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Julien Bourassa-Moreau Establishes Likely 5.14 Splitter in Quebec

The demanding crack is just one in a flurry of hard trad lines he has taken down this summer

Photo by: Julien Bourassa-Moreau

Québec-based Julien Bourassa-Moreau has had a summer season most climbers can only dream of. He sent 5.14a trad in early July, two unrepeated 5.13 cracks shortly after, established his own mixed 5.14a and did the first free ascent of La Raie; a likely (but unconfirmed) 5.14- finger crack at Tawachiche, Québec.

Fast Repeats

Bourassa-Moreau began this whirlwind with a fast repeat of the overhanging splitter La Zébrée 5.14a, finally ending the 13-year drought since its previous ascent. Less than one month later, he scooped the second ascents of Dommage Collatéral and Hypothénuse [sic] in Québec; two overhanging 5.13 trad lines put up by none other than Québécois crack master Jean-Pierre “Peewee” Ouellet himself. Bourassa-Moreau says Hypothénuse is admittedly unusual, “In a commercial gym, a route setter would kindly but firmly be asked to take it down. There’s a ledge following you as you climb. But you can keep it safe by placing nine pieces in the first five meters,” he wrote.

Bourassa-Moreau climbing Hypothénuse 5.13c in sweltering 30C conditions

First Free Ascent of Les Enfants Magiques 5.14a

The 30-year-old pharmacist was unperturbed by less-than-classic challenges — he was simultaneously gunning for the first free ascent of Les Enfants Magiques 5.14a (formerly A2+) at Mont-King in Val-David. You have undoubtedly seen the start of this seldom-climbed aid route; it begins under the same streaked, tiered granite roofs of La Zébrée. Rather than ducking left to follow the finger crack, Les Enfants Magiques attacks the overhanging dihedral directly above. Two bolts were added by Anthony Wong and Sylvain Massé with hopes of creating a modern day classic but the exigent corner proved too difficult for the duo. Bourassa-Moreau is sympathetic, “Val-David is a hard place to sport climb. It shuts a lot of people down because lots of the routes are mixed,” he said. The skills required for Les Enfants Magiques certainly run the gamut; he says crack proficiency, steel fingers, power to move through the overhangs as well as flexibility and finesse for the corner are all must-have attributes.

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Les Enfants Magiques A2+ de 1998 = PROJET 5.14-?? English below.
Juste à droite de la Zébrée. C'est une ancienne voie d'artif des frères Homier. Il y a plusieurs années deux dudes ont commis un sacrilège et ont ajouté des bolts. Les dieux les ont punis et ils ont jamais réussi le projet. Des annés plus tard, un autre dude (moi) passe par là et ajoute une autre bolt pour finir d'équiper la voie. Désolé les artifeux, cette voie est trop hot pour rester pas grimpé. C'est rare une voie aussi déversante en granite qui passe sur des prises et qui est 100% naturelle. En plus, elle est situé au Mont-King, une des falaises les plus grimpé du Québec. C'est certain que cette voie ne sera pas répété aussi souvent que Cassiopée 14a à Baldy. Contrairement à Cassiopée, ça nécessite de maîtriser plein de styles variés. Le premier toit c'est une fissure 13- presque toujours mouillée, ensuite le crux c'est un bloc et stemming physique et en souplesse et ça finit en rési dans un bloc en compression avec les pieds en premier à la sortie du toit. C'est magique!
I'm trying this project in Val-Da. It uesd to be an A2+ route from the Homier brothers. These guys where some of the strongest free climbers of the time in Québec. They also did a little bit of aid climbing and would aslo be seen running barefoot in the snow arond Mont-King in Val-David. A few years ago the route was bolted to create a free climb. It ruined the aid route but created a hard free climb. I'm not sorry for the aid climbers since this route is so good! You need a lot of tools in your toolbox. It starts as a 13- finger crack, then a powerful stemming sequence and finishes in power endurance in a compression boulder problem. It definetly has a magical feel.

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First Ascent of La Raie 5.13+/14-

For Bourassa-Moreau, these three routes were simply part of an arc leading him to his next “real” project, a gently overhanging tips crack near rural Saint-Tite, Québec. Just how rural? “Really rural… they have a country music festival there every year,” he said. The Tawachiche crag materializes through forested wetlands after a short canoe approach, “like a golden, half moon of rock sticking out from the forest,” he described. The big-grained granite at Tawachiche is Quebec’s answer to Squamish splitter cracks, where coarse and grippy stone encourages safe whippers and flesh-eating flappers, “After the second day [trying La Raie] it really looked like a zombie bit my finger,” he said. 

Bourassa-Moreau said he doesn’t feel a constant pull to visit other areas for world class trad climbing — it’s easy to justify staying close to home. “I had a plane ticket booked for Vancouver last week and I cancelled it,” he said. “I really don’t feel bad staying in Québec for this.”

Bourassa-Moreau is hesitant to assign a firm grade to La Raie; he hopes other strong climbers will repeat it before confirming Canada’s newest 5.14 crack. He said it is certainly harder than both La Zébrée and Les Enfants Magiques, but both climbs fit his powerful style well in comparison to La Raie’s lower angle and microscopic feet. “It’s a style where you have to be humble to grade things,” he said. “Maybe someone with better technique or conditions will find it easier.”

Bourassa-Moreau midway through La Raie’s V8 boulder problem

The speed and consistency in which Bourassa-Moreau ticks off these week-long projects is impressive. What’s the secret for staving off redpoint anxiety on demanding trad FA’s? Competition climbing. “The ability to solve a boulder problem in five minutes… or being able to climb at a specific time,” he said, “[Are] really good tools for other types of climbing.” He said the stress generated in a competition is the same anxiety he feels right before trying a multi-month project. By working through these emotions on a regular basis pulling plastic, he said it has helped remove almost all the stress in quickly sending his outdoor projects.

Reminiscing over his summertime successes, Bourassa-Moreau said they have all served as training for a very specific style of hard trad climbing. With La Raie behind him and a flight to Vancouver back on, Bourassa-Moreau does not mince words, “I feel like if I don’t try Cobra Crack it’s just a waste of all the ability I’ve developed this summer.” He is adamant there is no pressure to send, yet this cool demeanor has kept him on quite a roll so far.

Lead photo: Julien Bourassa-Moreau