Thursday, May 31, 2007

Last stop - Buoux ***

As snow and rain caught up with us, we headed seawards again and found ourselves in Buoux for the last days enjoying sunlight and scenery. After Spain's low season and a rather solitary nature enjoyment, we got directly into the Provence high season. Disgusting visit to Fontaine de Vaucluse with thousands of merchants at Petrarka's temple, not as disappointing sight of Rousillon the ocre one and Notre Dame de Senanque abbaye.

Climbing in Buoux is superbe though - quality, not too many people, and lots of projects!!! Place to come back to.

El reino de los Mallos de Riglos ***

Looking for a friendly kingdom to visit for a couple of days? Here is a plan for you :

This is a kingdom of an old old king that decided to live in the mountains to escape his enemies and keep his faith. But most of all he enjoyed looking at the towers from his palace - the angry birds flew around them, but sun peacefully washed the hatred away each morning, and the river made things smooth and cozy. One day, the kind died, the queen went away, the ruins and the towers stayed.

Than a thousand years later, climbers showed up. They looked up the towers with the same eyes as did the king. But they had equipment, prowess and a daring mind. Thus the place went crazy, and now you not only see birds, sun and river play games with the stoned giants, but also white lines through overhangs that make for a surreal impression from afar, and prove to be chalk from close-by. Yes, this is a crazy overhanging multi-pitch jug-hauling climber's paradise. Slowly loosing the wild feel, Riglos village is getting more traffic and some boring construction sights - go there while the magic is still around and maybe you will meet the king in some abstruse and humid crack or chimney gaping out at you in wonder.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Aiguille d'Ansabere

Cirque of Lescun is one of the most beautiful and wild valleys I have seen (yes, despite like 20 hikers that passed gaping under our route and the five Galsworthy Englishmen inhabiting for two weeks the Ansabere cabins below - btw they were very nice and ofered us perfect coffee with rom - apparently called Jamaican coffee - boiled in an Irish storm kettle!). Here is the view from the parking lot at our objective - the climbing happens on the very vertical pillar to the right.

We actually tried for the proposed route (Spigolo on Petite Aiguille d'Ansabere) twice, the first attempt finished in rambles as Renaud decided to have stomach ache at 6 am.

The second attempt proved successful although we had to do the 7b pitch through aid and nearly missed a thunderstorm on top that made me enjoy much less the last 2 pitches. Exposure and view from the place are perfect - although climbing-wise we were a little bit disappointed (maybe getting out the aiders had smth to do with that...).

This is me following the 7b pitch, and here is Renaud in the middle of an easier traverse after that.

Finally, the thunderstorm got us just before we joined the five Englishmen for coffee - and here is what we got :

Gorges de la Jonte ***

Awesome place where we spend the next 2 days and even meet the nababs Petje and Paul working their projects in Tarn. After some beer sharing, we fall into the high grades mood and try a route up la Cathedrale the last day. Fearesome undertaking with a first 6c off-width-chimney-mummy-i'm-being-born pitch, second oh-my-god traverse with a humble 5c, and a third powerful 6c+ a1...The easiest up this surreal face. Rappelling down is also fun - partly due to a look you get on all those other climbs.

Here is another cool picture of Vase de Seve and me toproping the final pitch.

Seynes or Colonettes Paradise

First stop, after a very welcome night and breadfast at Thomas' place (best man for croissants and a smile in the morning) we head to Seynes, one of the rare places without rain for the start of our vacation.

After a fun initiation sector, Renaud goes for his project - very photogenic and polished neural tube. Looks like a bridal veil and is more about chimney climbing than real colonettes fun. Unfortunately other colonettes climbs around look too hard, we move to more crimpy right side to finish the day.

Vacation Times

Finally i got my long week of vacation for climbing and tourism.

Destination - south and west.

Means - car and enthusiasm.

Starting the trip on Wednesday, may 16th, back to work on tuesday, may 29th. Will follow parts and pieces of this europe circumventing.

Let the journey begin.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Koln Cathedral, symbol of our times

It took over 600 years to build (Segrada Familia in Barcelona still has to grow up!), 14 bombs destroyed it during the 2nd WW, leaving it nevertheless one of the only buildings standing in the city. And now, visiting Cologne, it is the ugliest building around, black and pollution-eaten.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Hopper and an Art minute

Another American influenced by Europe but back to create his own world. Solitude and civilization be its name.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

The Light Side or Envers des Aiguilles

After a failed ski touring project to Grand Combin we changed plans from all to all and went climbing rock in the sun at Envers des Aiguilles. The new Piola topo was certainly worth a try - confirmation received, it is full of gems. They are long, sustained, and pure - 'Little Yosemite' or some of France's best granite - you can call it what you want, but Envers des Aiguilles climbing is superb.

Although early for the season, we found 2 other dare-devils at the Envers refuge, full of food, fuel, and even a wine and a grappa bottle. The dare-devils were nice enough to leave us their Nutella, for witch we are immensely grateful! Despite the snow on the approach and totally wet shoes, climbing prooved doable and pleasant. Some problems to start, but than the way to the top goes smoothly as long as the muscles keep it up.

Here is the Patagonian challenge - 20cm between rock and this snow cork at the start of Tout va mal - don't breathe and reduce the butt size to a minumum exercise - an interesting experience to say the least.

Routes are long, sustained and difficult. This 5c, a perfect diedre pitch on Subtilites Dulferiennes, without a bolt or anything else except some pinky flowers to match the rope in the flaring crack, is a wonderful challange for any dedicated sport climber.

If limestone is not always my favorite, crack climbing prooved as tiresome and challanging - but beautiful nevertheless. Certainly an area to go back to.

Routes done (or almost as each time we left a couple of pitches before the top, due to numerous excuses such as darkness approaching, snow storm or just the old beaten 'i'm tired' one...) - Piege, Tout va mal/Subtilites Dulferiennes mix, Guy Anne.