Tag Archives: 5+

Getting in some flight time

15th June 2013

Ariege – Auzat
Secteur Principal

Tomio – 4 – Second
Roxanne – 5+ – Second
Dure Limite – 6b – Lead (dgg’d)
Chippie – 5+ – Second
Grimsel – 6a – Second
Bassine – 5+ – Lead
La Sabine – 5+ – Second

This was to be a final busy day climbing. We returned to Auzat, a favorite of ours over the trip, but this time to the main sector.

More of Roxanne

More of Roxanne

I had it in my mind that this would be the day I tried an 6b and so it turned out. After a getting warmed up on a couple of routes we ended up at the base of a fierce looking crack. With my confidence high I set about tackling the first section which went well until the traverse. This stopped me in my tracks and despite trying to force myself through it by shear will power I couldnt get it wired.

Chris rests a bit on Dure Limite

Chris rests a bit on Dure Limite

Chris stepped up and made the move that I had struggled on so badly only to come unglued at about 2/3’s height through the shear strenuousness of the route. However he got himself back on and finished the route for a great first 6b for the team.

Tom at the Crux moves of Dure Limite

Tom at the Crux moves of Dure Limite

Tom after initially struggling on the same move as I had, then proceeded to climb the route which left me in a real dilemma. I needed to lead it again… despite being a bit bollox’d. So once again I set off to tackle the crux moves, which laughed at me as I peeled off, level with the second bolt having run out of steam. The fall was exciting to say the least, with me finishing a few feet off the ground and Chris having to work hard to catch me. (Many thanks Chris).

Me after finally getting through the crux

Me after finally getting through the crux

By this time I was seeing red and I’d decided I was going to get this done if it was the last thing I did… which was a possibility if I kept taking falls like that. Reaching the same point as I had previously I moved a few feet higher so I could lock out on a good juggy hold and clip the second bolt to my relief. Yee haaa… at last. Mind you the effort of getting here meant I had little left for the remainder which I unashamedly dogged all the way to the top. Sometimes its the finishing that counts, not the way you do it. Elegant I was not!!!

Tom on Grimsel

Tom on Grimsel

The three remaining climbs of the day were all crackers. They are all on the same face and all given loads of stars and quite rightly. Each has its own character but all are challenging. Tom’s final lead on Sabine (probably the best of the three) was a job well done and probably his toughest lead of the trip.

Tom nearing the end of La Sabine

Tom nearing the end of La Sabine

So with everyone absolutely spent we returned to Tarascon for a final Leffe in the beer garden and a chat with two travellers heading for a party in Spain. Cool road trip.

I think we will be back to Ariege next year. There is so much climbing, and the area so beautiful it will be hard to resist. Next time it will be with Dave so that he too can experience the beer and cheese.

Crash Test Chris

14th June 2013

Baychon

Le Bon Sens – 6a – Lead
Mehare – 5+ Second
Pussicat – 6a – Lead
Oriane – 6a – Second
La Vista – 5+ – Lead

You would think that this trip just consisted of getting up and climbing. On the contrary, we had a number of routines which became part of this extended climbing trip.

The Dining Room

The Dining Room

Mornings were not early. We knew they should b,e but we couldnt roust ourselves that well and so a leisurely breakfast and ubiquitous cup of coffee sorted us out for the short but beautiful drive down to Tarascon. Aston is a really sleepy village and nothing seemed worth rushing for when you’re there. A quick stop at the patisserie for Pain aux raisin’s and then off to the crag. On this day we were in for a treat.

View towards Andorra

View towards Andorra

Baychon is probably my favorite venue in Ariege. Set away from the crowds in an idil valley above a small Hamlet it has a real feeling of remoteness and solitude. Getting there isnt a problem unless you have a Chris with you. Then you have to contend with reversing out of a tiny hamlet which you should never have gone to in the first place. Chris needs to read more than one line at a time. Then the clearly marked ‘DO NOT DRIVE INTO THE HAMLET’ may have been on his mind.

