France's Hardest Crack (?) for Tom Randall

Tom Randall recently returned from a trip to Sisteron​, France in search of some hard crack climbs following a tip-off from a friend. The "Wideboy" swapped offwidths for an 8b/+ finger crack named Présence- making an ascent of what is possibly France's hardest crack climb to date.

Tom Randall on Presence 8b/+
© Tom Randall

Writing in his blog, Tom described the line: 

"On the first couple of days I was left with the impression that the route was very similar to the middle hard section of Cobra Crack but without the V9 crux undercut part. What it lacked in crux beef, it definitely made up for in its sustained nature. It was hard from metre “one” to metre “twenty five” and only let up a tiny bit in the last eight metres."

With old-school bolting resulting in dangerous fall potential, Tom extended some quickdraws to make the line a bit safer:

"What also added to the difficulty on this route was some very spicy bolting. Both of the 3rd and 4th clips would result in deck out from 30 and 50ft if you fell off level with the bolt."

After working the moves for a few days, Tom redpointed the route on an early morning attempt to avoid the heat. He summed up the line as follows:

"As a crack, I think it’s absolutely superb and fits in nicely at the 8b/+ (or 5.13d/5.14a) mark on a global scale. My obsessive nature was of course mainly pleased that I’d managed to tick another one off the life time list."

Part of Tom's lifetime list, 87 kb
Part of Tom's lifetime list
© Tom Randall

When asked whether Présence could be the hardest crack in France, Tom told UKC:

"If you can find another let me know! Cracks above 8b are really hard to find. To be fair, even those at 8b aren't that common.
I know of an 8b in Verdon that is sort of a crack, an 8a (ish) in Chamonix and an 8b project in Annot."

Due to a lingering finger injury, Tom has been attempting to vary the styles of routes he tries as much as possible by travelling around the UK to round off some unfinished business. In the past few weeks, he has made the first ascent of The Art of Non-Conformity E7 6c - solo without pads - at High Crag on the North York Moors as well as completing a project at Ilam Rock, named Thrill of the Fight E7 6c.

What's next? A Devon roof this space...

More information on Tom's blog.

Watch a video of Tom on Présence below:

Tom is sponsored by: Casio G-Shock, Climb On, Five Ten, Rab and Wild Country

Tom is also a part owner of The Climbing Station

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