Seb Bouin Sends Desert 9b ‘Jumbo Love,’ Now Pursues Harder Variant

Not many people climb “Jumbo Love”, the United States’ first 9b (5.15b) sport route. Why not? Because both getting to it and climbing it amount to undertaking marathons in the sport climbing world.

Seb Bouin was up to the task, drawing from a source of inspiration that started all the way back when the route first arrived on climbers’ radar in the mid-2000s. And because he thinks he can redpoint a never-before-climbed alternate segment of the route, he’s hanging tough in the Mojave Desert to keep trying.

Bouin started climbing in 2005 — prolific American developer Randy Leavitt had already bolted what would become “Jumbo Love” by then. And the freight train that was Chris Sharma would make the first ascent two years later.

The line always captivated Bouin.

“When I first saw the route on Reel Rock [in 2016], I said ‘ooh! I would like to climb something like that someday,'” he said while taking a rest day in nearby Las Vegas. “I am not disappointed by the route and the place. It is cool and really big and magical. It’s well deserving of a movie from Reel Rock and [the effort of] Chris.”

Describing the climb itself on Instagram, Bouin said “it’s an amazing line with perfect moves.”


Jonathan Siegrist climbed it in 2018 and described its character with his typical high fidelity.

“Usually I excel at endurance routes with bad holds but this route, despite being around 60-70 metres long, is actually quite bouldery. And the holds are surprisingly good — it’s not that important to have finger strength for this — mostly you need strength in your body and to be able to do huge moves!” he told Planetmountain at the time.

Bouin pointed out that “Jumbo Love” is not only a quest in itself — so is punching through California’s Mojave desert to get to it.

“‘Jumbo Love’ is not just a hard line, it’s a whole adventure. I totally underestimated the total process, the drive, the off-roading, and the hike in. We changed our car three times because it was not good enough to get to the crag. We also changed two tires due to off-road driving incidents…

“I am used to climbing for many days in a row. But here, that would be a mistake,” he wrote on Instagram.

The Frenchman knew he would need a calculated effort to complete the objective, and that conserving energy would be key. So he and his climbing partners slept in the desert some nights to avoid the long drive out and back, while he looked for unorthodox knee bars on the route to grab precious rest.

“I was falling half of the time, slipping from kneebars. I almost gave up with these kneebars at some point because it was too sketchy,” he said.

When Leavitt first brought “Jumbo Love” into existence, the 9b grade barely existed. Early attempters approached the route as a three-pitch affair. Sharma, imaginative as ever, adopted the idea of doing it in one push.

While working the route, Sharma saw an opportunity to bolt an alternate sequence into the transition between the first two pitches. The Californian threw in two bolts but never redpointed the segment.

That’s what Bouin will begin work on tomorrow. The stout variation would up the ante of the short section from manageable 8a to “hard 8c+,” he said. And the implications for the route as a whole also loom large — er, Jumbo.

“I tried it yesterday and the day before. The main problem is that you are joining the crux of ‘Jumbo Love’ really tired.”

Bouin said he and Sharma both estimated the first pitch at 8c. An 8a “rest,” however brief, gives the climber a highly welcome rest before yarding into the big crux moves.

Take that opportunity to recharge away, and the overall task could become savage.

Bouin simply called the resulting challenge “really hard.”

He estimates he’s got a week left to send. Some filming tasks loom, and he’ll need to hammer out some workable balance between resting and raging on what could be a groundbreaking first ascent.

But I would not count him out.

“Incredible and futuristic vision from Randy Leavitt to bolt this one in the 90s…Thanks for the futuristic vision and the line. And thanks for the inspiration @chris_sharma,” Bouin wrote.

Sam Anderson

Sam Anderson spent his 20s as an adventure rock climber, scampering throughout the western U.S., Mexico, and Thailand to scope out prime stone and great stories. Life on the road gradually transformed into a seat behind the keyboard, where he acted as a founding writer of the AllGear Digital Newsroom and earned 1,500+ bylines in four years on topics from pro rock climbing to slingshots and scientific breakthroughs.