Steve McClure, 52, does Le Voyage, 8b+ (trad)

25 March 2023

Steve McClure, who did the FA of Rainman 9b in Malham Cove in 2017, has repeated James Person's Le Voyage 8b+ in Annot, which is a trad route protected by many cams and wires and also has two fixed threads. On Insta, he comments, "One of the best in the world. 8b+. Enough gear, but spaced and pumpy to place. It feels like a real adventure. 40m long too! Just a couple of days and first lead effort seems like my usual adopted style of only just getting it, with the odd section still barely worked out!" (c) Grace Taylorson

The 52-year-old has been one of the leading climbers in the world for 25+ years. In 1998, he did the FA of Mutation, proposing 9a, but it was later upgraded making it the second 9a+ in the world. When it comes to trad climbing Steve is also one of the most accomplished in the world and two years ago he repeated Lexicon 8b+ (R) after first having taken a 20+ meter fall.

Can you tell us more about Le Voyage and how you trained and prepared for the trip?
Great route! Loved it. One of the best. Prep for trip, zero. Only ended up sorting the trip a week before coming out. I'd not even thought about trying Le Voyage. It was, in fact, James's harder route Bon Voyage that I really noted, though this would be too hard for me, but it brought Le Voyage to my attention and I was really drawn in.

Training…. Well, indoors and out just climbing. I’m too old for proper training! I treat each session as a day of climbing, doing what I like to do. I try sometimes to keep the intensity up as I get weaker and weaker. So indoor bouldering is a good idea. That works well with fitting around work and family anyway.

Do you know why there are fixed threads?
Threads… and all ethics… are all made up in the end. Some people frown on preplaced threads. Their ethic is perhaps purer. Some are very hard or virtually impossible to place on lead, and yet nature has offered natural protection. Threads may offer a better and/or safer experience for some people.

I think for this one, actually, it’s easy to place. There is a no-hands rest right there. For most people attempting this route, the main issue is to strip the route ready for an ascent placing the gear, is SO hard (as it’s steep). The thread makes this possible. With multiple people trying the route the logistics of stripping it all without the thread are just complex, time-consuming and unnecessary (like having to top rope all of it to get the kit out… or put it back in for those who want it left in). Sure this may be a compromise but it’s utterly marginal and really takes nothing away from any actual ascent. For my ascent the thread was in but not a karabeener, which I put in, alongside the other 20 or so wires and cams I placed on lead. I'm happy to take a yellow card, or even a red one. I think I led it in good style, am honest about what I did, and had a whole lot of fun!

It can be done in a better style. For me, there was no quick draw in (as someone had taken them out), but it really makes no odds. And with a no-hands rest, the thread is not a problem to place.

I like the fact that you are the 'guy that asks the questions'... someone has to do that occasionally to avoid bad practice becoming the norm. So well done. With this one though it's just a common sense thing, a bit like making the decision that a pre-clipped first bolt is a good idea above a death landing... no one will argue with that, even though we all know that a pre-clipped first bolt is not the purest ethic. funny game climbing. But isn't it fun!

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