Presles is undoubtedly the Queen of Vercours climbing – a 7km wide crag of grey and orange limestone around 300m high and offering hundreds of routes of around 8 to 10 pitches. It has as much climbing as The Verdon, spread out along an escarpment rather than in a gorge, and it’s hard to understand how it is so little frequented by Brits.
Hanging belays and broken ribs don’t really go together, but happily there are a number of single pitch sectors too. I’d sampled a couple of these at the base of the crag, Tina Dalle and Pierrot Beach, on a trip with Jake a few years ago, and found them quite tough and with the easier routes especially, quite polished. This time we explored some of the newly developed areas at the top of the crag, accessed by descending from the plateau.
The access arrangements have changed recently and are quite sensitive (and not entirely obvious in the guide) so here’s a few notes. After passing through the tunnel, and about 1km before the village of Presles, you take a right turn signposted Le Charmail, and follow this through the hamlet of La Charmail taking a right turn to Ferme Adrien. There is now a climbers parking area here, and a pit toilet, and you follow a newly constructed and very well signposted trail past the farm (and climbers’ gite) to access the crags.
We chose Daladom, because obviously it means Dom’s Slab, and also it had a mix of grades, including some suitable for Helen’s current state.
The easier routes have obviously been developed by local guides and feature the most extraordinary efforts at hold improvement – 10ft lengths of tree trunk bolted to the bottom to get over the blank sections!
Further round the corner, things improve significantly, though the couple of trickier routes I did were both showing more signs of wear than you’d imagine from 10 years of use.
Back in Presles, and a sad sight – Ezio, the flamboyant jazz-loving climber and proprietor of the eponymous auberge, has decided to sell up and head off on his travels. The end of an era just as significant as Eric’s tenure at the Tremadog cafe.