On the one hand I wanted to get in touch with each of the climbers, to hear about their respective experiences on the route, and to see which of them might be keen to take on James' most recent hard route, Bon Voyage.
On the other hand, we'd recently published interviews with both Steve McClure and Ignacio Mulero about their respective ascents of Le Voyage, and I wasn't sure whether there would be as much interest in a third interview about the route in as many weeks. A third interview would need to be about something pretty special.
Enter Seb Berthe, with one of the hardest trad flashes of all time.
After his unprecedented - at least in terms of 'E10' specifically - flash, we got in touch with Seb to ask a few questions about how it all came about.
Congratulations on one of the hardest trad flashes ever! Has it sunk in yet?
Thank you! I actually don't know if it has sunk in... I am really proud of that flash and happy with my climbing and with the work I did to get ready for the climb, and I am quite good with flashing that style, but for me it is hard to believe this one of the hardest ever... Probably really strong climbers don't really set themselves those kinds of goals. Still it makes me want to try other hard single pitch trad lines in the future.
So would you describe the route as being in your style?
Yes definitely! The route is slightly overhanging, long with good rests between the sections. This kind of climbing is totally what I am best at. I am more like an endurance and technical climber. The crux section is also about crimps and sidepull wich is something I kinda like as well.
At what point did you begin to think of going for a flash attempt?
I thought about trying this route since the first time I saw info from James Pearson doing the first ascent back in 2017. The wall and the route looked so perfect. Then when Jacopo, Siebe, and Babsi did it not long ago, I thought it would be nice and challenging to give it a ground-up attempt.
In the beginning of last week, I went for a short trip to Annot in order to give a ground-up attempt. I knew I was in great shape and I took the opportunity of having my Scottish friend Robbie Phillips working the route so I could have good info about the route and the betas.
How detailed was the information you got from Mathieu and Robbie about both the climbing itself and the gear placements? Were you able to watch them climbing, or watch footage of other ascents?
I had taken as much info as I could. I actually spent one entire day looking at the route, collecting betas and info from Robbie and Mathieu while they were climbing. I also spent quite some time watching videos and pictures found on the web from all the previous ascensionists.
I had to remember everything: footholds, handholds, gears... There is so much info to keep in mind... How and where to put the gear? Where to rest? What beta to choose depending on my fatigue? It was a true studying mission.
Did you place all your own gear during the flash?
Yes! To my point of view it wouldn't count as a flash on a trad if you're not placing your own gears.
Is this the hardest route you've flashed in terms of French sport grades?
No, I actually flashed Mind Control (8c) in Oliana in 2021, and had the same approach on this one. I've also onsighted 8b+.
Were there any sections that surprised you?
On most of the route I had good surprises, the holds were always a tiny bit better than what I expected (which is what you wanna have in a flash attempt, so I always try to expect the worst), except for one section. On that section which is not the hardest at all (the one just before the crux), I didn't do the right foot sequence and I had to try way harder than you normally should.
Will you be trying Bon Voyage next?
I left Annot already, but after my flash I went once on Bon Voyage to check the moves. The route is incredible, such a visionary line! James has really pushed far this time. I am really excited about the idea of going back there to try it more! Maybe in May if the weather allows it...
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