French climber Charles Albert has made the first ascent of his long-term project, L’Ombre du Voyageur V17 (9A) in Salève, France. The 10-metre line works its way across the steep ceiling of a limestone cave, following a thin crack. In his typical style, Albert climbed the problem without shoes or knee pads, a choice that appears to have made the problem more difficult.
As reported by Grimper, Albert believes L’Ombre du Voyageur is closer to V18 (9A+) when climbed barefoot and without kneepads. Recognizing that climbing shoes and kneepads would tame the bite of the problem, however, he settled on a grade of V17. There is currently only a small handful of problems in world graded V17. The grade V18 does not yet exist for any existing problem.
In 2019, Albert famously established No Kpote Only in Fontainbleau, climbing the bloc without shoes and grading it V17. Subsequent ascensionists have lowered its grade. Ryohei Kameyama suggested V16/17 and Nico Pelorson thought it was a touch easier with his new beta, suggesting V15. Both Kameyama and Pelorson wore climbing shoes on their ascents.
Albert sent L’Ombre du Voyageur – The Traveler’s Shadow in English – in late October, working sections of the boulder over the past few years. In 2019, he made the first ascent of the end portion of the roof crack, naming it Voyageur Face à la Mer de Nuage and grading it V13 (8B). Time will tell what the grade of L’Ombre du Voyageur will come in at using modern climbing shoes and perhaps kneepads. Albert is at the very pinnacle of hard barefoot climbing, so it will likely be a long time before we see another shoeless send of the line.
Charles Albert projecting L’Ombre du Voyageur V17
Correction: An earlier version of this article referenced an unconfirmed ascent of No Kpote Only by Illya Bakhmet-Smolenskyi.