seb bouin iron curtain
Seb Bouin on "Iron Curtain" (5.15a/b), Flatanger, Norway; (photos/Marco Müller @climbimarco)

Seb Bouin Makes First Repeat of Ondra’s ‘Iron Curtain’ at Flatanger

The French rock jock cued up a knee pad to soften the crux and gave the route a personal downgrade to 5.15a/9a+. Did the young crusher throw shade at the GOAT? Not a single shadow.

Work smarter, not harder. That was Sébastien Bouin’s strategy on Adam Ondra’s 2013 route “Iron Curtain” (5.15b/9b) at Norway’s Flatanger cave.

Utilizing a knee pad to help lighten the load on his shoulders during the crux, Bouin clipped a letter grade off the climb in his personal estimation. But make no mistake: his assignment of the route’s difficulty intended no disrespect to Ondra. The world’s best rock climber showed Bouin the ropes at Flatanger in the first place.

In a lengthy Instagram post by Bouin, he explained how he first got psyched on “Iron Curtain.”

seb bouin on Iron Curtain at Flatanger
Seb Bouin on “Iron Curtain” (5.15a/b), Flatanger, Norway; (photo/Marco Müller @climbimarco)

“Back in 2013, I sent an email to Adam asking him if he will go to Flatanger during that summer. I was searching for a partner to climb with. I wasn’t expecting any answer; we didn’t know each other yet,” he wrote. “The following day, I had an answer, proposing a date to pick me up from the airport.”

At the cave, the duo and fellow climber Erick Grandelius fixated on “Iron Curtain.”

“The line looked so hard and beautiful. It was the first route [Ondra] crushed during this trip,” Bouin recalled. “I had the chance to belay him during the FA, and it was impressive. He was doing a crazy gaston move for the crux. This was savage.”

Anybody who’s watched Ondra climb knows that description of his style is more than fair. But to solve the route for himself 9 years later, Bouin took a less resistant path. Arriving at Flatanger this summer, he decided to leave himself “open” and follow inspiration. The approach led him straight to “Iron Curtain” and the first repeat of the route after a few attempts.

“It took me 14 tries to do it and five climbing days. I used kneepads to send it. I think the line is easier with kneepads. You can do the crux a bit differently. It’s still quite hard but less demanding on the shoulders and more of a conventional boulder problem,” Bouin explained. “The rock is so perfect, and the line is so cool.”

Seb Bouin on Iron Curtain at Flatanger, Norway
Seb Bouin on “Iron Curtain” (5.15a/b), Flatanger, Norway; (photos/Marco Müller @climbimarco)

He went on to grade his ascent 5.15a/9a+ and assess that he still considers Ondra’s original 5.15b/9b proposal accurate.

“I am quite sure of this grade if you are not using kneepads,” he stated.

As of this writing, Ondra remains silent on the matter. The GOAT had neither commented on Bouin’s post, which is 2 days old, nor rendered his own. If we had to put our money somewhere, we’d bet he would meet the young Frenchman’s success with his signature exuberance.

From the sound of things, the two crushers had a great time together when they first roped up back in 2013.

“Making this trip with these guys was so inspiring. It was a turning point in my climbing life,” Bouin wrote. “They opened my eyes regarding high-level climbing. I learned so much seeing them moving on the rock. It was different. Thank you guys for these memories.”

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Sam Anderson
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Sam has roamed the American continent to follow adventures, explore natural wonders, and find good stories. After going to college to be a writer, he got distracted (or saved) by rock climbing and spent most of the next decade on the road, supporting himself with trade work. He's had addresses in the Adirondack Mountains, Las Vegas, and somehow Kansas, but his heart belongs in the Texas hill country.