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Jérôme St-Michel Sends La Zébrée 5.14 Trad in Quebec

He made the third known ascent of the steep crack this summer

Photo by: Richard Mardens

Quebec crusher Jérôme St-Michel continued his impressive 2020 yesterday with a tick of the popular-in-summer-2020, La Zébrée 5.14 on Mont-King in Val-David, Quebec.

St-Michel worked the steep crack over 14 days and told us today, “I hope this will inspire new Canadian climbers to push their limits… trad climbing is still something that’s worth doing.”

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I can still remember my first climbing day. It was a top rope day in Val-David where my friends showed me around Mont-King. I remember very well seeing La Zebree and thinking “Oh lord, this is super steep, how could it be climbed?”. . For whatever reason, but probably due to it’s aesthetic and it’s uniqueness, the climb stayed in my mind has being kind of the Holy Grail of crack climbing. . The line is quite intimidating and I didn’t really consider trying it until @emclimber and @julienboum invited me over to sample it at the end of the summer. It felt hard on day one, but slowly I made progress (and trained like a maniac). . Yesterday was kind of a special day. The weather was perfect and I had my trad climbing mentor there to belay me. I had to put on a good show for him. Early in the afternoon, I clipped the chain for the 6th ascent (almost falling right under the anchor). It was overall an amazing process, including all the time spent training. . Thanks to everyone who came up there. I had an amazing season in Val-David. . . 📸: @rmardens . @arcteryxmontreal @entralpi_ @grippedmagazine @alpinistmag @rockandicemag @cdnclimbingnews @escalade_quebec . . #crackclimbing #rockclimbing #tradclimbing #climbing #climbing_pictures_of_instagram #climbing_is_my_passion #climbingphotography #laurentides #valdavid #adventure #adventuretime #explore #alpinism #tradisrad #crackisback #onserejointdehors #climbinglife #mountain #climb #climber #laurentians #quebec #grimper #grimpe #escaladequebec #escalada #keepitwild #autumn #september

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Earlier this summer, St-Michel made the first free ascent of Fun With a Gun at Weir and graded the old aid climb 5.13R. Emilie “Em” Pellerin, who’s onsighted The Shadow 5.13 trad in Squamish, was the latest climber to send La Zébrée for the fifth known ascent in August.

On the fourth of July, Julien Bourassa-Moreau became the fourth person to redpoint the steep finger crack. His ascent ended the 13-year drought since it had last been climbed.

Canadian crack master Jean-Pierre Ouellet made the first redpoint ascent of La Zébrée well over a decade ago. The crack is one of the most difficult trad free climbs in North America and was first freed by Jeff Beaulieu, who climbed it on pre-placed gear.

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Ouellet made the first redpoint with a pre-placed first piece. Then Sylvain Masse upped the ante by placing all of his gear on lead, including the first piece. The line was first led as an aid climb in 1972 by Alain Hainault at A2. Many legendary climbers have tried and failed to free “La Zébrée, including Louis Babin, Russ Clune and Peter Croft.

St-Michel works the upper section of La Zébrée © Richard Mardens

What’s next for St-Michel? As Gripped writer Anthony Walsh talked about in his feature story on St-Michel in the August/September issue of Gripped magazine: “Next up? Big walls in Torres del Paine, Patagonia. St-Michel said his naturally apprehensive personality influences his inclination towards portaledges and a capsule-style approach. While a free attempt on Riders on the Storm VI 5.12d/5.13 A3, 1,300m, on Torre Central may sound like a tall order in itself, St-Michel reasons that, for him, coming back to a portaledge with food and water each night is much less committing than a night out on Fitz Roy.

“Whichever way St-Michel chooses to approach his future climbs, it is sure to be with the same mix of rationale and confidence that have brought him this far, ‘The mental aspect of climbing is very important. If you don’t have confidence [in your abilities] you won’t be able to do anything.'”

After his end-of-summer send, St-Michel told us: “[I’m] proud to be at the heart of the Canadian climbing scene.” There’s still a few more days of summer, as the official start of autumn is Sept. 22.

Lead photo: Richard Mardens