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Crack ace Jean-Pierre “Peewee” Ouellet has repeated one of North America’s hardest crack climbs, La Zébrée (5.14a), placing all of his protection except for the first piece on the lead. Ouellet had tried for three years for the second ascent—and first true redpoint—of the 80-foot finger and hand crack, which slices through two roofs at Mont King, Québec, but the climb is hard to find in dry conditions. Excellent weather in the Northeast over the past few weeks dried out the line, giving Ouellet the chance for the send on his 10th attempt this year—in all, he estimates he made 50 to 60 attempts. On the redpoint, he had power to spare, launching into five pull-ups at the end of the climb.
Québecois Jean-Francois “Jeff” Beaulieufirst pinkpointed La Zébrée in 2004 after three years of attempts. Beaulieu preprotected the climb with removable gear, in part because trying to redpoint the overhanging route while placing pro would mean strenuously aiding the entire climb to clean it after each failed attempt.
Indeed, considering Ouellet’s effort, La Zébrée is not likely to see many true redpoints. The route is so steep—overhanging more than 40 feet in its 80-foot length—that cleaning the gear after each attempt was a major ordeal. “I had to down-aid to fix some nuts—which I did not clip when leading—and then swing and pull while lowering to clean the whole thing,” he said. “Quite tiring.”
Not only that, but simply preparing the route to climb could take hours. “Every day that I wanted to try the route, I had to dry it out with towels and sponges, he explained. “Some days it would take up to five hours to clean the crack. Yeah, I know I’m crazy, but if you’d see this crack in person you would do the same. It is by far the best-looking route I’ve ever seen.”
Ouellet hadn’t expected to make a serious attempt on La Zébrée this year until the fall, when the crack usually is drier. He was in the Red River Gorge in Kentucky when he realized that it had not rained back home in Québec for 10 days. “So, I sprinted back home to start trying it,” he said. “I felt pretty strong, and the route was exceptionally dry,” though he still had to towel it off for five hours on the first day and two hours the next morning.
La Zébrée: The angle of the dangle.Photo by Benoit Robitaille.
Ouellet has been on a crack-climbing mission over the last couple of years. Last summer, he made the probable second ascent of Fiddler on the Roof (5.13d), a roof crack in Fremont Canyon, Wyoming, nearly 20 years after Steve Petro first climbed the route. In the fall, he drove more than 2,000 miles to Utah for a two-week vacation, and then made the third ascent of Learning to Fly (5.13+) and the fourth ascent of From Switzerland With Love (5.13+), as well as Death of a Cowboy (5.13a) and a possible first free ascent of Fairy Tales (5.13b).
Date of Ascent: May 12, 2007
CLICK HERE TO WATCH A VIDEO OF Jean-Pierre “Peewee” Ouellet on La ZébréeVideo Courtesy of Louis Larouche — www.escaladequebec.comOnce open, please feel free to continue navigating our site