Casse de Prelles – Les Aiguilles

We’d visited the lower walls of these unusual quartzite crags last year, so this was a chance to check out the extraordinary-looking Sector Aiguilles.

It’s a bit of a yomp up from the normal parking on the D4 so we came up with a cunning plan to park up near the hamlet of Bouchier and approach from above. This worked quite well – park near the Chapel Saint Hypolite de Bouchier at this sign

… Strike up the hill for about a hundred metres until you hit a good waymarked path

… and then follow this down through woodland via a couple of zigzags until you can just about make out the crags through the trees – looking out for a cairn on the left and a bit of a trod upwards. This soon contours and if you’ve got lucky you’ll pick up some cairns which will lead you up to this trinity of three almost Dolomitic pinnacles.

Here’s a map which might help…

It’s hard to make out, but there are actually three pinnacles, up to 35m high, all leaning towards each other, with routes on all sides of each. What fun! Here’s a Google satellite view

I might perhaps sometimes turn my nose up at a 5c, but the Voie Original looked to be a fun alpine adventure, and so it proved. Running the two pitches together and teetering onto the tiny summit, you are transported to the Tyrol. Here’s Helen just stepping onto the arete above the mid-height stance:

… and Albert, a visiting climber from Bavaria:

… and a shot of me, taken by Albert, from the ravine between the pinnacles:

The right arete, Just un Spigolo, is a fun 6a, though doesn’t go the full height (here’s Helen nearing the crux and you can just about make out Albert at the top of the Voie Original):

… and Ilka, Albert’s wife, around the same place.

Next we turned our attention to the fine, steep wall on the south side of the south west pinnacle (all very 3D and quite confusing on first acquaintance – this face gets the last of the sun before it dissappears behind the rest of the hillside.

Petit Prince is a steep 6c, with very good holds throughout – I kept expecting a sting-in-the-tail but it never really materialised. Helen followed it comfortably on a top-rope and was psyched for the lead. Here she is making smooth progress around two-thirds height. Unfortunately, with the extra rope drag and effort of clipping, she just ran out of steam beneath the final bolt. So close!

You can see the shade biting at Helen’s heels in the photo above, and it got properly chilly shortly afterwards, but I was keen for another route, so we headed around to the North Face of the North Tower. This is a gloomy spot in a natural wind-tunnel (it’d be great in summer!) and my attempt at Dimsublim, 7a, was perhaps a bit optimistic. Numb fingers, damp crimps and occasionally fragile holds saw me deploying a clip stick to get the clips in on a couple of runout sections. Fun climbing though and maybe one to come back for on a warmer day.

Heading back to the truck I reccied the new high-level sector: this is recommended to be accessed from above (and it’s a bit of a bushwhack from the Aiguilles). Here’s a couple of pictures of the crag and a sketch map of how to get there:

1 – Parking
2 – High sector
5 – Aiguilles

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