It’s the world’s hardest lines that catch Jakob Schubert’s attention particularly fast. Ever since French rock climber Sebastién Bouin opened the route DNA in the Verdon Gorge in 2022 and proposed the grade 9c, 32-year-old Schubert couldn’t wait to make the trip to the steep wall of La Ramirole and lay his hands on one of the hardest routes on the planet for the very first time.
It wasn’t more than a flying visit but the take-aways were impressive and sustainable. Watch his newly released video (Video: Touching DNA | 9c) to get first-hand insights on DNA and read on for more details on Jakob’s learnings on the route.
Last November I went for a very short trip to Verdon. I took the 10 hour drive just because I wanted to spend four days on DNA to see what the route is like; if I like it for the future, and to know if it is something that I'm really interested in trying a lot more. I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the sector La Ramirole and the route itself. It's simply amazing. I really enjoyed climbing on it and I felt pretty good in the route as well. I was able to do all the moves within two days. A video that Seb sent me helped massively as I didn't have to invest all the time to figure all the beta out by myself. What attracts me most is that there’s not one specific crux move but that the route is more about adding all these hard moves together and do it in one piece. And obviously it is a very attractive line on a magnificent wall, the new video gives just a small glimpse into the beauty.
The route starts with a very powerful 8c, a rather short one with quite a few hard moves. Seb does a lot of like very tricky knee bars that I definitely struggled on; but then you have a very big knee bar rest, which is definitely very good. The long crux section starts there I would say, so there's this 8a boulder problem and then a few moves in between, a very bad rest and then an 8a+ boulder according to Seb. I'm not sure, it could also be a tiny bit harder. Definitely both boulders are quite hard, especially the first one felt hard for me because it's a huge span and I’m completely stretched out.
Thereafter the route continues to be very powerful: pinches, dropknees and a big move to an undercling and tricky knee bars along the way which are difficult to get a feeling for. Most of it is very much my style and I’m happy to have found solutions for all these hard individual sections. After that it’s still 8c/8c+ to the top, with basically the best climbing of the route on these amazing tufas. Altogether the route is really hard, and I can't wait to actually come here for a longer period and try sending this beast one day. I’m also looking forward to seeing the video about Seb’s process for the first ascent. Wanting to do something so badly always brings along mental battles, especially if the process is spread out over such a long period of time.
A lot of people are always very interested in the grade of the very hardest routes. What do you think about Silence? What do you think about Project Big? Do you think DNA is actually 9c? Obviously, it's very hard to tell after only a couple of days in it. I think you can only grade a route once you actually sent it. You can make assumptions, but actually grading it is only possible once you succeeded on it. I haven't really tried connecting all the boulders, which will definitely be hard. What I can say right now is it's not harder than 9c and it's not easier than 9b+.
I'm kind of a spontaneous person. So I wouldn't say I have my whole year planned out. However, I have certain goals, routes, boulders and competitions that I want to try or attend.
When it comes down to competitions, my biggest goal is to make the top three in Combined at the World Championships to secure the ticket for the Olympic Games. If I'm not able to do that, then obviously, I will train for Laval, the European qualifier in November.
Regarding rock climbing, I’ll focus on bouldering until spring, and then I hope I can make it back to Flatanger for another round on Project Big. If I manage to grab the Olympic ticket, my focus for the rest of the year will switch completely to rock and I’ll probably come back to Gorge du Verdon.
The stakes are high, and the routes hard – sounds like a year to Jakob Schuberts taste.
Photocredit: ALPSOLUT | Hannes Mair