Clapeyto in the Queyras

Continuing our search for non-polished rock, we headed up into the Queyras mountains to Clapeyto, encouraged by the guidebook promise of the qualite du rocher. This gorgeous pre-alpine area is up a dirt track, just off the road over the Col de L’Izoard (another iconic cycling spot). It’s only about 10km as the crow flies from our base at Roche de Rame, but a breathtaking hours drive around “the back of the hill”. At an altitude of over 2,000m and forecasted temperatures of max 12C, we didn’t want to arrive too early!

Outside of peak season you can drive right up to the picturesque meadow.

… and the crag is clearly visible above, with a couple of dozen single-pitch routes in the 5c to 6c range, and half a dozen major multi-pitch adventures.

If you were feeling cheeky you could even save the final 5 minutes approach walk up the zigzag track and park at the foot of the crag…

The rock certainly delivers on the promised High Friction – it is really grippy! Just as well, as the holds are predominantly side-pulls, with few positive edges. The climbing is highly engaging, and with quite a run-out between the bolts (7 bolts in almost 30m!), I was very aware that rough, slabby rock is the perfect exfoliation medium!

No complaints about the temperature – shorts and shirtless at 2,000m in mid October!

I started off with Le kaissard suer le toit, graded 6a but that was plenty challenging enough while I got used to the style of movement and trusting the grip.

This has a 6b+ extension, which involved a couple of very tenuous moves through a steeper band of rock.

Having scraped my way up that by the skin of my teeth, I faced the age-old dilemma: to ease off or push onwards and upwards. The trickiest route of the sector isLa Mariole, 6c, so I talked myself into having a go. More nerve-jangling moments but no skin loss! Happily (?) the sun goes off the crag around 3pm, sparing any further soul-searching; just a final scan of the scenery.

The early finish left plenty of time to pootle “home” so we took the excursion via col de l’Izoard, stopping to admire the extraordinary crumbly hoodoos at Casse Deserte on the way.

… and joining the bikers for the view from the Col.

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