After a couple of months of more or less non-stop climbing we were plotting our route home from the Ariege, allowing a fairly leisurely 3 days. Each of our last three continental trips has ended on fast-forward to beat a lockdown or additional restrictions, so there was an attraction to taking our time, but the weather was gorgeous so perhaps we should also take a quick shufty at some climbing on the way…
The A20 takes you through the edge of the Parc Naturel de Causses around Cahors, and a quick look on ClimbingAway suggests there are a bunch of crags along the Lot valley. Pulling off the autoroute you could be in the White Peak – green, rolling scenery with the occasional hint of limestone, but nothing to suggest a destination climbing experience, which was fine – we weren’t expecting a lot in The Lot. Low expectations were reinforced with our first encounter with a crag – Arcambal Casse Noisette is a short, isolated limestone tower in a field beside the road. Pretty and handy, but more Brassington than Alliat – we couldn’t bring ourselves to stoop to climbing 20ft polished rock; plenty of that at home.
We pondered writing off the area and getting a few more km under our belts before the end of the day, but the way back to the autoroute allowed us to take in the crag at Saint-Géry without further diversion. Dropping down into the Lot Valley it was clear that there was a lot of limestone knocking around, and arriving in Saint-Géry itself we realised we’d hit climbing gold!
The village is nestled in a gentle curve in the river which has carved out a climbing paradise of crags up to 40m arrayed in an arc, giving orientations from east to southwest facing (the photo above is taken in the morning). Climbing has clearly been taken to heart in the village, with the topo available in the small supermarket in the square (a bargain at 20 euros)
and a well signposted and maintained path up to the crag.
There’s a fair bit of steep orange rock, and around half of the 200 routes are 6c to 7c, but there’s plenty in the low 6s to go at. The path brings you up in the middle of the crag at sector Stage Equipeur, which is a bit full-on for a warm up…
But has a more amenable grey buttress to its right which was still catching some late afternoon sun…
… and we managed to squeeze in 3 routes before losing its warmth. All high quality and all fairly high in the grade!
As well as being a stupendous crag, and only a short distance off the route north, Saint-Géry has the added benefit of newly installed campervan parking area – great to wake up with a view of the crag through the skylight! It’s only €6 a night, but despite our best efforts we couldn’t actually find anyone to take our money. Roll in a great boulangerie and you’ve got the the ingredients of a perfect journey breaker.
We’d already established that Saint-Géry would be on our “one to come back for” list, but we thought we’d check out another of the local crags on our way back to the autoroute. Vers fitted the bill for drive-by accessibility, just a 5 minutes wander up from albeit limited parking.
The path brings you immediately beneath the well-named L’Eperon, 6a, and a great 30m route that wouldn’t be out of place in Dovedale apart from being well bolted and barely polished. Plenty more to return for here too, and there are a couple of dozen more crags covered in the guidebook. The Lot has clearly got a lot to offer and is looking more like a destination than a drive-by for a future visit.
By now our Eurotunnel booking was calling so we set off northwards, stopping off by the Loire…
… and resisting the temptation of a quick hit at Bleau (no it’s not called Font!) before finally returning to Blighty.
I hope you’ve enjoyed following the latest RockAroundTheWorld exploits – watch this space for some RockAroundTheUK, but in the meantime, that’s The Lot 😉