Less than a month after establishing one of the hardest trad lines in the world - El boulder del pedal 8c+ - in La Pedriza, Spain, Ignacio Mulero has made the eighth ascent of James Pearson's E10 7a trad route Le Voyage (8b+), in Annot, France.
Ignacio has been in Annot since the beginning of March, with the main goal of climbing James Pearson's new trad route Bon Voyage.
Whilst Bon Voyage is currently ungraded, the sport grade of the route is believed to be in the region of 9a, with James taking more redpoint attempts on Bon Voyage than on any of his 9a sport route ascents. It also took him more redpoint attempts than his ascent of Jacopo Larcher's 2019 trad route Tribe, which is thought to be 9a/9a+.
Speaking after his ascent of Le Voyage late last month, Steve McClure shared his thoughts on Bon Voyage, after James showed him the route on abseil:
'It looks absolutely nails! Just a different level to anything I've seen ... As a sport route it is very hard indeed, like 9a hard. Tiny poor holds, awful feet. Very impressive. If it's not E12 (or more) I'll be very surprised!'
After sharing news of Ignacio's ascent of Le Voyage on social media, James told us 'he did it really quickly, on his second to last day, as a bit of a consolation prize after putting all his efforts into Bon Voyage. When he realised he wasn't going to get that this trip, he switched his attention to Le Voyage and got it in a just a few tries'.
We got in touch with Ignacio to ask about his swift ascent of Le Voyage, his experience on Bon Voyage, and his plans for the coming year.
Congratulations on Le Voyage! I hear you managed the route pretty quickly - how many attempts did it take you?
Well, I really don't know how many tries it took me to send the route. The first part is common with Bon Voyage, that was my main project and I was most focused on it. The crux for Le Voyage is just after the diversion. I didn't try it too much, I used it some days to warm up, but it wasn't until the end of the trip when I was already tired and I didn't have skin for the other route that I decided to try and send this route.
From what Steve and James have said, Le Voyage sounds like an excellent route, what did you think of it?"
Le Voyage is an exceptional line! About forty metres of sandstone with many climbing styles, cracks, crimps, and pockets! The placements for protection aren't bad, but in some sections they are quite distanced, and in the first attempts if you are not used to falling on cams and small nuts it's a bit scary. That makes it a very complete and interesting route!
You've had a great year so far, with your first ascent of El boulder del pedal ∼E10 (8c+) just over a month ago - congratulations for that! How does climbing an established E10 compare to doing an ∼E10 first ascent?
From the outside, it is difficult to understand the E grade and I don't understand it very well. With the other scale, the French one, for me there is a big difference in difficulty between the two routes. Le Voyage is considered 8b+, and for me El boulder del pedal is more close to 8c+... could that be E11? I don't know...
For me, Le Voyage could be similar to another of the first ascents that I did this winter with the route Snoopdogg (8b+), which, even if it took me more attempts, feels similar. I always think a first ascent takes more effort than a repetition.
Let's talk about Bon Voyage, Steve said you looked really strong on it, how did you find the route?
The route is really difficult. There is no grade proposal yet, but it will surely be one of the most difficult in this style!
The route is going well for me. I like the movements and I was able to do them all and make some good links. I was with James who was helping me a lot on the route, explaining all his methods and tricks, which was a great help!
We used more or less the same methods, although I had to change a couple of sections to climb more in my climbing style.
Was there any particular crux for you on Bon Voyage? What was your high point?
For me there is a section of two movements that are the most difficult part of the route. A movement from a mono to a microcrimp. And the next one from that crimp and the mono going down with the right hand to a pocket that is a few centimetres from the mono. All this on small feet where it is easy to slip.
The first of the two movements I managed to succeed on quite a lot, and mostly didn't fall on it. I had more complications in the second one. I could do, it but not as comfortably as I would like.
I tend to have problems with routes until I can see that I can do them comfortably and easily, so I don't always have the best mindset to try them. They often take me longer than if I had tried them with the desire to do it right from the beginning.
Skin and fingers are also a very determining factor. If you have a bad strategy, as is my case, it can ruin a few days of climbing becacuse it's easy to split your fingers if you try the crux a lot of times.
Is there anything you'll be working on, or any specific training you'll be doing, before you return?
The truth is that I usually never train. For example, last year I didn't spend a single day in the climbing gym. I'm very motivated to go back again this autumn, but I don't think I'll do anything specific for training for the route. I am lucky to be able to be rock climbing almost every day of the year, and I prefer to be weaker and dedicate my time to climbing than to train and be stronger.
You seem to like lots of different styles of climbing, slab, crack, boulder, trad, sport, what's next for you after leaving Annot?
The closest thing I have planned is Norway. I'm going to Jøssingfjord in mid-April with the intention of sending Recovery Drink [8c+]. I was able to try it last year and I would like to end it this trip. After this I always like to spend the summer in South Africa.
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