Cantobre (for mortals) – La Roche de Calee

Cantobre is a long-established classic hard crag, with about 50 routes on an immaculate wave of orange, pocketed limestone. South facing and in the beautiful Gorges de la Dourbie, it takes its name from the picture-postcard fortified village set atop the adjacent mushroom of rock.

There’s only one catch – the sweet spot grade looks to be 7c+/8a and you really don’t get off the ground before 7b.

Classic Cantobre – photo taken from new crag for mortals

Happily, Les Equipeurs have been hard at work and have just opened up another couple of more amenable sectors on the opposite side of the valley, which Sebastian, our host at Camping Larzac, pointed us at. The latest of these was only completed during summer 2021 (great Lockdown project!) I’m assured by Sebastian that it’s OK to share these details.

We spent the day on La Roche de Calee which has about 20 routes mostly in the 5c to 6b range, with a handful of bouldery harder routes. High up on the hillside and facing SSE, this stayed in the sun until it went behind the hill at about 3ish.

Access is straightforward – you park in a small gravel area (room for 3-4 cars) on the left side of the D991, about 300m north of the turning for the village of Cantobre. Walk a further 100m north along the road until you spot an obvious cairned path sloping gently up leftwards above the road. You can see the top of the crag on the skyline above from this point.

Follow this for a further 200m until a less obvious cairn on your left marks a zag back up hill, and in another 100m or so you’ll see the crag. 10mins from the parking (marked 11h02 in the track below – I’ll mention the other sector marked 15h48 at the end of the post)

It’s heavily featured rock, with a wealth of crozzly pockets, and all the hallmarks of a brand new crag, so worth treating the holds with a bit of care and caution.

All the routes have exquisitely painted, quirky name labels (it’s worth going just for these!)

This one gets 6a
Me on “Le Goujon…”

Here’s Helen on “Et pour quelques…”, 5c+ (or perhaps 5c+++ – you could safely add a plus or a whole letter on to most of the grades)

We ticked most of the routes, apart from the brutal bouldery ones at the right. All very enjoyable, with maybe the pick of the bunch being Pierre qui Roule…, the 6a up the left arete.

… and it’s just a fabulous place to hang out.

As if that wasn’t enough reason to come back, there’s a second crag at a lower level – this is accessed by a path slanting down rightwards just before the turn-off for the upper crag (marked by two cairns at the time of writing). I didn’t recce this until the end of the day, but it looks great. Another dozen or so routes from 6b to 7b, on a wall that faces more eastwards so loses the sun a bit earlier. Definitely 12CB4!

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