British expat James Pearson has established an impressive new E10 crack line at Annot, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, France, which he has named Le Voyage. Annot has been a developing trad hot spot in France since 2005 due to its abundance of crack features.
James told UKC:
'For the most part Annot was like all the others. A beautiful area full of amazing trad routes, with enough to keep most climbers entertained for weeks, months or years. There were a lot of big impressive walls that were just impossible to climb, and a few short, really hard but possible lines, tucked away in tight corners or passing just too close to other routes. Strangely however, there was one exception.'
Le Voyage is situated on the most obvious wall in one of the easiest to access, most visually impressive areas in Annot. Slap bang in the middle of the Chambre du Roi, a gently overhanging face is split by a single, discontinuous crack that soars almost 40 meters from the floor. Where the crack runs out, perfect pockets take its place, with just enough small, fiddly gear to make it climbable.
It took James five days to piece it all together. He told UKC:
'From the first day, where I couldn’t even understand the moves, to the last day, running it out in hope of sticking the last jug, the whole process was quite a journey. It was complicated to work out, pumpy to climb, and is certainly one of the hardest trad routes I have ever done, but instead of getting bogged down by difficulty, I’d love to focus on the quality of the line for once. Just look at this thing! It's beautiful, a real marvel of nature. Take away any one hold in several places on the route and it just wouldn’t work. It’s incredible that it even exists, anywhere, but especially in Annot where so many of the other big faces are just blank.'
He added: 'Le Voyage is definitely the best new trad route I have ever done'.
James learned of the potential for a new route following a tip off from Tom Randall several years ago and received assistance with cleaning and gear from Lionel Catsoyannis. He commented: 'Sorry Tom, I should have listened to you. Even more thanks should go to Lionel Catsoyannis for cleaning the line and giving me all the help with gear and beta that he could, but also for the hundreds of other routes he and friends have cleaned and climbed all over this mountain.'
Regarding the grade of Le Voyage, James told us:
'I know E10 7a might not make a lot of sense to non-British trad climbers, but it’s really the best I can do. I just hope that curious people can look past all that, and just go and try it because it’s a wicked line. It protects well enough, it's steep so you can take big falls, and most of all it's really, really fun. What are you waiting for?'