Just one week after envisioning an unprecedented king linkup in Norway’s Flatanger Cave, Sébastien Bouin has already sent it.
At a staggering 430 feet in length and a proposed difficulty of 9b/+ (5.15b/c), “Nordic Marathon” is the longest continuous stretch of 5.15 ever climbed.
Back on July 15, Seb Bouin took to Instagram to share his vision for the endurance monster that would soon become “Nordic Marathon.” At the time, Bouin has just redpointed the second pitch of “Thor’s Hammer,” an iconic Flatanger line with a demanding crux near the chains.
Bouin’s send of the second pitch, which goes at 5.15a, led him to wonder: could he use it as part of a route that would climb the entire length of the massive cave? Adam Ondra had apparently considered such a route in the past and shared the idea with Bouin. Suddenly, it seemed vaguely possible.
Bouin had already finished the first pitch of “Thor’s Hammer” back in 2015. The pieces of the puzzle were coming together.
The idea came to life as “Nordic Marathon” today. To climb the staggering route that contains enough hard climbing for three pitches, Bouin chose from three possibilities for the start. The route is not a linkup of both pitches of “Thor’s Hammer” plus the topout pitch. Nor does it start on Ondra’s testpiece, “Move” (5.15c).
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Instead, the first half of Bouin’s new route is “Nordic Plumber,” a 5.14b Ethan Pringle established in 2012. “Nordic Plumber” shares an anchor with the first pitch of “Thor’s Hammer,” so Bouin was able to continue climbing into the long second pitch from there.
According to Bouin, the addition of “Nordic Plumber” made the upper cruxes on pitch two of “Thor’s Hammer” substantially harder.
“Coming into the 9a+, with my arms already so pumped was insane,” he wrote. Due to the physical demands of the lengthy linkup, Bouin was only able to attempt the route one time per session, with a full rest day between each.
“The sheer size of the route makes it hard mentally,” he admitted. “It was quite hard psychologically to only give it one burn every 2 days. The pressure felt so high in this last crux.”
That final crux comes after 260 feet of nearly horizontal ninth-grade climbing. After already completing one rope transfer and turning the final lip of the cave, Bouin had no choice but to untie from his rope for the final 15-30 feet of “very easy climbing” because the rope drag was so severe.
Though Bouin chose to climb his linkup via “Nordic Plumber,” he now plans to get to work on harder variations. To connect the first pitch of “Thor’s Hammer” with the second would be a major step up from the overall difficulty of “Nordic Marathon.” Ultimately, Bouin’s aspirations are even bigger than that.
Linking up Ondra’s “Move” into the full monster line would create the hardest possible combination and fulfill his “ultimate goal.”
Bouin required four separate trips to Fatanger just to send “Move” on its own — but he did do it in 2019. Piling the rest of the route on top of it would certainly represent a new level in endurance sport climbing, with a grade of solid 5.15+ — at least.