Mountain Village

Mountain Village

There is though very good parking just across the road which made things easier and once again we were the only ones at the crag.

The tricky slab of Le Bon Sens

The tricky slab of Le Bon Sens

Le Bon Sens is a very cruxy 6a. The climbing is straight forward until you reach the slightly overhanging thin corner crack. You need to tackle this with conviction in order to make the jugs higher up. Once through here there is a technical corner but its all in the one move really. Pussicat was a far better 6a. Much more challenging with a very thin move onto the upper slab where friction is your friend.

Pussicat - not quite.

Pussicat – not quite.

Chris took on the devious Mehare, which has a step up that took me ages to figure out. It’s completely off balance and at no point did I feel in control. Great fun! Oriane proved to be Chris’ undoing on this day.

Chris on Oriane

Chris on Oriane

Too many long and tiring days probably contributed but Chris came off a couple of times, both at very unexpected points and probably due to a lack of concentration. I think by this time we were all feeling the heat and after one final route called La Vista, which was confusing, we made tracks back for an early supper (after our traditional Leffe at the hotel of course).

The river kept rising cos of the meltwater. Kayakers dream

The river kept rising cos of the meltwater. Kayakers dream

In the evening we set off on a walk through the woods up the valley. The river produces a wierd effect. The air surrounding it is freezing, but either side it was boiling. Just goes to show how cold the meltwater was. The woods turned out to be a great walk. By time we returned it was pitch black and very spooky.

Spooky Woods

Spooky Woods

Clearly this trail is an old shepherds trail, with now unused field systems either side. It gives an insight into times long gone in the area. All we needed was Bears and Wolves and strangely enough……………….

Mountain Bells

12th June 2013

Roche Ronde

Entre Chat – 5 , 5+ -Alt  Lead
Cotton Club – 5+ – Second
Netoyage de Printemps – 5+ – Lead
Konslediz – 5+ – Second

This was slightly different from our last visit. Previously rain, this time bright sunshine and very hot. This remarkable outcrop was pretty quiet on this day, but I could image with the convenient parking it could get busy. Possibly the strenuous walk up to the crag might put a few off, that and the dodgy approach – one is polished and scary, the other steep and scary. Take your pick.

Roche Ronde main face

Roche Ronde main face

Roche Ronde is fairly vegetated, with detracts slightly from its routes and despite appearances is probably not as steep as some of the crags. But it has its charms, chief of which is the spectacular view down into the valley with the small nestled villages and the sound of church bells echoing up to our terrace. Its a venue to savour and relax at – except of course we were there to climb.

One of many villages nestled in the valley

One of many villages nestled in the valley

Another couple were on the routes we had singled out so we started on a two pitcher which turned out to be a bit overgrown. A shame really becasue Entre Chat couldbe a good route but in this condition it is just hard work.

Entre Chat with the impressive Roche Ronde rising up behind

Entre Chat with the impressive Roche Ronde rising up behind

Chris got the best lead of the day on Entre Chat which is probably the pick of the 5’s at Roche Ronde. My lead on Nettoyage was similar as was Konslediz. What we hadnt realise until we started to leave was that there were a number of climbs hidden in the small rvine to the left of the main venue. These actually looked in better condition, but we will have to sve these for another time.

Tom on Konslediz

Tom on Konslediz

On our return to Tarascon we made the now regular stop for provisions at the supermarket which included the necessary 6 pack of Ice Creams. You cant get them in less so we pigged out and went for a beer in town. The river was continuing to rise, an indication of the increased snow melt. It made for some reflecting on whether the snow in the high mountains would have cleared quickly. In hindsight though I think we need to be more aware of condition so that our plans more reflect what is possible rather than what we wish we could do. That said, it would take a lot of the adventure and uncertainty out of travelling which for me is a big part of any trip.

Where the trees explode!

7th June 2013

Auzat – Le Far and Montcalm

Deconfiture au petit dejeuner – 5+ – Second
Trajectoire Quartzienne – 5+ – Lead
Pic Nic existentiel au bord d’un lit – 5 – Second

Although I didnt realise it when I suggested going to Auzat, it’s a granite crag. Not the same really as our highly crystalline version in Cornwall, but definitely more familiar than the limestone of the previous day.

