Villes sur Auzon – Combe de l’Ermitage

There’s a wealth of well-known climbing in the Vaucluse, in the vicinity of Carpentras, including the iconic Boux, friendly Orgon, ever-popular Dentelles and Buis, not to mention Venasque (perhaps less visited by Brits). Browsing the Web we’d stumbled on a couple of newly developed crags, both in Les Gorges de la Nesque, near Venasque, and went to explore.

Our first task was to find somewhere to park the van. Campsites are in short supply at this time of year, but threw up the Les Touchines vineyard: “come and stop for wine lovers and lovers of tranquility”. Part of the France Passion organisation, offering free campervan parking on the understanding that you will taste (and hopefully purchase!) some of the produce. A great set-up where everyone wins, and we were certainly made very welcome by our hosts

An early arrival and mild evening allowed time for a short jog around the estate. Glorious autumn colours

Drizzly the next morning, and forecasted 12C max, we decided to go and check out Combe de l’Ermitage near Villes sur Auzon, about 20 minutes away.

We picked up a copy of the topo at the Office de Tourisme for €10 – you can read the story of the development of the crag at the following link, and it’s nice to be able to support the huge efforts involved.

You head out of the village on the road to Sault, and pull into a parking / picnic area on the right after just over a mile. Great views of Mt Ventoux, or there would be if it wasn’t buried in cloud

… but it’s starting to burn off – things are looking up!

At the back of the car park you’ll find the ubiquitous FFME sign, and a 5mins scramble leads down to the foot of the crag, protected by a couple of cables.

There are two sectors either side of the descent: on the right, the steep, featured east-facing wall wasn’t far off  going into the shade…

… so we headed onto the left side which is more south facing, and features smoother slabs at various angles, to a height of up to 30m, giving a mix of 5s, 6s and 7s.

I stumbled on the crag via a blog post and have to confess  to spotting the phrase: Cotations dans l’ensemble très (trop ?) gentilles. Obviously, there’s no such thing as grades that are too kind! 😉 There’s certainly no complaints about the bolting either, with up to 15 draws in 30m, at about twice the density of a few of the crags we’ve visited recently – Kalymnos style comes to France (and very welcome it is too!) And while I’m praising the crag development, it’s also worth giving a shout out for the picnic tables at the bottom, and even a composting toilet!

Mike came over to join our exploration and we all took advantage of the generous bolting to have a successful day. Here are a few shots and highlights:

Mike on L’a Des Roues Lentes 5c
Me on Le Balcon, 6c/7a in the book – very much at the bottom end of that range, but I’ll take it 😉
The easy starting wall of Met Le Son 6a
Steep finish, 30m up Met Le Son, 6a
Helen catching the last of the sun on Vacances Continue 6a
They’re not all soft touch – Auzon Bi, 7a, was nails and somewhat beyond me!

I also managed a couple of other 7as: Bloc n’ Phil, also not too testing, and Vague a L’Ame which was a tough on-off crimp-fest.

A couple of days later we were back to sample the east-facing sector on a completely different class of day. The van thermometer might have read 12C on both days, but the absence of the sun turned it from shirtless to double-duvets weather (and stupidly I’d left the duvet in the van). Absurd makeshift belay-duty gear!

Great climbing though, with a steep Swiss-cheese-holey lower orange wall giving way to upper thin grey top-outs.

Helen on Ton Jardin 5
Me on Local Vandale, one of the best 6as of the trip.
Passing some of the huge holes on Surveillance 5+
The view up the very steep
Benchmark 7a and very good with it (unfortunately I didn’t have my CAC T-shirt)
Poor timing as the sun finally broke through just as it went off the crag
Fine views down to the south face, but time to call it a day

More views of life in the vineyard – what a gorgeous spot to wake up!

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