Steve McClure flashes Tom et Je Ris, 8b+, Verdon

© Tim Glasby

Steve McClure showing the strain of flashing a big endurance pitch with a storm approaching  © Tim Glasby
Steve McClure showing the strain of flashing a big endurance pitch with a storm approaching
© Tim Glasby

Steve McClure has just returned from a trip to the Verdon, a big limestone gorge found in France, which is often cited as Europe's 'answer to Yosemite Valley', offering massive multi-pitch and shorter single pitch challenges on perfect water-worn limestone. During the trip, Steve made an impressive flash of the endurance route Tom et Je Ris, at 8b+.

During a trip plagued by thunderstorms, Steve didn't look at anything too hard, not even really considering trying Tom et Je Ris, 8b+, until the last day. However, during the trip, the team did climb a big multipitch route with the grade breakdowns as follows; 7c, 6c+,8a, 7c+ and finally 8a+, and they made the second ascent of a 4 pitch route during which Steve onsighted an 8a offwidth pitch. 

Talking to UKC, Steve spoke about his connections with the Verdon Gorge:

"The Verdon is my favourite place in the world. I spent a few summer there as a kid while my parents battled with the big trad routes, and at 17 years old 'The Gorge' was my first real climbing trip; 7 fresh faced weeks of perfect limestone"

Having wanted to try the route for a while, Steve seriously considered it after Marmot photographer Tim Glasby expressed an interest in photographing Tom et Je Ris, . Describing his flash ascent, Steve said:

"Unprepared, having watched no films and with limited information, we finally peered over the immaculate line into the void below. Abseiling in, I placed the draws as I descended, mainly to keep myself into the rock as opposed to make the route easier; a straight abseil would leave you miles out from the middle of nowhere belay. And this gave me the chance to check the holds out too, I must point out that my ascent is a pretty poor grade 'flash'... it was simply a no-falls first go effort. But not sure how you'd do better, maybe dropping in faster, or with a blindfold, it could be done, someone will!

Steve McClure on his flash ascent of Tom et Je Ris, 8b+, Verdon Gorge  © Tim Glasby
Steve McClure on his flash ascent of Tom et Je Ris, 8b+, Verdon Gorge
© Tim Glasby

Style aside, I just wanted to experience the route. However, part-way up, and aware of the tourists watching me from across the gorge, there were sudden screams not compatible with watching some tiny red speck inching upwards... A MASSIVE clap of thunder told me what they'd seen. The thought of lightning unsettled me, but at the same time brought focus. I wouldn't be going down again! This was my shot.

Pumped within 30 seconds of the start, the 45 minute journey was a recovery epic; enough good holds along the way but with a clock ticking in both energy and building blackness.

Topping out was incredible, the grade irrelevant, and also the style, but to have simply climbed such a route with such a reputation... Tom et Je Ris - Tom and Jerry. In French: 'Tom and I laugh', a beautiful title from the first ascensionist, Bruno Clement, named after his son."

Approximate topo of Tom et Je Ris, 8b+, Verdon Gorge
© Tim Glasby

Here is a video of Monique Forestier climbing Tom et Je Ris:

Steve McClure is sponsored by: Five Ten, Petzl, Beal, Marmot and Entre-Prises


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Steve McClure is one of the best rock climbers in the world, having climbed the hardest sport route in the UK at 9b, numerous new routes at the grade of 9a and onsighted many at 8b+. Despite being better known for his...

Steve's Athlete Page 34 posts 10 videos

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17 Jul, 2013
Amazing, awesome effort. Well done.
17 Jul, 2013
17 Jul, 2013
Super-talented,honest,-humble,-nice,-class,.. One of my heros and i'm short of them, these days.
17 Jul, 2013
what a route!
17 Jul, 2013
Well done Steve. The route looks totally amazing from across the Gorge. Super achievement. John
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