Le Far from the road

Le Far from the road

Auzat is a fairly high crag. We could tell because as we passed through the town we saw all the ski hire shops and chalets. The temperature definitely drops with the altitude, but given we were cooked the day before the shade from the trees was welcome. Finding the parking was straight forward but then finding the path into the crag proved tougher. It didnt help that my new cut price french shorts didnt allow me to lift my leg properly resulting in a ballet style pirouette while negotiating a rope gate and a hard fall on my arse. It goes without saying that they were abandoned for climbing…

 

Chris on Deconfiture au petit dejeuner

Chris on Deconfiture au petit dejeuner

Unlike my shorts though the climbing is really good. The granite feels grippy and provided some top routes. Both Chris’ and mine were tough at the grade. Chris’ had a nervy right traverse onto the face right near the top and mine had the same but to the left. Once again the climbing feels thin, with small holds and edges. Great reliance on feet then with a couple of airy moves.

Tom on Trajectoire Quartzienne

Tom on Trajectoire Quartzienne

The crux

The crux

 

Toms, although graded 5 could have done with a few more bolts. It’s as though the equipers have gone “Its a 5, we’ll only use a couple of bolts. However this belittles the fact that the climbing was quite tough, particularly on the most run out section. Tom did really well leading this. Personally I would have felt happy with a few rocks on my harness to fill in the gaps. The climb has a couple of possible variation finishes. Tom and Chris went left and I went right, but I think the grade is pretty even which ever way you go.

Tom heading for the final tough moves on PNEABDL

Tom heading for the final tough moves on PNEABDL

We figured that as there were three sectors to Auzat we’d try one with a number of short routes, the upper tier at Montcalm. After a few wrong turns resulting in way too much walking and climbing with packs, we found the correct path. As we approached the Upper Tier it was clear that something had happened. The trees were shattered and the path disappeared into a jumble of stacked boulders and tree trunks. One tree had been split in two and another, about a foot in diameter, was sheared in two.

Tree Blitzkrieg

Tree Blitzkrieg

A massive rock fall had destroyed the route in. Red markers which should have pointed to the crag were now underneath rock which had been spun over and pointed at the sky. It must have been awesome to witness but I’m glad I wasnt there at the time. Probably occurred during the winter as it looked fresh.

All this faffing meant that just as we set up the rain came in putting an end to that particular adventure so we retired back to the campsite for a coffee. Of course by then the weather was back on, with the sun out.

Verdun – Sinsat

Dilletente – 5+ – Second

Gluttens for punishment we made a final sortie to Verdun, a crag high on the east side of Sinsat. Yet again another very beautiful walk in but steep and hard going in the heat.

Our campsite vally from Verdun high on Sinsat

Our campsite vally from Verdun high on Sinsat

We had time for one route which Chris set off on. This proved to probably be the hardest 5+ we did on the whole trip. The climbing was on small edges to a bulging section. At this point a series of very committing moves would see you through. To be honest, it was as technical as any of the moves I made later in the week. A bit of a sandbag at 5+ I reckon, but good climbing nevertheless.

The line of Dillettente

The line of Dillettente

And so eneded another long tough day of sport routes. I could get used to this…

 

 

Lets start as we mean to finish

6th June

Calames – Ariege

Les Instantfataux – 5+ – Lead
Blues pour un chat noir – 5+ – Lead
Les Herbes Amieres – 5+ – Second
La Nauc – 6a – Lead (dogged)

We lucked into a quiet campsite in a little village called Aston,; in fact we were the first ‘campers’ of the season which entitled us to a free night and choice of any pitch on the site. Tucked away in a narrow valley it sits next to a fast flowing (very at this time due to snow melt) river, the roar of which keeps you constant company but doesnt detract from a good nights sleep.

