It’s only a short drive from the Ligurian coast to the Durance valley; around 3 hours over the Montgenevre Pass linking these two tremendously diverse and abundant climbing areas. Each with over a hundred crags and many thousands of routes of all styles. Throw in a fantastic climate with all-year sun, not to mention great food, and you’d be hard pressed to choose.
Of course, the big difference is a good 1,000m of altitude, and we swapped a backdrop of the Med for the snowy peaks of the Ecrins.
A statue of Golden Age hero Edward Whymper, gazing up at the Barre des Ecrins, greets you as you zigzag down the valley from Briancon. We checked into our favourite local campsite, La Verger at Roche de Ramme, to find we had the whole place to ourselves (How’s that for social distancing!)
There’s a staggering amount of rock on either side of the valley, and ranging from 1,000m to over 2,000m in altitude, giving all-year-round climbing opportunities. Options start to narrow towards the end of October, so our first couple of excursions were to familiar suntraps.
We discovered sector Hot Rock, on La Ponteil, a couple of years ago https://rockaroundtheworld.co.uk/2018/10/03/le-ponteil-sector-hot-roc/ and sure enough, it lived up to its name once again.
Here’s me on L’Ete des Caracules, 6a, with the Queryas mountains in the background.
La Retraite au Perfo, 6a+ and Que la Fete Commence, 6a, were also very good (both had been put up since our last visit – you can find an up to date topo here: http://hotroc.free.fr/Images/autres_massifs/voies%20ponteil.pdf
… and I really enjoyed this outstanding 6c:
The next day saw us heading down the valley to the conglomerate cliffs under the fortified hill of Mont Dauphin (“Poudinage” or pudding being the slang term used by French climbers for conglomerate). These low(ish) lying east-facing walls offer sunny climbing until about 2ish.
Sector Cosmos is amongst the best, with about 20 routes from 6a to 7c. Here’s Helen on the first pitch of Donjon
… and we did Caprice de Star, Gravier Vertical and Cougar, all 6a+
Then swapped sectors to check out the newly developed Twin Towers area
… and did the near 40m Classe 40, 6b, up the crackline and Wall on the left of the photo above.
For a semi-urban crag it’s got a pretty fine outlook