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On November 7th, La Sportiva ambassador Julia Chanourdie clipped the chain of Eagle4, in the French crage of Praniania in Saint Léger, becoming the third woman in the world to climb the grade 9b.
Entering the club of the 9b climbers is not an everyday thing. But November 7th was one of those special days, and the magic happens. French climber, 24 years old, qualified to represent her country at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, Julia Chanourdie proved us that excel in both climbing competitions and outdoor climbing is possible, sending “Eagle4” , in the French crag of Praniania in Saint Léger. With this impressive achievement, Julia became the third woman in the world to climb the grade 9b and we catch up with her to discover more about this iconic send.
How did you feel the day of the send?
I felt great! Everything went so fast that took me quite a bite to realize what happened. I’m slowly becoming aware that something insane, something that seemed inconceivable until recently, actually occurred that day…
On Saturday I woke up motivated in my little van. Sending felt possible but not a “real thing”. I had given a good try the day before and I was looking forward to trying it again, but without thinking about the possibility to send my first 9b.
As usual, I started my day by getting on other climbs. I typically climb three routes before getting on my project. I enjoy clipping some chains besides projecting something particularly demanding. That’s how I first sent “Autant suspend mon vol” 8b that day, which I had tried to onsight the day before.
I felt ready to move on to “Eagle4”. I gave it three goes where I fell in the beginning of the route and eventually sent it in a fourth and desperate attempt. I was even feeling lazy to try it again. I had to boost my own motivation before getting back on it as I thought I’d be too tired from previous attempts. But as soon as I passed the first move, one of the hardest for me, everything flowed naturally. It was a bit colder than for previous tries, I was determined and simply focused on one move at a time.
When I got to the rest after the first and hardest part, the one which the route gets the grade from, I needed to fully recover to manage to link the second part, which grades about 8b, specifically because of a solid dyno in the middle that made me a little nervous. So, I was super focused and I had to manage my effort well until the chain, alternating between relaxation and try-hard phases.
How would you describe this route?
Eagle 4 route can be broken down in two parts. The first part is where the route gets its grade from. It’s rather short and intense. It’s made of two short powerful sequences on bad pinches. The second part is rather long, it’s like an 8b that serpentines. That part is not trivial to climb because it’s a succession of bouldery moves amidst easier climbing. One move in particular made me nervous on point; a serious dyno where I could have easily fallen. Physically speaking, It’s the hardest climb I have ever tried. For comparison, “Supercrackinette” (editor’s note, a 9a+ at the same crag that Julia also sent recently) had become more of a mental battle for me, whereas Eagle4 is more about biceps power, grip strength and core tension.
From discovering to sending: what’s your story with Eagle4?
I checked out the moves for the first time in September. I was able to do all the moves of the hard bottom part the first time I tried it. So, I took my time and checked out the rest of the climb which was supposedly easier but remained quite intimidating nonetheless. In total, the process took ten days of working on the climb. It seems like little time, which is why it is still hard to realize what I just achieved. But I know that I’ve been feeling particularly strong these days. I felt good training, and also at the crag. In addition, the style of the climb suited me well as it was all about power, grip strength, and short power endurance. In this climb there is no room for tricks, you either pull on the holds, or you don’t.
Late October, I learned that the French team would not go to the European championships, so I changed my plans and decided to spend some time in Saint Léger. Later that week, some holds were still wet, and I decided to take some time to dry them out to be able to give the route proper tries. Before that, it was difficult for me to get on it with a real intention to send. But once actually I decided to try to send, my desire for success surpassed everything.
It’s hard to tell what the key to success was. I made small incremental progress. I would say that once I decided to give it proper attempts after that was triggered, it was only a matter of time and it went very quickly.
After sending Supercrackinette, I had in mind to go check out Eagle4 someday. Having witnessed Hugo Parmentier’s send had really motivated me in this regard. It was the logical follow-up, but to think that I would be sending 9b someday, I was not really prepared for that. After the first few tries, I felt like the process could move forward quickly and I started gaining confidence. Sending 9b became a goal after I unlocked the movements.
Which climbing shoes did you wear during the ascent?
When I started climbing on Eagle 4 I had no doubts about climbing shoes: outside I've always been climbing with La Sportiva Katana Laces, which is my favorite style ever: clean, simple, and efficient. Even with a toe hook on Eagle-4, I didn't want to use different climbing shoes, I just feel very good with the Katana Laces.
How do you manage your competition life and your passion for outdoor climbing?
I always dreamt about traveling around the world to try hard climbs but now I have to juggle crag climbing and competitions. I’m happy with the way I’m handling this so far. I manage to enjoy myself trying hard climbs outside, which is my passion and that’s also part of my training for comps. I have always needed this balance between indoors and outdoors climbing. Pushing my limits on the rock is an integral part of my training as an athlete. I like having those hard projects, I love the challenge and what it takes to complete them. When it comes to competitions, it’s one of the best ways for me to get stronger.
This year, I could dedicate more time on the rock and dared to try even harder routes. It has been all about adapting. We had to deal with cancellations and sport climbing outside saved me actually, particularly when it comes to motivation.
Regarding my olympic preparation, I will work more specifically on each individual discipline all the while continuing to climb outside, maybe with new hard projects!
I would first like to thank all the people who help me and support me in my life as a climber. And I hope that my climbing and my performances inspire some people and help them to keep doing what they love!
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