Babsi Zangerl is one of the the best all-round climbers in the world today. She’s repeated some of the most serious trad lines and big wall free climbs ever accomplished.
Le Voyage at Annot, France, is one of the hardest trad climbs in the country, going at E10 7a, which equates to spicy 5.14- trad in Canada. The first ascent was by James Pearson in 2017.
In May 2021, Zangerl, Jacopo Larcher and Siebe Vanhee all made repeats of the technical crack line. Pearson said about the 38-metre route, “First a 7a [5.14] crack, then a full rest, then a traverse on tiny holds to an airy crack where you don’t jam much. Just, just enough protection.”
Larcher and Zangerl had spent some time working on the route on top-rope, and Vanhee was fresh off a first 5.14d. Larcher sent first, then Vanhee and finally Zangerl the next day.
Zangerl is one of the world’s leading trad climbers with a number of big sends to her name, including three free climbs on El Cap: Zodiac VI 5.13, Magic Mushroom VI 5.14 and El Nino VI 5.13. She also made the first female ascent of the Alpine Trilogy in the Alps: Kaisers neue Kleider 5.14, Silbergeier 5.14 and End of Silence 5.14. For trad routes, she’s made the first female ascents of Prinzip Hoffnung 5.13dR and Achemine 5.13+R. In Canada, she was the first woman to redpoint The Path 5.14R at Back of the Lake.
Le Voyage by Zangerl
When we heard about an apparent sandstone climbing paradise in the south of France, we were curious. At the time, besides some long granite routes in Chamonix, I didn’t know about a single place to trad climb on sandstone in France. Well, apparently such a place existed, and it was just above the village of Annot in the south-west. Annot actually holds four different spots in one: there’s a trad climbing area, a bolted area, a bolted area on chipped holds, and a famous bouldering area.
The idea to use our trad gear to climb perfect sandstone formations was dream for us… and so it was. After the first days spent in Annot, it was amazing to see how much this place had to offer. In April it was already quite warm, but we found perfect conditions in some airy canyons to try some harder lines as well. It felt like a real holiday to us. In the past we’ve usually sought out good and cold conditions during our rock climbing trips, but his time we enjoyed the hot sun while at the same time we could still try hard in the windy cold canyons.
What a combo to enjoy the French sun and the chill lifestyle. The campground was as cozy as we could have wished for, and the highlight was the delivery of fresh baguettes and croissants from the local bakery directly to our van every single morning. After the first days we cast an eye on this mega line called Le voyage. First climbed by James Person in 2017, Le Voyage E10 7a is a 38-metre line at the La chambre du roi sector.
This new addition is definitely one of the best trad climbs France has to offer. A new hard test piece featuring face climbing with pockets, cracks, crimps, tricky gear placements.E10 7a may seem like some incomprehensible letters and numbers. In some ways they are, even for the Brits who have invented this complex grading system that combines a route’s danger with its pure technical difficulties. I would call this line difficult but quite safe, at least for the crux section and for the following sections: the higher you get, the better placements you find on it. But the middle part of the line is definitely risky.
It was quite a mental game to climb the traverse at 1/3 height of the wall. I was pretty nervous to place the gear there, because you also need those pockets as hand holds. This makes it a bit tricky to find a good way to protect this part of the climb before entering the real crux of the route. The crux is really powerful, and it requires a lot of body tension. It felt always insecure to me. Even while trying it on top-rope I fell off most of the time. So, I decided to do some lead tries for keeping the motivation high and also in case I would be lucky enough to catch the final jug after this tricky technical sequence. Jacopo was the one who climbed the route first out of our group making the second ascent of Le Voyage; Siebe was next on the sending train. We had different beta for this route which was pretty cool to see. Everybody found his/her own method after trying all the different beta.
We only had three days left before heading back home. The pressure was on as I racked up. I really wanted to send this perfect line. On my first try of the day, I messed up, spending too much time placing the gear and getting pumped before I even reached the crux. I needed to get everything perfectly dialed to save power and place the gear I needed. On the send, it was a real battle. But I was finally able to climb those38 meters of perfect sandstone. We all really enjoyed the process, and the team psych was always high, which was an extra source of motivation for all of us. It’s a real gift that this natural line exists, without any chipped holds and with just enough features to go naturally. To me, it’s as perfect as it can get. Routes like this are rare to find.