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.
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.
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.”