Blowing a hoolie on the tops, and not too sunny, so we headed to Le Joncas in the hope of finding some sheltered, sunny climbing. It’s a recently developed series of crags, either side of a dry gorge, giving options of shade and sun (we hoped!) to suit the conditions. You park at the top…
… and have the option of dropping down into the gorge from either end, depending which sector you are trying to get to. The handy map on the signpost plus a bit of Googling (UKC has a fairly comprehensive list of routes) will get you by in the absence of a guidebook. There is one, allegedly, but no one at the crag seemed to have a copy.
The sign carries dire warnings of difficult passages of via ferrata to access the crags. I’d always be one to support the use of appropriate safety equipment, and “be it on your head” to ignore the advice, but I would say that the lower gorge path is the most easily accessed with only a few bits of rope handrail and the odd metal rung to reach sectors Pensee Oblique and Sainte-Ethique. You can also get to the initiation sector at the top of the gorge without too much peril. Linking these and visiting the crags in between is quite fun, and worth the extra few minutes by way of an adventure on the way out, and might well be worth leaving your harness on for – see pics at the end of the post.
We started at Sainte-Ethique, which has a bunch of what would be sunny routes, from 5a to 7c, mostly 5c/6b. The sunshine wasn’t as much in evidence as we’d hoped, but it was well sheltered from the prevailing northerly – judging by the number of locals who rocked up, we’d made a good choice in the circumstances.
From here you get a grandstand view down to the shady and steep Pensee Oblique – entry grade 7b warm up and then it’s all 7c+ and up.
Back on our side of the gorge, there are the occasional route names to help you navigate, but they’re VERY discreet.
We did the three “6a”s which were all quite stiff and (you guessed it – whinging again) a bit polished. Demi-moller, Le sourire des marionettes, and (by far the best of the bunch) Fracturation hydraulique
There’s an attractive chunk of tufa just to the left, where Rigolade looks like a very good 7a, but it was soaked (mouillé – our French vocab for the day).
Having racked up a respectable half dozen routes between us, we called it a day, but I headed up through the gorge to recce the other sectors. L’Amandier looked worth a return visit on a hot day, with a bunch of longer routes, but regardless the voyage through the gorge was well worth the effort. Amazing swirling slot-canyon formations which are well equipped with rungs and cables – a bit like caving in the fresh air!