Saturday, 8 September 2012

Southern France 2012

Well I just got back from an 11 day tour of Ceuse and Gorge du Loup. It was great to devote some quality time to climbing and not just sometimes squeezed in evening sessions. I made the walk up the hill to Ceuse twice in a lightning visit there. It took a day to switch back into stamina mode on the pockets there but by day 2 I managed to clip the chains of a rather stout 7b+ called Machoire d'Ane, which has a pretty desparate crux move. Some onsights of Dietetic Line and 2001 Odyssey de Grimp followed, both stonking 7b's.

Classic Ceuse panorama

This was my 4th visit to the crag in 7 years so I decided to change focus and visit a completely different area, with a (thankfully) only 5 min walkin! Gorge du Loup is only a hop skip and a jump from Nice and sits in a river gorge which is prone to a cooling breeze when the sun is out which makes it possible to climb here in the hottest summer months despite the crag being at a low altitude.

Bar du Loup from Gourdon, above the Gorge

View out to the Med from Gourdon

After an intro day where I ticked the heavily chipped Mechanik Destructiv, a burly 7c and a few easier sideshow pitches, on day 2 I got stuck into a route which is difficult to avoid at this crag, the ultraclassic Deverse Satanique, an amazing 45 degrees overhanging wall festooned with tufas and kneebars! The first couple of tries up this rig convinced me that it was going to be quite a battle but with a couple of burns on day 3, it started to fall into place. A rest day later and I tied in below this classic stamina testpiece and managed to get through the crux wrestle with a tufa and into the strenuous kneebar beyond. Some juggy but steep pulls on tufa follow before the final drainpipe tufa which guards the chains and is eminently fluffable. Thankfully I managed to negotiate this last obstacle and keep the pump enough at bay to complete the route, truly a king line!

Next up was Cascade, an amazing 8a extension to Mechanik. It involves some huge tufa features and unsurprisingly some more kneebars on seriously steep terrain. It took a little working out but once I knew what i was doing, it went down the first time I could get back up Mechanik, which suddenly seemed distinctly uphill for 7c. You can rest in a bivy cave all day if you like which makes grading this line somewhat problematic. Here are some pics of Mechanik on the send go.

Our Czech friend Petr suggested a neat little 8a called Vigor on the far right of the crag as something for my last 2 days so I got stuck into this but it felt hard due to me being pumped from the 8a I had just climbed. After a rest day spent lounging around by the river pools in the gorge, reading and eating ice cream, I felt sufficiently rejuvenated for this to feel much easier and it went down on my last day after I luckily managed to get a belay from some visiting Poles.

Back in Blighty now, it is time to get stuck into Peak lime now that Kilnsey appears to be out of commission. Mecca extension will keep my busy I reckon judging by this morning's session. Progress was made on the moves and I managed the hard bit in two halves but need to get hold of a new pair of boots to cope with the micro edges. It was nice to be back on Mecca after 3 years away but it feels good to have had a break too. Till next time!

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