If you follow the international competition climbing circuit, you probably know who Chaehyun Seo is. If you don’t, get ready to find out.
The 19-year-old Olympian just repeated the famous Siurana endurance testpiece “La Rambla”, 9a+, in just seven attempts. The climb positions her in the far upper echelon of climbers and places her in especially rare company among women climbers.
Seo’s redpoint earned her the title of the sixth woman ever to climb 9a+/5.15. She did it on the same route Margo Hayes conquered to become the first woman 5.15 climber back in 2017.
Though most of Seo’s headlines register in the competition climbing world, the South Korean made it clear she’d been targeting “La Rambla” for awhile. Her comments on Instagram reflected touching gratitude, and made use of the “holding back tears” emoji.
“Send it on my 7th try was just amazing! It’s been one of my biggest dream in my climbing life and I still can’t believe that what happened today,” Seo wrote.
She also noted that with the effort, she secured the second female ascent of the route.
Hayes became a sensation after she opened the 9a+ grade for women. Her landmark ascent produced an internationally popular Reel Rock spot (“Break On Through”) — and evidently fueled Seo and other women’s hard-climbing psych.
Between Hayes and Seo, Anak Verhoeven, Angela Eiter, Julia Chanourdie, and Laura Rogora all climbed 5.15. Rogora holds the current hardest redpoint by a woman with “Erebor,” 9b/+. Verhoeven owns the only first ascent by a woman at 9a+ or harder with “Sweet Neuf” (9a+).
Chaehyun Seo’s style and grace
Climbers know “La Rambla” from its steady, sustained difficulty. On the route, Hayes dazzled with the creative techniques and wild flexibility she deployed to resolve cruxes that appeared to defy her body type. We haven’t seen a video of Seo on it yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised if she used a similarly acrobatic approach. Competition climbing is famous for demanding not only brute strength but also elite dexterity.
Video of Seo on rock is sparse. Here she is on the Siurana route “Migranya Profunda”, 8b+. Her massive endurance on super-steep rock stands out.
“La Rambla” marks the first time Seo’s broken into a new grade since she ticked “Bad Girls Club” (9a) in Rifle, Colorado at age 14.
Maybe true to form, the young contender signed off with a competitor’s flare: a deep bow to the audience.
“Thank you for giving me huge cheering, was just awesome,” she wrote. We can’t wait for our next chance to make some noise for the world’s newest 5.15 woman climber.