The first leg of my trip has come to an end. Currently, I’m being bulleted back to the U.K. on the very pricey, but very fast Eurostar train. It wasn’t the best climbing week of my life for a number of reasons, but these types of trips always serve as a reminder that it’s not always about the climbing.
After my last post, I went South to the Verdon Gorge to seek out more stable weather (away from the sometimes volatile Alps region). It was a good plan, but we encountered some funky weather patterns in the South too which made planning a full day of climbing rather difficult.
The Verdon Gorge is basically France’s version of our own Grand Canyon; It certainly is nothing but awesome. Here you start on top of the canyon and descend down into the gorge to start your climb which adds some intense thrill and adventure. With that in mind, having unstable weather can be a little unnerving when seeking out some longer climbs no matter how difficult it may be. My friend David had his ambitions set on an uber-classic link-up route La Derobee/Le Rasoir 6c+. After attempting to rappel into the climb on three separate occasions (due to drizzly conditions), we waited the next day to do the climb in perfect weather.
I’ve been climbing for 12 years now, and I think my biggest lesson thus far came while climbing here. French climbers are known for their flawless technique, but I now fully understand why that is. I’ve climbed in France many times before, and I feel like my climbing technique is sub-par, but this was the first time I felt the full wrath of French technical routes. For example, I flailed up Corps Férmé et Cœur Tendre, 7a/5.11d which was first climbed in the 70s; very technical face/slab climbing. I’ve never tried something so technically challenging; you had to do precise balance moves and smears on slippery limestone and all cruxes were always in between bolts conspicuously spaced very far apart. After that I tried L’Anglais Sans Corde, a steep sporty 8a/5.13b put up in 2000 which I basically cruised. It was easy to distinguish older-style routes (technical) and modern routes (sporty). It’s sad to see such a clear distinction because I had 20 times more fun trying to solve the 7a than lapping the 8a; and I know I won’t find many routes like that in the ‘States (maybe Smith Rocks, OR which French climbers helped establish).
We then made our way back to Paris to do some tourist-ing before I had to catch the train back to London. Just an observation of my travels so far, things just don’t seem to be the same for Americans travelling abroad. I’m not meaning to be a snobbish American, and I don’t want to delve into the politics, but it’s obvious to me that Americans get less mutual respect and courtesy compared to a few years ago (maybe it’s just me). Anyways, Paris; C’est magnifique! The energy and vibe of Paris is alive.
I’ll be in London for the next 3-4 weeks studying at the Architectural Association. Although this won’t actually be a major climbing portion of my trip and my days will be ludicrously busy, I’ll be posting about my training regime (very creative I might add) so that I’ll be ready for my next stop.