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Redpointing Biographie

Tanguy Merard’s Journey of Ambition, Perseverance, and Personal Growth

by tenaya


At 16 years old, Tanguy Merard left his hometown of Nîmes in the south of France for the climbing hub of Briançon in the Alps. “I made this decision,” he says, “because I was training alone in my garage and I wanted to climb with other strong, young climbers.”

The new community and access to top training facilities gave him the support and the motivation to develop his potential as a climber, and he soon set his sights on harder projects. The idea of trying Biographie came in 2020, during the pandemic lockdown. The young French climber had already sent two other 9a+ routes—Les Yeux plus gros que les Roubignoles in Russan and Supercrackinette in Saint Léger—but facing this iconic climb was his most ambitious goal yet.

Bolted in 1989 by Jean-Cristophe Lafaille, Biographie (9a+) at Céüse, France is one of the most emblematic and prestigious sport routes in the world. When Chris Sharma made the first ascent in 2001, it set the benchmark for the grade and opened a new era. To date, only a small number of climbers have redpointed Biographie, an imposing 40-meter overhanging wall, divided into two main sections, with a boulder crux at the top.

The iconic cliff line of Céüse, France.
The iconic limestone crag of Céüse, France, home to Biographie (9a+). Photo: Ben Semiond.

During the early days of the pandemic lockdown, together with a friend, Tanguy decided to go for it. “I told myself that if I wanted to try it, I had to train,” he says, adding that he trained specifically for the route, for two months straight. “I’d never trained so hard, and I came out of it in the best shape I’ve ever been in.”

Nevertheless, attempting an iconic route alongside some of the best climbers in the world still felt strange, he says, and despite the training, his lack of experience began to show. “It was the first time I’d tackled such a hard route,” he explains, “and I was so impatient to try it that I didn’t try to find the best beta, I just tried it from the bottom.” As the days went on, Tanguy began to figure out the techniques for projecting at his limit.

Slowly but surely, he made progress. Tanguy worked through the first section, marked by a fairly hard 7C boulder, he describes, which leads into another section of hard climbing with alternating rests, until the final heart-breaker crux near the top. Tanguy started linking sequences up until that final boulder, where he fell over and over again. The upper crux became a mental game.

“Each day and each try I kept believing it was going to be the one,” he says. Tanguy lost count after 50 or 60 days, spread across three years.

Rock climber Tanguy Merard puts on Tenaya Indalo climbing shoes before climbing Biographie.
French climber Tanguy Merard boots up with the Tenaya Indalo climbing shoes for Biographie (9a+), Céüse, France. Photo: Ben Semiond.

And then in the spring of 2023, after a huge battle, he finally clipped the chains.

“By far, it’s the route that required the most investment, but it enabled me to understand how my body and mind work,” he says. “I’ve had a lot of low points, but I’ve always stuck with it and that’s why it’s the best experience I’ve ever had.

“I’ve learned to be patient, to give 100 percent on each attempt, and to persevere even if I’m not making progress.”

Biographie marks a milestone in both Tanguy’s personal life and climbing career. That summer alone his ticklist of hard ascents in France expanded exponentially:

  • Beyond (9a+), Pic St. Loup
  • Punt’x (9a+), Gorges du Loup
  • Just Two Fix (9a/+), Gorges du Loup
  • Crotte de Geek (9a), Ailefroide
  • A Muerte Bilou (9a), Ramirole
  • Trip Tik Tonic (9a), Gorges du Loup
  • Kinematix (9a), Gorges du Loup
  • Inga (9a), Gorges du Loup
  • Kick Ass (9a), Gorges du Loup
  • Combi de Choc (8c+), Entraygues
  • To Do List (8c+), La Balme

Biographie opened his eyes to what’s possible, which in turn motivated him to discover new projects and new places. He leaves us with a final lesson: “Be optimistic, be ambitious, believe in your abilities and, above all, do what you love.”

Rock climber on a sport route at Céüse, France.
Nineteen year old Tanguy Merard on Biographie (9a+), Céüse, France. He sent the benchmark climb after approximately 60 days of effort spread across three years. Photo: Ben Semiond.

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