Vallon Sourn (a.k.a. Chateauvert) – Grimper en Provence Vert

A cruddy day in the Cevennes prompted a change of scenery – here’s what a rainy day in the life of RockAroundTheWorld looks like:

Provence looked like the spot for a blast of late November sun, so we set the controls for Correns and the charming, friendly campsite “Le Grand Jardin” which we were delighted to find stays open throughout November. Our midweek arrival meant we had the place to ourselves, but Martin, our host, went out of his way to make us welcome.

We’ve visited a few times over the last decade or so, and perhaps had ten days climbing there in all, but it’s such a great crag there’s plenty to come back for. What sets it apart is the quality of the climbing across the grade range, with outstanding 5s, 6s and 7s (and probably 8s too, but you’d have to ask someone else!)

The easier routes tend to be on the grey rock, and often feature great, juggy holds on surprisingly steep rock – by the nature of the climbing they’re largely unaffected by the polish of their popularity.

Sector Technogene (left – grey 4s & 5s) and Lycopodium (right – orange, with the outstanding Parodie, 6a and Caldoquie, 7a)

The 6s tend more to the orange rock, where pockets and scoops abound, and maybe the passage of time has made more impact – they certainly feel tough for the grade in general (but that could be more about my passing years than the crag’s).

Typical orange / 6s terrain – Sector Nuage

The main concentration of 7s is on La Grand Face, which takes pocketyness to the next level and also throws in a dose of serious steepness on mostly white rock. Something for everyone!

La Grande Face

The big change from our last visit is the restriction on parking beneath the crag, so whilst all sectors are “roadside” you now need to factor in a 10mins walk from the commodious new parking – in fairness, the previous regime was a bit of a parking zoo, and the riverside walk to the crag is a very pleasant morning loosener.

A highlight for me was a return visit to Le Magicien d’Oz, one of the best sports routes I’ve ever done, and a trip down memory lane to an important personal milestone in “a year of being burned off” Read the full story here

Not the purest style, as I clip sticked a couple of bolts (I rationalised that I’d made those runouts once on the onsight)

Steep pocket pulling earns the 7a tick…
… to a no-hands rest beneath intimidating territory, which actually climbs like Pembroke E3

A few more highlights from some great routes

Le Colibri – Top 50 5c

Starting out on the 40m Pipo Solo, 5a

Helen on Alex
Tough layback crux on Plume d’Aigle, 6a (the 6c to the right – I Had a Dream is good but tough)
Cabriole, 6b (got to be 6c!) takes the huge pockets on the wall left of the corner between the two climbers (or actually one climber and his shadow). Fabulous route!
T’as Pas Cent Balles, 6b, with the excellent Papa, on Joue au Foot? 6a, to its left
Helen eyeing up the crux on the stupendous Golot Fou, 6a
… and loads more to come back for…

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