I feel I've been lucky this trip one more time again, from meeting my climbing partner while hitching on the side of the road to reuniting with friends for one of the best days on rock ever, to being hosted in a small perched away village in the hills of Provence that saved me from the worst rain. It could have gone worse, granted, the cold rainy front made the last few days a bit chilly and windy and the hitchhike back a little less pleasant. It was great to immerse in the French climbing culture again. So many climbers and so much rock to climb, so much activity and development everywhere, the Provence region is filled with a lifetime worth of climbing of many different kinds that will keep me coming back.
It's been a year since I've last been in Verdon. One more time I returned with a ticklist even longer despite having ticked a few classics, c'est la vie I suppose. I have in mind a quote from Sonnie Trotter, it's after realizing there's too many routes to climb in a lifetime that you can settle with it and relax and stop being anxiously psyched. This is wisdom indeed and I think it took him some years and a baby to realize that :)
|the amazing Verdon, cliff of L'Escales|
|Arthur taking the swing|
|Arthur lost in the sea of tufas|
The supposedly scary runouts didnt feel bad at all, there's plenty of bolts, or maybe the trad climbing I've been doing is making the difference and I'm happy about that. The exposure is unreal though as you are literally suspended mid air in a massive gorge with wind blowing and vultures circling around. I wanted to do the line since the approach and the spiky nature of the tufas make it a big commitment, so I tried really hard on my second attempt and got it after a huge fight. On boire la biere ce soir! Big ups to my two Swiss/French friends for being such a good team.
|pinching like crazy on Tom et je ris|
|jumping in the Verdon after a big day of hiking to get to Tom et je ris|
|i caught a vulture circling in the air|
In Verdon, I also had a day of doing the famous Voie ULA, an old classic that has raised attention after having had its bolts removed in 2011. Removing the few bolts in every pitch (while leaving bolted anchors) by a person "inconnu" has sparked a big controversy by introducing a new ethic in a long developed place, one that has been made possible with the advent of better and more accessible trad gear. Interestingly enough, most people I spoke to agree this was actually a good move that gave the route a little more character and has made for one real big classic that should be on the ticklist of every climber arriving to Verdon with a rack of cams and nuts.
Myself I agree and think this is a fresh way of thinking that puts a nice counterweight to today's bolting exploits, much different to the bolting back in the day, that basically have no restrictions and end up making many routes have a ton of bolts everywhere - look at some routes in Paklenica for example
Luca following on ULA, a classic Verdon route that has had its bolts
removed and now offers six brilliant trad|
pitches in one continous crack
|trying the sick project in Annot, a well overhanging hands crack that finishes with a super physical boulder section|
|tightening down towards the finish, this one will be a tough nut to crack|
|an offwidth a day keeps the doctor away... or maybe not|
this one went well, there's some great lines to practice, it would have helped us a lot in El Cap
|commiting to a petite runout on the hard grittish "Sadomasochiste direct" 7c|
|the most unique climb I'd ever done, slinging the hollow sounding holes and sticking cams into pockets on "Spitalgie" 6c|
|Gian Luca cuts feet in this short, but spicy roof crack "C'est ta rate en realite" 7b|
Basically I returned for the climbing festival in Austria, the funny climbing festival in Carinthia called Kings of Kanzi where I met Sean Vilanueva and Nico Favresse and saw their new film "Adventures of Dodo" which is full of amazing. It's impossible not to be inspired after seeing it and meeting those cool guys in person made it even more powerful.
|with Sean and Nico. Look out for a feature with them in the autumnal issue of Beta magazine (themed Big balls, i mean, walls)|