Guided Adventure in the Verdon Gorge

"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...