Noisy Neighbours

Noisy Neighbours

We woke up on our first morning raring to go, so it was into the  hired ‘Cashcow’ and off for a morning coffee in Tarascon. This leisurely approach meant we managed to arrive at the crag as the sun started beating down, a lesson quickly learned which we proceeded to ignore for most of our ventures to the crags. We were just not early risers.

Walk in to Calames

Walk in to Calames

The sunny weather by all accounts was unusual for 2013. Up to this point the weather in Ariege had been poor so it seemed a good omen. One of the most notable crags in Ariege is Calames. You can see it clearly from Tarascon and the number of different sectors makes it an obvious choice for an opening venue. Tom, Chris and I are used to some arduous walk ins. Cornwall has plenty of them, but with the heat the walk up through Bedeilhac and across the ridge felt tough.

As is often the case, finding your bearings is difficult, but we rocked up to Sector Le Papy without too many wrong turns. What I like about French Sport crags is that they write the name of the crag on the rock! How cool is that. It didnt seem to help us though as I picked out a three star 5 called Theiere de jardin and proceeded to immediately go off route and climb its neighbour Les Instantfataux which was a 5+.

Chis starts off on Les Instantfataux 5+

Chis starts off on Les Instantfataux 5+

This is something to bear in mind. The routes are tightly packed. Unlike the routes we are used to in Cornwall where an obvious line is picked (which could meander around a bit) the limestone routes sometimes just go straight up. Looking for a line is likely to take you off route on many pitches. Just follow the bolts. It makes for some different climbing as it pushes you through territory you might not naturally take on. At the same time it tends to make the climbs more difficult and sometimes a bit weird. By the time I left Ariege I was loving it, but to start with it feels a bit ‘false’.

Chris high on Les Instantfataux

Chris high on Les Instantfataux

So to the climbing. My first route, Les Instantfataux turned out to be a cracker. Both Chris and I led this one. I soon discovered that many limestone routes are about small crimpy holds and delicate footwork. I needed to trust my feet and work through some of the tricky technical sections. To be honest, on this first day I was struggling to be confident in my footwork, but this soon evapourated as I got a few routes under my belt.

Chris on the headwall of Blues pour un chat noir 5+

Chris on the headwall of Blues pour un chat noir 5+

‘Blues’ turned out to be significantly harder, making me realise that there are 5+’s and 5+’s. Similar for the most part to LI, the headwall provides some hard technical climbing. It was around this point that I started to realise that my earlier view that 5+ equated to around VS 4c back home was seriously flawed. It seems that a 5+ tends to equate to 5b back home putting it nearer E1 at times, but obviously with bolts.

Tom on the first overhang of Les Herbes Ameres 5+

Tom on the first overhang of Les Herbes Ameres 5+

This of course is where the idea of comparing grades falls down. You can only really compare the technical grade for the most part. While I climb hard on trad routes, I definitely on the whole dont climb as hard as I had to on the sports stuff. This was a refreshing change, although it took me until almost the last day to switch off my trad head (with the little voice saying “dont fall, dont fall”).

Tom on the tricky bulge of Le Nauc 6a

Tom on the tricky bulge of Le Nauc 6a

Chris made a good job of the first pitch of Les Herbes Ameres, a tough 5+, before we decided to look at a 6a called Le Nauc. This is all about one sequence through a bulgy section and my head let me down big time. Daft thing is its well protected as the bolt is in exactly the right place (unlike some routes we did later on). Still a valuable lesson learned. Go for it…

The trudge back was made sweater when we stopped off in Tarascon for a Beer at Le Hotel Confort, a residence clearly aimed at the touring biker, but which served up ice cold Leffe beer overlooking the river.

Leffe time in Tarascon

Leffe time in Tarascon. Calames is the smaller outcrop dead center of the picture.

Back at the campsite, we commandeered the barbeque hut for our private kitchen/diner, a luxury we retained for the duration of out stay in Tarascon and had our first helping of Tuna Something. A very tasty dish which hit the spot, but the recepe for which is a closely guarded secret only known to Chris.

Dinner!

Dinner!