This years really wet winter had been getting me pretty down about the lack of actual rock climbing when an invitation arrived in my inbox, from a friend who lives in Montpellier, to head over for 5 days of sport climbing in the sun. I booked a flight immediately!
First on the list was a day in Verdon. Josh had been talking up the classic of the Gorge, 13 pitch La Demande. Put up by Joel Coqueugniot and Francois Guillot in 1968 it’s apparently the must do route of the Gorge. After driving over and finding the right rappel point, seven rappels later we were at the bottom of the route at the ideal time to start a 13 pitch route, 3pm. The first 7 pitches were a total joy, climbing cracks and corners in and out of the sun. Then it got dark. The final pitches are a series of chimneys, a couple of which are old school back and footing things with no holds. Climbing by head torch, we topped out about half 10 and celebrated with a can of larger each. Great times.
The following couple of days were spent on the Calanque just outside Marseille. The Calanque should be on the hit list of anyone in the South of France, miles and miles of rocky coves full of sport cragging and sea cliffs. On the recommendation of some Parisians we headed to Sector Diedre Guem at Sormiou. Fantastic slabby climbing right above the sea.
Gear wise I really can’t recommend the Rab VR lite Alpine jacket enough. I think I put it on half way up Demande and kept it on for the next 5 days. Over just a T-Shirt it moves the sweat away while climbing and the wind and chill off on those long belays.
The Montane Alpine stretch pants are ideal climbing pants for when you don’t really know what conditions to expect. Nice and light with plenty of stretch and range of movement but tough as anything. They keep the wind off and handled being jammed into some sharp limestone cracks without any problems.
A special mention also has to go the the Black Diamond Spot Headtorch. Would not have got up Demande without it! Just the right brightness for climbing without blinding your partner.