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