All good things come to an end, and after 3 weeks of unbroken sunshine in the Durance, the weather finally went pear-shaped. Two days of forecasted rain followed by a distinctly cooler outlook was a nudge to break camp and go chasing the sun.
Happily we had the perfect next stop already lined up – Mike and Heidi have just settled into their new home near Uzès in the Gard region, and were open to receiving visitors 🙂 After heavy rain, the second day of the monsoon failed to materialise Chez M&H, leaving no excuse but to head out to recce some of the local climbing on offer.
The “Falaise du Gard” guidebook covers 17 crags and well over a thousand routes. Clearly everything would be pi$$ wet through, to coin a technical term, so there’d be no point in going to one of the major venues, but a quick look at one or two local obscurities might be time well spent and perhaps offer the possibility of a token route…
Tresques promised a sunny disposition, overlooking vineyards, a 5mins approach and a good range of grades (30 routes 4a to 7c). The location certainly lived up to the billing…
… though the prevailing damp was a bit discouraging. Helen and Heidi saw sense and went for a bike ride, but Mike and I persevered in an ascent of Les Fourmis, 6a, the easiest dryish line. Not the highest quality climbing experience that either of us could recall, but You Either Climbed Today Or You Didn’t. The whole place would no doubt take on a completely different character on a sunny dry spring or autumn afternoon.
With a YECTOYD in the bank we decided to roll the dice again (too early to start drinking beer) and check out Montfaucon. This is a curious recently developed shady crag, bordering the Rhone. It’s one of those crags that jumps out and surprises you, just when you think the sat nav has gone berserk. There’s been a huge investment in gear and hard labour in creating a dozen or so lines on a sandy slab, with a few longer excursions. It’s certainly handy – you park right under it, but wasn’t looking its most alluring in the damp. Might be a different kettle of fish with blessed shade on a scorching summer day.
More torrential rain overnight gave way to a bright morning, and the breakfast debate centred on whether it would be enough to dry out anything to a climbable state. Helen and I decided to head to Seynes to see…
This is a mega crag – worthy of comparison with any of the more famous Provence hot-rock-spots. We’ve visited a bunch of times over the years, but not for a while.
There’s a new parking regime: Parking Seynes secteur Rouge Gorge
https://maps.google.com/?cid=16475836474959304498&entry=gps and you are allowed to ignore the no entry “sauf ayant droit” signs to get to it. Sadly, van camping is no longer tolerated, but that’s a small price to pay as apparently a total climbing ban had been under discussion.
The stunning wave of tilted limestone of Sector Nouveau Monde dominates the view, but rather than the usual white and orange it was a dirty black. Not too encouraging.
On closer inspection, the classic Tube Neural, (a 6c+ full-body workout up a tube formed by two adjacent tufas that I first did about 25 years ago) literally had a waterfall down it.
… Probably not surprising given the amount of water that had fallen overnight, and the fundamental tufa formation process! It was the same story working leftwards past the other major tufa sectors including Liaison and Jose, but by the time we reached Rouge Gorge route-sized gaps between the wet streaks were starting to emerge.
.. and another hour later it was sizzling and shirtless!
We did about 10 routes between us, with my personal favourite being Les Dix Acelles…, 6b+ and with a couple of huge thought-provoking runouts.
Another day, another sunny and spectacular crag, with a visit to the Diedre Jaune sector at Collias. A short stroll down from the village centre to a very swollen Gard (no place for a post-climb dip in these conditions!) and along to the crag.
It’s a fine wall, with something for everyone in terms of grades – from 3s to 7s. The only drawback is that these are stacked on top of each other, with most of the routes starting up easy territory, steepening up, and then kicking in big-time at the top up to 50m or so. Interim loweroffs allow for a bailout and tick at various points, but it’s all a bit confusing, not helped by the quirky depiction in the guide. Surprisingly unpolished, given the convenience.
Here’s Helen on the easy approach slabs of Variante de Solstice…
… and further up where things steepen:
… and here’s Heidi following, with the sun sparkling on the frothing Gard, far below.
I thought the top half of La Royale, 6b+, was excellent (tough crimpy crux followed by surprising holds where you need them). This is just left of the eponymous “Yellow Corner” which gives the sector its name (very fine line we’d done on a previous visit – could be a trad route but sadly polished and tough for 6a). Helen did the two leftmost routes on the wall: Adventure Sauvage (also called Popol) and Pinpol) Both 5+ and 30m plus and highly recommended.
Plenty more to explore on future visits.