The Belgians strike again

The strong climbing duo Siebe Vanhee and Sébastien Berthe is back. And the return of the Belgians brings back memories. About how they have repeated and devalued numerous multi-pitch classics in the Alps. They recently struck in Spain, where they started and, you guessed it, devalued Rayu in a day off.

The 600 meter line rayu is a test piece by the brothers Pou and Kico Cerdá. The line in the upper eighth level of difficulty is considered the most difficult line in the Picos de Europa National Park, along with Orbayu (8c) on the Picu Urreillu. On August 19th have Siebe Vanhee and Sebastien Berthe climbed the multi-pitch route without further ado, even flashed Berthe. After their successful one-day push, they propose a downgrade to 8b+.

Rayu's amazing key pitch was rated 8c by first-time climbers. However, we felt that it could be a bit lighter. Despite our relatively good shape, we can't claim that we're capable of climbing an 8c pitch that high on a multi-pitch route that fast.

Seb Berthe
One day - first day: Siebe Vanhee and Seb Berthe make short work of the difficult multi-pitch tour Rayu in Picos de Europa. Image: Sieb Vanhee
One day – first day: Siebe Vanhee and Seb Berthe make short work of the difficult multi-pitch tour Rayu in Picos de Europa. Image: Sieb Vanhee

Crucial passage: who wants first?

The two Belgians entered Rayu with a clear goal: to score the route in one day. The first ten pitches up to the huge ledge in the middle of the wall gave her confidence. "Nothing too difficult, but a certain amount of concentration was required, considering that the first ascents opened this line without many bolts," sums up Siebe Vanhee.

Before the crux, Berthe and Vanhee first had to decide who would try it first. Both thought they had a chance of being able to flash the most difficult pitch on the route.

I felt like my chances of flashing the pitch were less than Sébastien's, so I figured I could make a good onsight attempt with the option to crash and me all the moves for a perfect second try to think.

Siebe Vanhee
Thanks to their strong team play, Siebe Vanhee and Seb Berthe can look forward to their free ascent and Berthe's flash ascent. Image: Sieb Vanhee
Thanks to their strong team play, Siebe Vanhee and Seb Berthe can look forward to their free ascent and Berthe's flash ascent. Image: Sieb Vanhee

In a team play for the flash inspection

After Vanhee deciphered the beta and marked the holds, it was Berthe's turn to take his chance. Arms pumped, he fights his way through the first and second crux – the final crux still above him.

With my elbows pulled up, I manage to hold the last hold, in extremis! I can't believe I'm still standing in the wall. A nice team flash ascent. I am happy, proud and grateful.

Seb Berthe

Siebe Vanhee is rooting for his rope partner. "I was really happy for him and couldn't wait to try it too." He was so confident that he reached the deflector in a calm and perfect climb. Two and a half hours later the Belgian duo reached the summit.

Siebe Vanhee: «It's exciting to climb hard multi-pitches in a "one-day-first-day push". Seb is the master of this style. Image: Sieb Vanhee
Siebe Vanhee: «It's exciting to climb hard multi-pitches in a "one-day-first-day push". Seb is the master of this style. Image: Sieb Vanhee

Devaluation should not belittle the performance of the first ascent

As mentioned at the beginning, after their one-day ascent, the two suggest grade 8b+ for Rayu. «Compared to the last sport climbs I did, it felt more like 8b+. The breaks are too good and the moves are probably too easy to make it a proper 8c," said Seb Berthe.

Nevertheless, our devaluation proposal does not detract from the achievement of the Pou brothers and Kico Cerdá: opening and climbing this pitch and route from the ground up in this aerial style is an amazing achievement! Full of respect!"

Seb Berthe

They felt that the difficulty in the crux section of the crux would definitely depend on height and it might be easier for taller people. Berthe decoded the difficulty of 8b+ using the Darth Grader algorithm, which he fed with information about the individual sections.

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Credits: Cover picture Frank Kretschmann

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