Chateauvert – our Spring climbing escape in Vallon Sourn

CHÂTEAUVERT

It was a trip escaping the terrible spring we had this year. Snow, rain, floods….time flew and suddenly it was summer back home.

Being such a spanish fan lately, it was almost difficult to decide to go elsewhere for climbing. But our friends who were there gave us motivation and news that the weather was stable and that the sun shone. Looking at the weather forecast for the next weeks we saw nothing else but rain, downpour and wintery conditions in late May, back home! And packed our bags..

 Climbing Chateauvert and staying in Correns

A revival of memories flooded through my mind as we passed the valley and the quaint little town of Correns. 14 years back, things were a little different, a little more wild, not so well refurbished or „organised“, both the town and the climbing area. Gone are the days when you would wild camp at the best possible place under the crags, Signs are up every where against wild camping. The Vallon Sourn is a sensitive Biotop where a great variety of vulnerable fauna and flora exists and their local inhabitants takes big steps to try keep the ecosystem intact.  The small “Camping Municipale” in Correns is within biking distance to the climbing area (3-4km) and reasonable.  There’s a bakery with amazing pastries in Correns within a few minutes from the camp grounds by foot. There are days when the Pain au Chocolat are sold out by 9 am.  The Auberge du Correns serves  those who wants a different taste to the normal pasta with red sauce, a culinary french evening out. A few little grocery shops with fruits and product from the region and neighbouring farms offers everything you would need.  In fact Correns is the first BIO village developed in France with BIO products (and everything else BIO ) from the region.

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Tufas, jugs and little crimps

Chateauvert has about  36 little sectors and the massive stretches on for about ~ 2 km altogether.  Climbing on the left hand side of the river Argens is allowed, and those eyeing on the rocks on the other side of the canyon should know that it is prohibited to put up any routes here or climb. All routes that were put up here once before has been removed.  Access to the different sectors today are well secured by little steps and chains, great if you’re out with little children. 2 natural toilets situated at both the beginning and at the other end of the area, the beach cum picnic area  is just across the road when you’re all done with climbing and ready for a refreshing dip in the Argens. Most of the routes have all been rebolted, also many new routes have popped up during this time. Climbing here at entry-level is now an absolute joy for the young and older generation. You will find many sectors filled with absolutely long sustained climbing in pocketed limestone. Those mighty at level 6b will find their paradise here.  Stronger climbers looking for a challenge will find their playground in the Grande Face. This sector is in the shade in the afternoon and a cool wind blows often through making the heat bearable and giving better conditions for a red point on routes like “Les Couleurs du Charme” 7b+ with a bouldery move in the middle. Sector Power has also a few shorter overhangs worth mentioning. I had my fun together with my godchild, showing her how to lead for the first time. And yes, she loved it. Even after decades, the rock isn’t all too polished and has a great grip, especially when the wind is blowing.

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F*** Rest days, but they can be nice too!

Those climbing in Chateauvert, should also take some time to spend a lazy afternoon in Correns, through the lovely little chaussées, shops and bars. Wine lovers will discover themselves in a winery paradise. It’s seldom to find so many vineyards and Chateaus in the area with fantastic wines, be it Red, White or the Rosè. Those who were sceptical about Bio wines before should give it a try here.These wines has developed well and taste really great. Brad Pitt and Angelie Jolie fans, who never knew that they have a winery will find their products here. The Rosé Miraval, stood for a few minutes on our table… but the full bottle didn’t survive for long. Contignac, a little town at the foot of a majestic Tuff rock is some 15km away. Don’t miss the housing in the caves there or the Notre Dame de Grâces Chapel in the town.  The Verdon Gorge is about an hour an a halfs drive away. Driving through this enormous gorge is an experience itself, and at midday, the Lac de St. Croix shines ever so blue. Bouchet offers sportclimbing routes, right in the middle of the gorge. Take a look at other villages in the provence nearby here.

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Summary

I was pleasantly surprised how Chateauvert has developed in all the years. My respect to the FFME and all those responsible (esp. the rebolters) who has taken the trouble to make it a safer and pleasant place to climb. It’s a great venue to climb with many elementary routes, perfectly bolted. After 2 weeks, we took off for Gorge du Tarn,  followed by Gorge du Blavet and continued our journey through southern France.

Best time of the year:

Spring and Autumn. Also possible on sunny winter days. Most of the crags are south-east facing which puts some of the sectors in the later afternoon in the shade. A favourite spot for families and groups. If you want to avoid the crowds, avoid coming here during the school holidays.

Other climbing areas nearby in VAR:

  • Chateaudouble
  • Esterel / Gorge du Blavet / Cap du Dramont
  • Verdon / Aiguines
  • Toulon

Gear:

Minimum 70m rope, better 80m for some routes and 15-18 quickdraws. The routes are generally well / perfectly bolted, except for the Grande Face where the majority of the routes are more spaced with a touch of “engagé”.

Guide Book:

Provence Verte, FFME,  from 2010

Accomodation:

Camping Municipale Correns, La Condamine, 83570 CORRENS

Tel.: 04 94 37 21 31, Tel. 2: 04 94 59 56 94
Fax: 04 94 37 21 99
Advisable to reserve your pitch during all school holidays. Note that it’s not allowed to put up your tent on the football field anymore.

Diverse apartments for rent are available spreaded over the region.

Getting there:

Chateauvert lies in the midst of Département Var, in the southeast region of Provence -Alpes -Cote d’Azur. Its about an hour from Nice.

The fastest route (967 km) from Munich was getting over to Lindau -> Bad Ragaz -> Lugano -> Milano -> Genova -> Nice -> exit at Brignoles. Follow the signs to Chateauvert / Correns. You could also drive over Geneve -> Grenoble -> Manosque and Barjols to reach Chateauvert too (1002 km). Googlemaps unveils the secret.

Supermarkets:

Grocery stores, Bakery and a Butcher are available in Correns. Bigger supermarkets can be found 15km away in Brignoles.

Picture-Gallery:

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