The American Matty Hong succeeds in the second ascent of the Flex Luthor route near Rifle, Colorado. He suggests a rating of 9b, so it enhances the route. If this rating is confirmed, then Flex Luthor would historically be the first 9b in the world. Or not?
"Bibliography devalued, Franconian Jura routes devalued, routes at Charmey devalued", this was most of the news in the recent past. For once, a route has not been downgraded, but upgraded, namely Flex Luthor at Fortress of Solitude in Rifle, Colorado.
For 18 years, the route Flex Luthor pointed from the first ascent Tommy Caldwell all potential repeaters. And they have come in large numbers to wrestle an inspection of one of the most difficult routes in the United States.
Caldwell, who first climbed the route in 2003, did not give a specific assessment, but compared the difficulty of Flex Luthor with Kryptonite, a route he also started for the first time, rated 9a. And so it came about that Flex Luthor was unofficially traded as 9a + in the climbing scene.
Does climbing history have to be rewritten once more?
After almost 20 years without a red point ascent, it was now Caldwell's compatriot Matty Hongwho was the first to repeat Flex Luthor.
To the surprise of the scene, Matty Hong has now proposed an upgrade to 9b for Flex Luthor. Should future repeaters confirm this grade, Flex Luthor would be the first 9b in the world. The route Ali Hulk extension sit start, first ascended through, currently bears this title Dani Andrada in 2007. At least that would be a hasty judgment when looking at the situation. But history will probably not be rewritten that quickly. There is another important detail in the Flex Luthor cause.
Have broken handles changed the difficulty?
Whether climbing history has to be rewritten depends on another very important aspect. The route is known for its fragile rock. Matty Hong is quoted as saying that he felt the route was more difficult due to grip breaks than when Caldwell first started the route - but not significantly more difficult.
Because of this uncertainty factor, it will probably forever remain unclear whether the route had a difficulty of 2003b at the time of the first ascent in 9 or not. The title “First 9b in the world” will probably remain with Ali Hulk.
Regardless of the discussion about the grade, the ascent of Tommy Caldwell is a milestone in climbing history. Years before Dani Andrada (2007) or Chris Sharma (2008), Caldwell already scored a route in the area of 9a + / 9b, without much fuss.
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Credits: Cover picture Margo Hayes