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Words With Quebec Climber Emilie Pellerin

From hard onsights to bold trad, she's got her sights on some of Canada's classic hard lines

Emilie Pellerin has quietly been climbing though the ranks in Quebec to being one of the best all-round rock climbers in the province. With sends of 5.14 and V10, she is one of the few that went from outdoors to indoors and now competes on the world stage. We touched base with Pellerin mid-World Cup season.

How long have you been climbing and where did you start? I started rock climbing a little over eight years ago in Val David. I was instantly hooked and then spent over six years travelling fulltime for climbing. I climbed at over 40 crags in Spain, over 15 in France, in Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Germany, Turkey, Greece, Lebanon, Mexico, about 50 crags in the U.S.A. and coast to coast in Canada.

Montgrony! #blocshop #climbtech #climbers #girlclimbing, photo credit: @kalamontse

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When did you start competing? I decided to compete this year for the first time. I ended up doing the full comp season with team Bloc Shop. I know it is really weird for an outdoor climber to decide to switch to plastic. I felt like I had a lot to learn about different kinds of movement where you’d rather fall on a mat than two crash pads and a spotter. Plus, life somehow brought me back to school at University of Montreal, after all these years of wandering around. Comps are very compatible with a student life.

You like the idea of onsighting, how do you train for it? I believe there is no other way to training for onsighting than actually doing it as often as possible. Every route I hop on, no matter what the grade is, I give my 100 per cent and believe I can do it. I love onsighting because it makes me feel free, it’s all about how quickly and well you adapt to a new situation that is right in front of you and not about how you remember precise sequences and execute them perfectly.

You climbed 5.14 in 2016. Did you feel you were at your strongest or was it the right route at the right time? I have climbed other 5.14 routes before, but they either got down-graded or are on closed land. So let’s say it was my first one. I’ve also done routes with a lower grade that felt quite a bit harder. Grades are weird measurements used to see more-or-less how hard a climb should feel. I think they’re relative and not very precise, especially when you’re not the standard size.

I don’t think I was at my absolute strongest that day, but was feeling pretty good. The 5.13ds I did in Quebec last summer are harder than Tom et Je Ris, which is not considered to be an easy one neither.

Tom et je ris, 8b+

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How did you celebrate your send? I had a Belgium beer in a camperized sprinter van with good company, but it took a lot of work for it to come together. It took a number of trips between heavy rain storms. I often had to convince my friend Max to come and belay me because the line is there by itself, a three-hour drive from our place. Then we had to walk an hour and head down the 60-metre overhanging rappel.

After one big storm, I rappelled down to find the tufa and face dripping wet. I worked on some moves, as the cruxes weren’t too wet. A few days after climbing in Verdon and my skin was wrecked.

We went back the next day and it was still dripping but not quite as bad as the day before and I got it first go. Everything was in place, I didn’t have to fight very much even though water was dripping from my elbows on some of the rests.

Where were your V10 sends? I’m not really a boulderer, I think first time I gave a boulder more than 10 tries was this year. The first V10 I sent was in Albarracin, it’s called Motivos Personales. You start low and head into pumpy, physical moves through a roof followed by a mantle.

Then I did another one in Fontainebleau, but I didn’t care very much about bouldering at that point. I sort of had the impression pretty much everyone could climb that grade when you mention say its French equivalent 7c+. It sounds much more impressive as a double-digit V-grade.

You’ve sent 5.13 cracks and taken some big whippers. Any highlights? I’ve climbed quite a few of them, first one was Ruby’s Café in Indian Creek. I got a bit frustrated about that one because I onsighted it on top-rope and then lead it. I’ve had lots of big whippers, where it’s almost incredible I didn’t get hurt. I’ve ripped cams, nuts and bolts.

What are three of your favourite places to climb? This is a question I often get and it’s still hard to answer. I like the change, so now that I haven’t trad climbed in a while I’d say Indian Creek or Yosemite. The best spots to sport climb are in Catalunya, Spain, and the crags around there. It’s amazing how much climbing has been developed in that area.

What are your climbing goals for 2017? To do my best in future climbing competitions. I was to give the famous Quebec Crack La Zébrée 5.14a a solid try. For me it’s the most inspiring trad climb in the area. Later in the year, I’d love to either sail the Mediterranean and climb on the coasts or travel or maybe head to Australia. I’m not very good at planning.

What is one route in Canada you hope to climb some day? Besides La Zébrée, I’d love to try University Wall 5.12 in Squamish. And maybe one day give Cobra Crack 5.14 a go.

Watch Pellerin take a whipper on Les Grands Galets 5.12d at Cap Trinité in Quebec.

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