posted by dpm on 06/02/2014
It was a huge weekend for American climbers. Just hours after Paige Claassen clipped the chains on Just Do It (5.14c), a route in America put up by a Frenchman; Jonathan Siegrist sent Biographie (5.15a), a route in France established by an American. Biographie needs little introduction, other than to clarify that it’s also known as Realization, the famous route in Céüse, France first climbed by Chris Sharma in 2001. Though it may not be the world’s first 5.15a, it’s now considered the benchmark for the grade and certainly a top contender for the most beautiful and iconic.
Biographie (5.15a) climbs the longest, darkest blue streak near the left side of the Biographie wall. Photo: Jstarinorbit.com
The storied route was bolted by Jean-Christophe Lafaille way back in 1989 which was visionary for the time. In 1996, Céüse legend Arnaud Petit added a mid-point anchor at a relatively decent resting point that marked the end of a 5.14c section. Petit claimed the first ascent to that anchor which was later removed some time after Sharma sent the full pitch. Since Sharma’s first ascent the route has been repeated only by the world’s best climbers: (in order) Silvain Millet, Patxi Usobiaga, Dave Graham, Ethan Pringle, Ramon Julian, and Enzo Oddo. Jonathan’s ascent is the 8th, a very small number considering the allure of the route.
Interestingly, Biographie hasn’t been climbed since Enzo Oddo’s ascent in 2010. For four years, the route resisted all efforts, including Adam Ondra’s much publicized flash effort in 2012. Siegrist’s ascent also marks only the 2nd time it’s been sent since a hold broke low on the route which made the opening boulder problem dramatically more difficult; approximately V11. If the route wasn't solid for the 5.15a grade before, it certainly is now.
Biographie marks Siegrist’s first 5.15 and he writes on his blog that breaking through to that grade required some changes in his climbing.
“For the first time in my climbing life I solicited the help of a trainer. I've quite dramatically changed the way I train - finally trying some new things. I've adjusted my lifestyle, and like I once did many years ago - in pursuit of my first 5.14s - I've anxiously looked ahead and worked hard towards a lofty goal.”
Following his preparation, Jonathan headed to France with the singular objective of climbing Biographie. He describes the route as “truly magnificent” and, recalling his first view of the climb years ago, he writes, “I was shocked to see that such a bold and impressive, seemingly perfect line exists. Add to that, the historic significance of this climb not to mention its unique and brilliant holds and movement -- it really is a proud route.”
Jonathan Siegrist on a redpoint burn of Biographie. Photo: Jstarinorbit.com
After three days of effort, Siegrist linked the first 5.14c “pitch” and fell heading into the hard climbing above. After about two weeks, he’d gotten it down to one hang and even fallen at what he considers “the last hard move.” But he went on to note that, “on paper, it seems I've very close. But I also want to remain extremely humble in my efforts. I know how many times climbers much greater than I have fallen in this upper crux and yet never broke through.” It took three more weeks of close calls, resting, and skin maintenance to finally clip the chains. He succeeded yesterday, June 1st, 2014.