Plaisir climbing in Haut Provence, France


We grabbed a cafe au liat with a croissant amandé in town before we started that climbing day in the Provence. But as a person who don’t drink coffee all the time, it made my heart feel like it was about to pop out of its cage into the mouth. Filled with lots of motivation, I was ready to conquer the world when we left.

A few moments later…

 …I tied the knot into my rope. I looked up and counted the bolts. 8, 9, 12 – can’t quite see where they all are. I settled for 16. Slipped on my shoes and chalked my fingers. And started on the first move.

It went on smooth, I felt the light breeze blowing strands of hair to my face. I kept moving, as if in a trance, the holds were solid, the foot holds were good. I clipped and looked into the next sequence. Unsure if I should go left ot right. There was nothing. No chalk signs, nothing. The next hold was way above. Surely they wouldn’t expect you to make a dyno at this grade?

I backed down to the last hold. Took a deep breath and didn’t dare look down ( have I told you I’m (still) terrified of heights). I had to take the corner. That makes a curve around the line I was climbing so straight. A slab. Nothing more terrifying when the slab suddenly becomes a badass slab with no holds. I looked back down to hubby, and shouted out “Aufpassen!” (watch out) Between my toes I could see him getting nervous, perhaps not because I was going  off course the route but more of the heat.  I suddenly realised, it was midday. And terribly hot. Everyone else were lazing on the cool riverbank, playing their guitar, waiting for the shade to come. I hear them from a distance. What am I doing here?

I took a last deep breath, and exhaled out all that was in my mind. I didn’t really want to know what was going to come, or happen. I took the left crimp, overcrossed it with my right arm to catch the sharp edges of the rock. Phew! A solid hold. There was nothing to stand on, I had to use the friction to push myself to the next hold. That was when the “door opened”.

Aaarggh!

Sweat was  running down my face. Damn the coffee. My heart was pumping hard. Breathe, breathe, breathe – keep moving!

I saw from the corner of my eye a tiny ledge. Set my right foot on it to gain balance and dyno-ed the next hold on the ledge. A sloper! I hate slopers. The heat didn’t help make this hold any better.

Again, I said to my self, keep moving! There must a good place somewhere. I placed my right hand further up the ledge and found a tiny edge and curled up my fingers to press and hold it tight. With the left, I grabbed a quickdraw from my harness and clipped the bolt. It felt like heaven and earth to have the rope hung in the quickdraw. SAFE! I looked down again. Shooked my head. It was soooo scary!

Each day, I took little steps to work on my fears. Slabs are for me the worse kind of rock when you have to deal with finger dents and friction footholds. Hubby told me once a long time ago: “A good climber is one who climbs well in all sorts of walls”. This has since been always at the back of my mind. The spanish would say “y poco a poco” – do it step by step.

To climb in Haute Provence you don’t have to be a badass climber ripping off 8a s and cs. There are quite a number of places to go to if you are doing well the 5th and 6th grade and have had a few first experiences already with climbing outdoors.

Buis les Barronies, Umbrieux, Malaucene are really some of the places that accommodate climbers not finding ideal conditions in St.Leger. While they are classic areas existing for many years already, they are still good venues with some really nice routes, even though “polish” is something you might often find. They are good choices not too far away from the climbers paradise in Orpierre (but it’s not a day excursion!).

Umbriuex

This area lies just beneath the foot of Buis les Barronies. You can”t miss the little gorge which is bolted on both sides for sport climbers. Plaisir routes from 4 to 6s on one side, there is also a sector where courses are often held in the afternoon. Bolts are perfectly bolted in perfect distances, anchors on each route (often two bolts with rings are used as anchors). Very pleasant if you know how to rappel down on them. Plaisir, Plaisir… fun and long.

The walls are directly next to the parking lot. Belaying out of the car could be almost possible ;-) The opposite  Sector  Lou Passo d’ Hannibal lays just above the river and finds shade in the afternoon. You will have to take a plunge on hot summer days.  A few really nice routes with challenging endurant moves ranges from 7a to 7c. Judging them by the polished holds, you’d know how popular they were through the years.

Routes: ~ 114
French grade 3: 7
French Grade 4: 18
French Grade 5: 21
French Grade 6: 48
French Grade 7: 20

Faces: south-east
Rope: 70 m
Access: 3 mins – 10 mins
Topo: Escalade en Drome Provencale

Buis les Barronies – Baume Rousse

Baume Rousse is a small sector that lays in the middle of the Rhone Alps, just about an hour away from the motorway exit Bollene/ Alés. The peak of this crag was in the 90ties when they held the international youth championships in this area. So, yes you will find a number of lines that are visually inviting and good.

There are about 5 sectors altogether. Shaped like an amphitheatre, you can choose between sun and shade throughout the day. The middle sector has a good choice of homogenous and athletic routes in the french 8s.  It’s slightly overhanging, so it makes a great venue to hit too when it rains.

Routes: 114
French Grade 4: ~ 21
French Grade 5: ~ 32
French Grade 6: ~ 27
French Grade 7: ~ 26
Rest: ~ 8

Faces: south
Rope: 70 m
Access: 3 mins – 10 mins
Topo Guide book: Escalade en Drome Provencale

Malaucène – Rocher du Groseau

Malaucène is a little town laying geographically beside the Mont Ventoux massive. This few sectors of bolted crags offers superb classic routes and sustained climbing on a compact rock. It’s not a modern wall, so you won’t find always many people here. However, there were times when I was surprised to meet a crowd whenever the modern climber travels in big groups. Indeed, the routes here are surprisingly good and well bolted. The beginner won’t find many choices to climb on, but the midrange climber will.

There is a good deal of mid-range routes and many for the extreme climber. The wall is in the shade till the afternoon and is a good option when it’s too hot to climb in St. Leger.

Routes: ~87
French Grade 5:~ 10
French Grade 6:~ 40 (~ 10 6a+)
French Grade 7:~ 37
Rest: 3

Faces: west
Rope: 70 m
Access: 3 mins – 10 mins
Topo: Escalades autour du Ventoux

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