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Quebec Crusher Julien Bourassa-Moreau Sends La Zébrée 5.14 Trad

And hopes the crack will regain its notoriety as a must-try hard line

Photo by: Jérôme St-Michel

On the fourth of July, Julien Bourassa-Moreau became the fourth person to redpoint La Zébrée, a steep, 5.14a finger crack at Mont King in Val-David. His ascent ended the 13 year drought since it last allowed successful passage — and serves as a reminder of its mythical presence.

“La Zébrée is a pearl a unicorn,” Bourassa-Moreau said. “It’s very rare to have a route that is so aesthetic and ticks all of the boxes for a very classic climb.”  The approach is simple, the protection is solid and the line is as striking as they come. Bourassa-Moreau needed just five days of work to complete La Zébrée, clipping the chains during a Quebec heat wave of 30 degrees.

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La Zébrée 5.14a RP. English below. Il n'y en a pas beaucoup des fissures comme ça sur la planète: difficile, déversante, esthétique, facile à protéger mais… très souvent mouillé. Il y a tellement de thème à aborder en lien avec cette voie. Pourquoi est-ce qu'aucun grimpeur non-local l'a essayé sérieusement? La dernière fois qu'elle a été répété c'est en 2007. Pas de répétition en 13 ans?!? Le Québec sous-évalué comme destination d'escalade. Le confinement et l'intérêt soudain et forçé pour l'escalade locale. Mon processus d'apprentissage des techniques de fissure @entralpi_ Comment grimper commando c'est ta SEULE chance de réussite quand il fait chaud. Comment les voies trop parfaites sont ennuyantes. Autant m'en tenir à une anecdote: @jpouellet a non seulement fait le premier redpoint de la voie mais il a aussi assuré TOUTES les autres ascensions! Jeff, Sly, moi. @emclimber tu n'as pas le choix, il faut que ça soit Peewee qui t'assure! Photo @stmicheljerome Theres not that many cracks like that in the world. If it was in Colorado, it would be an all time classic. A rite de passage for all of the serious crack climber. But if it was in Colorado it would be dry… Whereas here in Quebec the water element is very present. Theres so many things to say about this route. Why it's not been tried seriously from non locals. Common @petewhittaker01 @sonnietrotter @loganclimbsrocks @mason_earle @hazel_findlay ! How Quebec is a undervalued climbing destination. How covid shutdown renewed the interest for local climbing worldwide. How perfect routes are for boring people. My personal process to learn to crack climb. How climbing commando is your ONLY chance of success in warm weather. Instagram is not the platform for this so i'll stick with an anecdote. @jpouellette not only did the first redpoint of the route buy also belayed all the other ascents! Jeff, Sly, myself. So @emclimber you have no choice… Peewee has to belay you!

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Canadian climbing legend and Val-David resident, JP “Peewee” Ouellet, was on hand to help out with route logistics and beta sequences. Having belayed each successful ascent thus far, Ouellet is well accustomed to the often soaking crack. Forget waiting for the perfect, crisp day to get maximal traction in granite jams. Bourassa-Moreau said potential suitors must work the route when wet, so when it does dry out — if ever— you can seize the opportunity. “It’s a gift when the route is dry, it feels so good,” he said. Sponges are an asset for the first burn of each day, soaking up critical sections and allowing them to dry out. Thankfully, Bourassa-Moreau said, the severely overhanging splitter has very secure finger locks, allowing him to work the route while the concept of friction was just a fond memory.

Bourassa-Moreau said La Zébrée was his instructor in proper crack climbing technique. Despite flashes of 5.13 sandstone corners in Li Ming, China, Bourassa-Moreau says corner-crack climbing is often more forgiving in jamming technique — a shortcoming La Zébrée would refuse.

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Krypton Corner 5.13- @emclimber onsight!🎯then I got it Flash! ⚡This 35 meter 5th pitch on the Pillar buttress is visible pretty much everywhere in Liming 🇨🇳 and maybe even from space!.. but nobody knows👽. It's probably the most obvious rock feature here. It was staring at us from above as we walked to the crags making us feel bullied. After having freed the Colors of the Wind corner with @emclimber our fingertips were sharpened in the perfect shape to fit a .2 tips crack. We had to put our newly found skill (at least for me) to the test. For those interested in climbing grades, we proposed 5.13 for the Colors corner so I told Em we had to do the Krypton Corner first go or else we would be forever ridiculed. The pressure to perform was high for another reason. Since we are not of the morning type, we had about enough sunlight for one attemp each. Plus, to get there, I had to lead a pitch called Attempted Suicide and I was not too keen to lead it again on another day😨. Emilie onsighted the 35 meter pitch over a one hour lead with apparent grace🕊️. Then, I led it with her advice on what size gear to keep for the top. I could mimic her sequence minus the grace🦃. Karma points were used and chaos was beaten leaving us with the illusion of control. Merci la vie!

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Bourassa-Moreau said the COVID-19 lockdown renewed interest in local climbing worldwide, himself included. Rather than planning a trip to Spain or Utah this year, he was forced to look in his own backyard for interesting projects to take on. “When you’re forced to stay in a local area, you’re forced to climb new routes. They may not be perfect for you… but these routes have more character,” he said.

Bourassa-Moreau said he hopes La Zébrée will regain its notoriety as a beautiful, hard trad line in North America, and will finally receive the traffic it deserves. Once international travel restrictions are lifted and it is safe to do so, he said the route should be at the top of an elite climber’s bucket list. “This route deserves more attention from out of town climbers. It doesn’t always have the best conditions, but La Zébrée is a world class route.”

Lead photo: Jérôme St-Michel