Verdon

When traveling, sometimes I find a crag where I could climb forever and be happy. My re-occurring thought in these places is: "I can't believe I'm here." Kalymnos was like that. Cathy and I just found the Verdon Gorge in France to be like that. 

The Verdon Gorge is located in Haute Provence, which means the food, wine and culture are idyllic. The 700-meter deep gorge is lined with rock walls up to 400 meters tall. Massive Griffon Vultures skirt the dimpled limestone walls that attracts climbers from around the world.

The Verdon Gorge was a birthplace of modern sport climbing in the 1980's. It's where first ascensionist began equipping routes from the top down, allowing bolts to be placed in the right location to protect crux moves, rather than where a bolter on lead could stand or hang from a skyhook. Rap bolting, combined with hangdogging (hanging on the rope to work out a hard move), allowed the world level of climbing to explode.  

 

Climbers base from La Palud. This is downtown. The Lou Cafetiè bar is the normal après grimpe for beers, cafe and food.  

 

We stayed with Matia Edlinger at Gite l'Escalès. Matia was a professional climber, married to France's most famous rock climber, Patrick Edlinger, Le Blond. Patrick danced on rock and melted hearts. Patrick died in 2012. 

 

On our first night in La Palud we met friends Boris Lorencic, Eric Larson, Carolyn George and Adam George. Lou Cafetiè had old French guys playing live classic rock. Keen to climb the next morning, Cathy and I went to bed early. As we left, Boris, being a hard-climbing, classic rock-loving Slovenian, said, waiving his fist in the air, "That's okay man! I'll give you a call if they play more Stones!" 

 

Cathy on A Tout Coeur (150m, 6b+), Cathy's favorite route of the trip. A Tout Coeur was put up in the 1980's, which means the bolts are spaced and the holds a bit polished. The Verdon's limestone is perhaps second only to Ceuse. Solution pockets, water runnels and rails. Really good stuff. 

 

Neighboring climber Ian McDonald took this photo of me sizing up the five meter distance to the next bolt on steep rock with small holds. 

 

Cathy on Les Deux Doigts Dans Le Nez (150m, 6a+). In American that means The Two Fingers in The Nose. The route has two finger pockets for six pitches of 6a+ climbing. It's a modern route with close bolts and less polished rock. 

 

My favorite route was Liberte Surveillee (130m, 6b+), a new route with plenty of bolts, but still sporty enough to make you think. This route was in a narrow and secluded portion of the canyon with forests that hung like Japanese paintings. Between the hanging forests were striped walls of untouched limestone. 

 

Still honeymooning with my DW. 


Cathy leading the crux pitch of Liberte Surveillee. The route's S-turn gave her a bonus 100 pounds of drag at the crux moves. After a month of climbing around work days, she floated right through. 

 

Starting the first of seven raps down to the base of La Demande (350m, 6a), a classic and perhaps the longest route in the Verdon. I'm wearing flip flops so our climbing pack is lighter. 

 

Cathy on the final rap down to La Demande. A wiser option would have been to walk in from Couloir Samson and hitch back. Next to La Demande is Ula (250m, 6b). We'll be walking back for Ula. 

 

Cathy stepping off the "Thank God!" horizontal tree on La Demande. Overall, La Demande wasn't the classic Verdon rock. It was mostly slippery and dirty cracks with bolts every 10 meters. The chimney pitches were clean and athletic climbing though. Like Epinephrine in Red Rocks. 

Cathy was almost crying as we left La Palud for the airport. We'll be back. Maybe forever.