Guided Adventure in the Verdon Gorge

'Au Dela du Delire/ULA' link up

Posted on 2013-06-27 - filed under verdon

Photo: The crux 7a+ and river 400m below
The crux 7a+ and river 400m below

Another unforgettable day on the blue limestone of L'Escales yesterday climbing with Leigh Dearle from Perth Australia. This was  the 2nd occasion we'd climbed together, the first being 4 years ago on the beginner multi pitch 5+s and 6as of the Rocher St Julien in Buis Les Barronnies.

Since that time his confidence and skill on long routes has matured out of all recognition to the tune of several grades,so I figured he would be comfortable on one of the longer, committing and more  atmospheric itineraries on the big grey walls. At the 7a grade, ULA/Au Dela du Delire could rank as the most beautiful long route in the Verdon. A 14 pitch voyage up one of the highest walls of L'Escales.

A warm up of satisfying 6a/6b trad crack climbing takes the first half of ULA until a wildly exposed 7a traverse leads boldly out into 'no mans land' - an immaculate shield of grey stone for the
next 7 pitches of 6b to 7a+ wall climbing. Leaving the security of the
ULA crack system this section is committing and emergency retreat
would be quite complicated. 

Alternating leads,the first 7 pitches went smoothly, and Leigh
did a good job of figuring out the confusing 2nd pitch
through the overhung section of ULA. It was clear
that I was climbing with an equal partner and that we could lead through on the more difficult upper section. Arriving at the long 7a traverse I could tell that Leigh might be hesitating to lead this pitch but as the bolts were democratically placed and any falls would be
clean into the overhanging void I encouraged him to just go for it!
A good descision and very nearly an onsight of this technical 7a with
Leigh getting his wings and taking that first 'Verdon Whipper!' Scary but safe.

2 'out there' 6c pitches followed on only the best blue Verdon stone with not a trace of chalk to be seen. Now confident and relaxed,
Leigh solidly cruised through until it was my turn to take the very
bouldery 7a+ pitch - sequency moves on underclings and with bad feet to break through an overhang. At this point Stephanie (Leigh's fiance) appeared at the top of 'Les Marches du Temps' to cheer us on and take photos and we could see that only 3 pitches remained - an elegant 6a+ dihedral, an out of character 6c & A0 with some yarding on quickdraws to pass a blank section of poor rock, then a tricky final 6b, blind moves round an arete with the whole height of L'Escales spread below the feet.

Starting at 1.30pm we topped out 8 hours later having taken our time to soak up the big wall atmosphere, watch the silent Vultures riding the thermals, and take plenty of photos. More of which can be seen on facebook here at:!/alan.carne.71/media_set?set=a.10201339327825622.1073741831.1246137439&type=1


Posted on 2013-05-19 - filed under testimonials

Photo: Robin hanging out at the final belay of L'Eperon Sublime
Robin hanging out at the final belay of L'Eperon Sublime

“Great memories of spectacular days out climbing in beautiful situations; learning, thinking, developing and sharing, are what it's all about for me. Thanks Alan for adding to these memories.

After my first trip to Verdon last year I couldn't wait for another opportunity to return. Last year was a revelation, experiencing the gorge for the first time with its epic situations, meditative qualities, natural beauty, and perfect compact limestone.

This year I was on my own and wanted to enjoy some classic lines in peaceful and adventurous situations, learning from Alan, enjoying his company, and doing some routes which are outside my ability to do independently. Alan’s suggestion were routes put up in the 70s & 80s, traditional climbing styles and use of natural pro (cracks, jamming, bridging, lay-backing as well as some face climbing and pockets). Don't think we had another team on our chosen route(s) at any point on the trip which adds to the sense of adventure and connection.

We climbed Echo Logique (6b) giving me a sense of the style to come. Then the classic ULA (6b), nine pitches, including the first three pitches before entering the crack system which is sustained and physical, I was psyched and tired(!) and really enjoyed this one.

Then Eperon Sublime (7a/6b & A1) with some beautiful crack and corner climbing and the river below close to the face offering spectacular positions along with some shorter hard sections of face climbing. Then Tuyau D'orgue (6c) with a tricky start through a roof on hand jams (a little aiding for me!) then a great section of sustained corner climbing before easing to the top.

This time round I got much more of a sense of l'Escalès, its various sectors, as well as a sense of the history of its development, and more experience to build confidence for future independent days in the Gorge and maybe some slightly harder routes next time with Alan.

For me meeting people like Alan is one of the many joys of climbing. Whether experienced or not, if you’re looking to explore a big and complex venue like Verdon your unlikely to do any better than look up Mr Carne and open an exciting new chapter in your climbing journey.”


Robin. (London UK)






A week of Classic 1970s Verdon

Posted on 2013-05-19 - filed under news

Photo: Hanging belay below the hand traverse of L'Eperon Sublime
Hanging belay below the hand traverse of L'Eperon Sublime

ULA, L'Eperon Sublime, Tuyau d'Orgue, Echo-Logique, and Afin que nul ne Meure. A harvest of 1970s classic crack climbs from the first wave of Verdon development.

