflection of the difficulty; certainly that was what others - incuding Jimmy Webb - who have tried the sit-start in the past have said. Having done the new sit start The Big Island has to be climbed without any rest.
Lorenzi is said to have first tried The Big Island back in October of last year. Impressively it took him just four tries on his second day to get that polished that off. Interestingly, Lorenzi has commented that he believes both The Island and The Big Island are both Font 8b+ (V14). Crucially, Lorenzi – a shorter climber than most at 5’ 6” – was able to unlock different beta for the upper section saying: “I think my method is more powerful but less reachy, and requires good heel hooking abilities and technique.”
Returning for the sit-start, Lorenzi soon notched up day after day on the well-known problem. Finally, he customised a pair of stiffer shoes with the heel and toe rubber from a softer pair; that immediately gave Lorenzi the edge (no pun intended) and suddenly he was falling off the final moves of the full problem. Bad weather and a strained psoas muscle intervened but the enforced time off worked as Lorenzi got the first ascent of The Big Island Sitter – or Soudain Seul as he has called it – soon after he returned to the problem. Having taken six days to work the new sit-start, the whole bloc took Lorenzi around 25 days in total.
Lorenzi is a little reluctant when it comes to the grade saying the following in his Instagram post: “About the grade I feel that is something between a hard 8c+ and 9a. I don't know if it's 9a/ V17 because I don't have enough experience to say and there is no other 9a in the style to compare. It seems that the others guys who tried it think more for the 9a/V17 grade but nobody really knows. After all the reflexions 9a/V17 looks to be the appropriate grade regarding where is our sport now. Have new kind of reference in a level is something important in climbing. That push the sport further and it's also add a new point of comparison in this grade. As always the time and the repetitions will tell us!”
Previously, Lorenzi climbed Action Direct as his first F9a sport route and Dreamtime as his first Font 8c (V15). He was World Youth Championships in Lead in 2016.
Follow Simon Lorenzi on Instagram here….