Guided Adventure in the Verdon Gorge

James & Ed Mabon (12 year old competition climbers – Devon UK)

Posted on 2012-01-20 - filed under testimonials

Hi Alan

A few thoughts from Russell, myself and the boys regarding the Verdon and James and Eds climbing days with you last summer.

We of course arrived in the Verdon Gorge last summer with high expectations of some stunning scenery and some thrilling and challenging climbing with a great guide. Our expectations were well and truly exceeded in all areas. 

The Verdon is completely different from anywhere that we have climbed before mainly due to the heights involved and therefore lengths of the routes. Climbing with you Alan meant that we absolutely got the most from our Verdon experience. Your enthusiasm for the area and the sport is infectious and your climbing,coaching and guiding skills are spot on. We felt that you were always on our agenda using your in depth knowledge of the area, the routes and the weather to help us to achieve exactly what we wanted from the experience. 

In James and Ed's words :

The Verdon Gorge is sick!! The thrill of being so high and completing 200 metre, 3 hour multi pitch routes is amazing and something we'll always remember. An awesome 2 days!

All of our very best wishes to you for a Happy and healthy 2012

Russell, Ali, James and Ed Mab

"Tom et Je Ris" 8b+

Posted on 2011-10-10 - filed under verdon

This incredible climb is finally getting the recognition and repetitions it deserves. An almost perfectly continuous tufa system 60m long that overhangs by 15m it stands alone high above the Verdon river and directly facing the 400m high Escales cliff. The work of the great Bruno Clement it was opened in 2004 and until the last couple of years has received very little attention. On one occasion in 2006 I briefly visited it with visiting Italian Maestro Pietro Dal Pra during his redpoint attempts. Isolated by a 1 ½ hour uphill approach it was easy to see why a queue wasn't lined up. I abseiled over the rim of the canyon into shocking exposure and to see this beast of a tufa disappearing out of view for 60m to a hanging stance. I was also shocked to see that despite the difficulty it is not bolted for easy consumption either, with up to 7m obligatory runouts and long spectacular falls should one fail to climb between the bolts. I belayed Pietro and on that occasion it seemed unlikely I would ever revisit that part of the Gorge.

As the work season comes to a close I've been over at Ceuze a lot these last couple of weeks getting aquainted with "La Femme Noir"(7c+), enjoying the cooler temps, and the international scene. Chatting with Jack Geldard the guru of UKC about "Tom et Je Ris" (it received notable ascents by a couple of Scottish lads last week) I get a call from Australian photographer Simon Carter with the news that his wife Monique Forestier also repeated the climb last week.  A couple of days working as a professional belayer while he captures this rare event on camera is an opportunity that doesn't happen often, so ditching "La Femme Noir" I'm back in Verdon early next morning.

Simon is a true professional, well known for his amazing climbing photography,(check out his website ) and a dawn start is a necessary sacrifice for his art. When the wall comes into the sun around 2pm the quality of the light will be less good so we have to work fast. Monique is a tiny mighty atom bristling with energy. My role shouldn't be too complicated, rap down the stat, put the draws on, clip the lead line to about ½ way up the pitch(the starting point for the shoot), set up a highly exposed hanging anchor, and get Monique on belay. But it's not so easy. The climb overhangs so severely that it's a real bitch getting the draws on, swinging around and trying to catch the spaced out bolts.
The tufa is beautiful, and a lot cleaner than it was in 2006. I rig the haulbag into a seat and curl up into it hanging out in space for a few hours.

The steepness of the wall gives Simon perfect positioning for the shoot as he works up and down a static line sometimes free hanging up to 15m out from the base of the route!  Shooting video on the 2nd day timing was really critical to avoid the sun, and at midday he made a 40 minute mad dash back up the rope, down the approach trail and around to the 1st belvedere to get spectacular footage from the opposite side of the Canyon.

You can see Simon's finished video above...

Connor Byrne - Eperon Sublime

Posted on 2011-08-29 - filed under testimonials

I first saw the Verdon Gorge a couple of years ago and I wanted to climb it.  My outdoor experience was a little limited to a couple of weeks in Wales, a couple of weeks in Spain and a few days locally but with plenty of plastic for rainy days. We were returning in 2011, August, I knew it would be hot for climbing but did not care.  

As I am only 15 Alan suggested meeting in the bar/cafe the evening before for a chat, and put my parents at ease.  The morning of the first day started with the awesome 200m abseil of Luna Bong, I have never seen a 200m long rope before! The abseil goes into freespace and was very exhilarating, I would love to do it again. We climbed Poignee de Gros Lards, a good route to get to know each others climbing styles and a feel for the rock.  

After a quick pit stop for more water in Verdon Sur Palud village fountain.  We then did Echo Logique to finish the day in the shade.  The next day started early with some faboulous mist in the gorge.  

Another go on that massive 200m rope to abseil in, then the big mulipitch climbing I had come here for...Alan had chosed me Eperon Sublime 7 pitches and 280metres of climbing, I remembers this as lots of fun, it was great to be out in the open, with lots of exposure and the view was just huge, the vultures at first suprised me as they appeared out of nowhere, I have never been that close to a vultures before and it was admazing to see them soring around. 

The climbing was just right for me, it was a great holiday treat, I felt safe with Alan as my guide and hope to go back soon and hit some harder longer routes.  Alan had been very clever with Eperon Sublime as some of this could be watched from a viewpoint from the road above which even kept my parents entertained, and gave them photo oportunities. 
I hope to go back soon and try some longer harder routes. 
Connor Byrne (Lancashire UK)

Verdon in summer

Posted on 2011-06-12 - filed under testimonials

The South of France in August?  Too hot and too crowded.  The Verdon however was different - the altitude made the temperatures and the sunshine a real pleasure for me and the family.  As an ex-climber and ex-fit person, I was worried about falling off the easier routes and failing totally on the steeper stuff.  

Alan judged us right however - the first routes were a dream and gave us all confidence.  Later we visited the gorge proper - it has to be the most spectacular and the most beautiful place in Europe to play on rock.  If it were not for Alan’s obvious knowledge of every handhold and his safe hands on the belay, I’m not sure I would have done the routes and there is no way my 14-year old daughter would have gone over the edge.  

As it was, she had the experience of a lifetime and wants to go back there next year.  As for me, I want to climb La Demande in 2012 - 400m of pure white rock surrounded by true beauty - can’t wait! 

Angus Lamming (Isle of Man)  2011