The two Belgians Siebe Vanhee and Sébastien Berthe announce the first red point ascent of the route Histoire sans Fin (8b +, 200m) at the Petit Clocher du Portalet.
A report by Siebe Vanhee
Last week, Sebastien Berthe and I were incredibly lucky. We were allowed to do the first two free ascents of what we believe to be the best granite multi-pitch route in Europe. It might even be the only route in this level of difficulty. About a year ago I heard about a new, incredibly 'pure' and tough route at the Petit Clocher du Portalet near Martigny, Switzerland.
In 2001 Didier Berthod and François Mathey opened the famous second pitch away from the ledge, a 45 meter long and even crack line that is climbed in traditional style. It's one of the best line. The crack ends at a pillar in the middle of nowhere, giving the route its name: Never Ending Story. The smooth granite wall above the crack rested for almost 20 years until Fabian Borter and Bertrand Martenet continued the story and worked their way over smooth slabs and the edge to the summit. The route remained quiet until 2020, but then Didier Berthod came back into play. He found the missing pitch along a beautiful orange edge, rated 8b.
At the end of June, together with Jean-Eli Lugon, we found a short window of opportunity to try the route Histoire sans Fin. I got the whole thing on the lid, was physically in bad shape, but realized: this is one of the best lines I've ever tried.
Last week I returned to the Petit Clocher du Portalet with Sébastien, better physically prepared but still respecting the route. I got in primarily to look at them again. Seb Berthe quickly infected me with his sending vibes. We both worked on the key length until Seb scored the length. I would have needed more time to boulder out and climb freely, but Seb's time for a one-day red point ascent ran out of us. We continued climbing and Seb pulled out all the stops, climbed mentally and physically strong - and we Seb got the first free ascent of the route Histoire sans Fin that day. As always, he gave everything, tried the individual lengths over and over again until he scored them.
Three days later it was my turn, I returned with the support of Seb and Soline. This time convinced that I could climb the route. I stormed up the 7c + crack and crossed over the 7c traverse to the stand in front of the key length. And then I was at the key point of the 8b + length, a super technical bouldering problem in which it is of central importance to put pressure on the right micro-steps in order to be able to climb the almost impossible moves at all. It all happens in your head, you just have to dare to put pressure on your feet.
It went like clockwork, I scored the pitch in the first attempt. The 8b length with its strenuous flat edge climbing was a mental struggle. Scary and magical in equal measure. The length felt impossible on the first try, but as soon as you have the right balance outside and only apply as much pressure as necessary on your feet, the magic comes into play. And again I made it on the first try, the 8b length was done.
The last challenge was a crisp 8a + slab just before the summit. I climbed well but was nervous. A brief moment of inattention was enough and I fell at the very last difficult point. Thanks to the encouragement from Seb and Soline, I quickly regained my courage, returned to the beginning of the pitch and scored.
It's been an honor, really. An honor to be able to climb such a beautiful wall, to score such a magical route with the support of Jean-Eli, Seb and Soline. But not only that, we both, Seb and I, were impressed by the openness and friendliness of the local climbers. We had the pleasure of meeting Didier Berthod, François Mathey and many other climbers in the cozy Cabane de Orny owned by Yanik and his team. It's awesome to see how the climbing scene lives in this mountain hut. Thanks for the mood!
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Credits: Cover picture Fred Moix