We contacted the email address posted on the 8a.nu forum thread from the person who came forward as Michael Fromm and who claims to be the belayer of Said Belhaj during his free ascent of Action Directe in Frankenjura. Here are the replies to our answers. We weren’t able to 100% confirm his identity and there are still some discrepancies between his and Said’s version of the story (here above a nice picture of Said made by @khiyalisharad and taken from his instagram).
Update 18.12.2019: after a frenzy day of total madness on the very same 8a.nu forum post, with Michael Fromm fiercely defending his statement of being the real, one and only, original Action Directe belayer, a post from Jens Larssen, owner of 8a.nu website and close friend of Said Belhaj, reads: “I have emailed with Said and he says this Fromm guy is not the real belayer”. So everybody back to starting positions and ready for another spin.
Q.: hello Michael and thank you for taking the time for responding to us. We have seen your post on the 8a.nu forum and here are a few questions for you: are you one of Said Belhaj’s friends? If not how did you end up belaying him on his succesful attempt on Action Directe in Frankenjura?
A.: I can’t say we are friends. We only met once, on the morning of Saturday October 27th. We spent together 45min at maximum.
Q.: any other witness was there on Action Directe location, around that same time?
A.: not to my knowledge. Just to tell you about the context, the week before this saturday I was at my brother’s house in Mosenberg. On the Saturday morning, I went for a walk in Waldkopf. I didn’t have any climbing equipment with me. As I’m a relative long time climber (started at the age of 6, climb 2-3 times a week, mostly indoor route or boulder, max grade on sight is 7b+, 7A boulder), I decided to make a detour toward AD, just in case anyone was trying it. So I saw this guy, alone, stretching on his own. We then discussed maybe like 5 minutes, and when I told him I was a climber too, he immediately asked me if I could belay him without more formalities. He had a second harness and all the belay equipment with him. He told me he was used to climb alone and be belayed by whoever climber passed by. In a word 10 minutes after we met I was already belaying him.
Q.: can you briefly describe Said’s warmup before he tried AD? Did you belay him on any other warmup route before the attempt on AD?
A.: I am not aware of any other warmup having taken place. The only warmup I saw, was him doing some stretching on my approach to AD, but he stopped it as soon as I arrived. He didn’t try any other route and went directly for AD.
Q.: did Said send the route on the first try of the day? Were the quickdraws already in place?
A.: yes all the quickdraws were already in place and it took him 6 tries to send the route. On the first try he fell shortly after start on the first meters of the route, which didn’t don’t look “that difficult”, although they are pretty straightforward and vertical. I believe his feet slipped off.
From the 2nd to the 5th try he did’t manage to stick the dyno. To be honest on the first try he was quite far from doing it, and I was feeling like there was little or no chance he could even be able to do the move. But at each attempt he got more and more close in sticking the jump and on the 6th try he somehow made it and then finished the route pretty quickly.
It took him 6 tries for a total time of around 30 minutes. The succesful climbing of the entire route took him 2 minutes at most, from start to finish, as AD is a very difficult route but also very short, as everybody knows.
Q.: which was your impression watching him climbing AD? Did he climb it with ease or barely hung in there?
A.: as I said before, at first I thought he was far from sending it, like no way he could do the jump. But he somehow managed to improve his beta quickly and completed AD within the 30 minutes during which I belayed him.
Q.: did you guys take any picture before or after the send?
A.: No we didn’t make any photo of us, as far as I remember. As I said we spoke like 5 minutes then I belayed him for 30 minutes and 10 minutes later I was gone.
Q.: what did you do after the ascent? Did you share what had just happened with any other climber in the area?
A.: as I said I didn’t go there for climbing so I just finished my walk and went home, which took me around 4 hours in total.
Q.: why did you delete you IG account?
A.: for personal reasons related to a relationship which ended quite badly. Won’t say more.
Q.: how did you learn about the ongoing controversy and when did you decide to intervene on the 8a.nu forum?
A.: even if I’m not a pro climber (and not even close to it) I love climbing and try to keep up to date with the latest news and check 8a.nu from time to time, as any other climber. To be honest I didn’t know Said before we met but I just couldn’t stand by and do nothing.
Q.: how long have you been climbing? Do you have pictures of yourself climbing in Frankenjura?
A.: I started at the age of 6, so I let you do the maths. I never climbed anything in Frankenjura, since I’m not really a rock climber. I have been doing a lot of indoor sport climbing and indoor bouldering for the last 5 years.