Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Exploring Vercors

After my adventures on Eiger and Aiguille du Tour with Rémy i decided to get closer to the sunny places for this long w-end. I took off Oct 30-31 and we headed off south with Renaud. He was still hurt from Le Chant du Cygne so we decided beforehand that i would concentrate on the leading and we would just do pleasure routes in Vercors, not longer than 200m...

The first stop was Mont Aiguille, a very mysterious and bedeviled mountain to me. We have already passed by there, but never for a climb. There used to be plenty of legends around it as people never managed to find an easy way to the top before mid-XXth century. The enchanted mountain - and it does look very much like it!

Emmanuel, my friend from Grenoble, did a Voie des Etudiants there that he recommended to me, so we were set with a plan. After the usual 8 hours and a shopping spree at Decathlon that happily finished for me with a pair of Nordica touring skis, we started up the hike. It was a pleasant, curving road through the autumnal forest. It got a bit strenuous at the last stretch, but we did get at the base, already bewildered at the summer temps we were getting. I started up the first pitch - and immidiately things started goind wrong - higher i went , harder it got. I got into slings. I spent 1hr. Finally Renaud cried that he could give it a try if i couldn't do it. I belayed him off a bolt, and he took an easy chimney to my right to the next belay. People rappelling off the route told us it was some kind of a direct variation in 6c-7a range. I continued leading but Renaud had already miraculously recovered and willing to get on the sharp end as well. I got scared off the overhanging 6a+ and he effortlessly swam through it. After another hard pitch we were done with the hard part. Rapelling and enjoying a very nice sunset we got down with a headlamp.

Next day was Archianne - a lost cirque in Drome, drouance valley. The place does look promissng with a very inviting red pillar - la paroie rouge - where some routes are still calling my name. Supposedly a heaven for modern aid climbing in the region. We headed to do Fruits de la Patience, recommended again by Manu. First pitch looked very discouraging for me and i failed silently following this supposedly 6a+ that seemed the hardest pitch on the route to me. Another party was on our heels, locals from Villard. It got too hot on slabby 6b pitch, then perfect on the higher, best part. Last 4-5 pitches were really good, although all of us had to aid through the 6c+ pitch.

Next stop, Trois Becs, a range with silex rock, and a route called Parfum d'Opale recommended to us by the party the day before. The approach was very steap, and the views amazing - with no climbers in site. Rock very different indeed with very few bolts (5-6 per pitch for 50 meters on 6a/b technical slabby terrain). This easily led to my sissying out of it again and Renaud getting us to the top - a great top indeed, green meadows with evening sun getting our moods up after the shadowwy east-facing wall. Certainly a route to recommend.

We decided to finish in Omblèze, a reputed area to the west. Unfortunately the Moulin de la Pipe was full and we had to camp again. Not big deal, next day we were under the Faubourg wall. Hirondelle des Faubourgs was listed in Arnaud Petit 'best faces in europe' book, and we decided to give it a go. The first 4 pitches were the overhanging yellow kind at which i suck, especially at 6b+/6c level. However further climbing was more enjoyable, i even managed to lead cleanly a 6a+, and then rested twice on the final 6b that Arnaud calls one of the finest in France - and indeed it is very beautiful climbing on compact grey limestone.

That was it for the trip and we decided to sleep that night in belgium - which we finally did after 2am.

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