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Home Travel Southern France, Winter 2009

Southern France, Winter 2009

The plan was to escape the insanely cold and nasty weather in Austria. And when we arrived we were quite positive that it would stay as good as usual.

I've been coming to the crags around Monaco for many years now and usually there were maybe one or two rainy days within a two-week stay. This time it started out well at La Turbie, one of my favorite areas just above the impressive skyscrapers of Monaco and Monte Carlo. We spent 3 days at this magic place enjoying the sun and 20°C in the sectors Big Ben and Peripherique Ouest (image below) where I did Mega Ohm, 8a and Mortification Supreme, 8a+ second go.

Above: Mel on Issue de Secour, 7a.

After a short visit in the nearby area of Castillon where I did some more stuff in the 8a+ range the weather changed and dark clouds rolled in from the south-west. We tried moving up north to La Brigue to avoid the damp conditions along the coastline and this was at least good for a day. The significantly colder temperatures caused good friction and I was able to flash Besoin d' Ailes, 8a.

Then, the rain chased us out of La Brigue again and we had to come up with a different plan.

Sitting at Mc Donald's, logged on to the wifi we looked at the satellite image, but apart from Portugal there was rain everywhere in Europe. It's always like this when you have a 2 week break!

For some reason the forecast for Nîmes looked a bit better and I remember having been to Russan in the summer of 2006 when it way too hot to climb but the formations and the rock quality looked amazing! I've been wanting to go back there ever since and this was the perfect opportunity!

When we arrived I was a bit worried if the area hadn't maybe been shut down in the meantime because we didn't meet any climbers at all! But a closer look at the rock brought the explanation: The rain that had passed through the previous days had been to strong and seepage made the large tufa-formations soaking wet. Well, wet or even frozen!

And not only the rock - everything was frozen!

The nights were cold, maybe a bit uncomfy but friction was good and I was able to quickly send a couple of classics that I knew from old climbing magazines, like Trocto Pelle, 8a. Another climb that I won't ever forget is Maelstroem, 8a+. Not only because it is so good but also because I yanked off a 15-pound piece of tufa on my flash attempt! Luckily I somehow realized (while I was falling) that I needed to hang on the piece of rock or else it might hit my belayer on the head. When the rope caught me the tufa was dangling on my arm about 3 feet above Mel's face. That was close! Still I did the climb on my next attempt and I would say it is now 8b unless you are really tall. Maybe the locals glued the piece back on. I left it at the start of the route.

The next day I warmed up on an excellent 6c called Footoof. On the way down I clipped my draws into the route to the right of it. Its name is Quart the Siecle, 8a and it was probably the best flash of this trip. The climb is technically demanding and requires good finger strength even at the last moves close to the anchors. A three-star highly recommended route!

Within the past 5 days we had met 2 parties of climbers. And yes, of course we would have liked to stay longer! Thank god for the nasty cold temperatures! That made it a bit easier to leave.

Also, we'd heard about some serious snowfall that was supposed to come in. Snow in southern France? Well, it happens every now and then but it never has an effect on the road conditions. This time it was different! It dumped a foot of powder the night we left Russan and it took me 19 hours to drive from Nîmes to Graz!

Oh, and by the way, there are a few more images in the Gallery section. Got to >>> Travel >>> Southern France 2009


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