After a superb 5 day trip with me last year culminating in an ascent of La Demande, Robin was returning (unfortunately without Paula this time) to recharge his batteries on the high walls of the Verdon. Within 5 hours of leaving London we were meeting up again at the Perroquet Vert Gite and gearing up for an afternoon warm up on Echo-Logique(6a+,6b,6a+). 3 pitches of 3 dimensional climbing, stemming, turning, and laybacking up a line of flake cracks with the odd chimmney move. Enclosed in a dark and shady bay, voices echo against the surrounding walls. Its a great warm up and with enough atmosphere to acclimatize to the Verdon grandeur.
The new guidebook has just come out and many routes including this one have been refurbished with new bolts and anchors.
Robin was climbing well on this route, moving creatively and precisely and breathing well. He had certainly matured as a climber in skill and temperament since last year's visit and was certainly capable of something more challening. I suggested ULA for the following day and he was keen to try.

ULA is a kind of difficult sister route to La Demande. Separated by the huge shield of El Topo it covers the full height of L'Escales in 10 big pitches of bridging and jamming with 7 of those taking the magnificent upper crack system. It is very sustained at an 'old school' trad 6a/6b grade and definitely a notch up from La Demande.

First climbed in 1972 it was unfortunately retro-bolted during the 80s, but then recently and controversially de-bolted and returned to its original state. Quite a blessing in my opinion.
Many parties choose to climb only the upper 7 pitches in the crack system, traversing in along the catwalk from the Jardin des Ecureuils, and although this constitutes the essence of the climb, the rarely done lower pitches demand some routefinding and add to the completeness of the adventure with more of that 'big wall' atmosphere as the route finds the best way through
the surrounding overhangs and nearby loose rock. 

Racking up Camalots 1-5 and a set of nuts we descended 200m to the jardin, continuing with 3 more freehanging rappels to the base of the cliff. 15 minutes walk led to the start of the route which we climbed in 8 hours at a leisurely pace stopping to take photos and soak up the grandeur of the Gorge and the spectacular rock scenery under the blue sky of Provence. A memorable day that I feel was  pitched at just the right level for Robin who finished tired but not
completely destroyed!

After an easier morning on Afin que nul ne Meure Robin spent the following day resting up and preparing for the next big objective, 'L'Eperon Sublime', 8 pitches ranging from 5+ to 7a.

I first did this climb as an 18 year old on my first visit to the Verdon in 1979, and hold dearly the memory of all the climbs and people I climbed with in the Gorge that summer.
It was my first road trip away from the gritstone of my local crags and I remember sharply the thrill of the wild rappel approach down Luna Bong to the 'lost world' of the Terrace Mediane. I managed to jam the rappel on the way down but felt safe in the company of master alpinist Phil Burke who prussiked confidently back up 50m to free them. Then the spectacular hanging belays high on the pillar and that particular curve in the turquoise river hundreds of vertical meters below. Following the famous 6b hand traverse and feeling fragile at the start as I unclipped the carabiner protecting me from a scary pendulum swing if I fell.

I never tire of these great classic routes.
They are less popular these days but there is a sensation of timelessness in these now lesser travelled parts of the Gorge that is quite Zen. The small mediterranean Oak at the base of the route is still there, 34 years older and a little knarlier, the belays are in the same place with the same views and even some of the original pegs remain, unrusted in the dry air. This is a special part of the Gorge for me and I can remember all the occaisions and the partners I've
climbed this route with over the years.

I'll also remember this one - thanks for a great day Robin.

Storms threatened our last day so looking for a climb that would be sheltered from the rain, I went back to the '70s again and that first trip in 1979. 'Tuyau d'Orgue'(6c,6a,5+) is a short route that leaves from the little visited 'Terrace de l'Ascension' visible from the 2nd belvedere. I first climbed it in the company of the great british legend Ron Fawcett and remember being in awe as I watched him float skillfully
around the initial 6c roof pitch then on up the following wide 6a crack placing only the occasional piece of protection. At that time I remember finding it very hard, remarking as I arrived at the belay that Ron did not have a single mark on his suntan, whereas I was covered in scratches after thrashing my way up the wide crack!

From our belay stances Robin and I had great views of 'Diedre des Rappels' the aesthetic corner line to
the right but this would have to wait till next time as the weather had really started to close in. It
was time to go and drink coffee at the Perroquet Vert, talk more Verdon history and discuss the week's adventures.

Until next time Robin,'au revoir' and thanks for great week.






Verdon short film

Posted on 2013-04-19 - filed under verdon

Here is a superbly made short film featuring professional American and Swiss climbers Jonathon Siegrist and Nina Caprez climbing in some of the most spectacular locations of the Verdon.

The incredibly talented photographer Kieth Ladzinski and the production team have demonstrated a rare sensitivity in managing to capture the Verdon's special presence, feeling and seeing the Gorge as if through my own eyes.

It really showcases the wild beauty of the Gorge and the climbers demonstrate that fine art of vertical balance neccessary to climb well here, and show appreciation of the historical significance of more than 40 years of climbing development in the area.

Thanks to Arc'teryx, the climbers for repeating these awesome routes, and to my good friend Bruno Clement for daring to be himself and for being a continuing inspiration to my own climbing.