After a 2-day side-visit to Chamonix that turned into a fortnight, we’ve finally managed to tear ourselves away. We’d visited pretty much all of the cragging venues and the interval between sun arriving on the campsite at 11 and leaving before 5 was noticeably narrowing daily, as the overnight temperature lowered. We’ll certainly be back, perhaps a bit earlier in the season when more lifts are operating to bring adventures in the Big Hills within easy reach, but meanwhile we’re back on the road – hopping over the Swiss border and zigzagging over the Col de Forclaz and down to explore the cragging potential of the Rhone Valley.
There’s a ton of scope between Martigny and Lausanne, with the selected climbs guide by the Remy brothers boasting 5,000 routes – many of which they put up. The first crag you hit on the way over from Chamonix is Dorenaz, on the outskirts of Martigny. It’s another super-roadside convenience crag, and we really only dropped by to eliminate it from our enquiries – expecting mirror-like polish, hoardes of school kids and stumpy routes. Instead we found 40m towers of really interestingly featured granite: slabs, aretes, cracks and walls, facing all directions for sun or shade, albeit some of it quarried and in a somewhat suburban setting.
The 40m triangular slab and adjacent walls that dominates the parking area are Les Dalles du Vaudois, with the main slab providing fun climbing from 5b to 6b on tiny crimps and rugosities. Here’s Helen leading Jackpot, 5b
and high on Pas d’Embrouiles, 6b,
Further right the crag diminishes in height but makes up for it in terms of steepness and funky rock at The Arête des Comiques
I deployed all my quarried grit trad crack skills (jamming, bridging and even a bit of back-and-footing), not to mention some heinous heel-hooks, to sketch my way up the overhanging stepped crack of Pierre Tombale, 7a
We checked out the local campsite, but it was rammed with wall-to-wall white vans – it wasn’t going to be worth the €40 they were after! Instead we headed up into the hills above Salvan where we planned to climb the next day, and found this pleasant spot