to the Features section of the BlueDome
Snippets from this
months November issue 164 of the ever
excellent Climbing magazine has a curiously
high British content. News of Ian Vickers
on sighting various 5.13's such as Eqiunox
at Joshua Tree, an article by Fliss
Butler on the stresses of competition
climbing an article on Johnny Dawes
(The Leaping Boy, half man, half monkey,
half sane)and an article on Training
by Ben Moon and a full page shot of
Neil Gresham on End of the Affair !
Is this all the
influence of British ex-patriot Dave
Pegg, who is now associate editor of
There are also articles
on the awesome Black Canyon of Gunnison,
bouldering around San Francisco Bay
and on Tennessee sandstone (with rock
that looks amazingly like our very own
From The Madding Crowd?
Quiet areas in France,
The Doub's and Valley of La Loue.
How about getting
away from the the hordes of holiday
climbers in the better known climbing
areas of France
The size of the
horde of arriving German climbers amazed
us when we woke up on Good Friday. Closer
enquiries revealed that an article in
previous issue of Rotpunkt magazine
was responsible. The local French climbers
were amazed about how we Brits knew
about it, we were the first they had
seen. As an area it will become more
fashionable with a wider French audience
after topos and further details are
published in forthcoming issues of Vertical
magazine. Where am I talking about?
The Doubs, and the Valley of La Loue.
It's only about
six hours drive from Calais, close to
the town of Besancon, and near the Jura
Mountains. The French come here to climb
because it is possible to do so without
frying to death on routes, in midsummer.
It's a refreshingly new area, with spectacular
and beautiful limestone countryside.
Even if you do not climb, it is an area
well worth a visit because of the excellent
variety of walking, (much of it way-marked)
and many specifically prepared mountain
bike (VTT) trails. The climbing is across
a wider variety of grades than many
other areas of France and thus make
it accessible for the family climber,
you often see whole families enjoying
themselves climbing together; with routes
especially equipped for kids. They are
well bolted, and the crags are the sort
of places were a picnics at the foot
of the crag are called for. On La Barmaud
alone there are over 100 routes between
French 5 and 6c. All grades mentioned
Too Hot To Climb In Summer?
The climate is pleasantly
warm from Easter to October. You don't
have to queue for polished routes, as
is increasingly becoming the case at
places such as Buoux, and even Verdon;
although the above mentioned magazine
articles will undoubtedly increase
the numbers coming to the Doubs. It
is an area under rapid current development
and the atmosphere amongst the local
climbers reminds me of what it was like
in the late seventies and early eighties
in the Luberon, and the Verdon Gorge,
i.e. feverish new route activities.
It should not be a surprise to see new
routes being equipped whilst you are
on some of the crags.
A good place to
base yourselves is Ornans, which is
26km outside Besancon on the D67. The
people in the tourist office in the
village are very friendly and helpful,
and there is plenty of free information
to be had e.g. to mountain bike trails.
There are many campsites around, but
a particularly well placed one is on
the Chassagne St. Denis (D241) road
just outside Ornans. It is clearly signposted
and is about 100 meters from the outdoor
Municipal swimming pool. La Barmaud
is five minutes away from this campsite,
and is the line of crags above it and
woods. It has over 140 routes on it,
mostly suited to the mid grade climber.
In France mid- grade climbing seems
to mean in the sixes, people learn to
climb on what would be VS in the UK.
The routes here are on excellent pocketed
rock, mainly walls up to 40 meters high,
with good, mostly new equipment though
there ought to be more lower-offs. A
long sling and screwgate krab may be
found useful to arrange some lower offs
from the many trees at the top. Please
don't kill trees by directly putting
your rope around them. This burns
the phloem and scars and kills the tree
The setting is very
peaceful, being in a quiet woodland
surrounding undisturbed by tourists.
There is parking on the first left hand
bend on the D241 heading away from the
campsite to Chassagne. From here, facing
the campsite, head up the left hand
track for about 200 meters to a widening
(parking is possible here also). A faint
track leads from the left edge of the
widening and goes to the top of the
crag in about 50 metres. Either abseil
down or find the fixed rope descent.
Access is also possible along the bottom
of the crag, but use the above approach
first and follow the crag along to find
out the most convenient way back through
the woods. Some of the best routes are
Adherente volupte (5c), Fluide tropical
(6b) and Aquabon (6b/c).
Many route names
are painted on the rock on most of the
crags visited, and this helps navigation
considerably, bearing in mind that this
crag is over 1km in length. The topo
was produced in 1991 and is available
at the Cafe du Pecheur in Ornans, price
25FF. Incidentally French topos seem
expensive for what you get because a
lot of the money goes back to the crag
equipment fund. This topo was produced
by the Gang Des Allumes de la Grimpe
(Club GAG), a name that's fairly self
explanatory in translation (i.e. they
are climbers in the know).
Also very close
to this campsite is La Breme, a dominating
crag overlooking the D67 near the joining
of the rivers Breme and La Loue. Parking
is at the road junction below the crag,
and the approach is directly up to the
crag in ten minutes. The rock is good
rough limestone, and some of the routes
travel up blank looking terrain at very
reasonable grades on positive holds.
Such climbing is very good for the ego.
To do the some of the routes here and
at La Barmaud in one run-out and belay
back on the ground, it is necessary
to do the routes with double 50m ropes,
or the pitches will have to be split.
Take two ropes, as it is more fun belaying
on the ground. There are over 150 routes
here, and like La Barmaud there is a
good variety across the grades, but
the crags are not hard mans paradises.
A new topo is apparently under preparation.
The newest development,
and the crag with the most exciting
potential is at Hautpierre Le Chattel.
It is up to 100 meters high, and in
places is very steep. There is much
more here in the higher grades. Older,
partly aided routes have been re-equipped
and free climbed. One of the Best of
these is Vie Des Crecerelles (7a/7a+).
There will be a lot of 7/8 grade climbing
here shortly as the pace of development
is frantic. The development is catering
for the "pleasure climber"
also, with slay routes in grades 5 and
6 being added to the wings of the crag.
Hautpierre is at about 650m altitude
and is cooler than the others on very
hot days, and the views across towards
the Jura are superb. To get to the crag
follow the D67 from Ornans towards Pontarlier,
and turn left up the D244 to the small
village of Hautpierre Le Chatelet. The
road takes you just below the crag.
Before you reach the village, park at
a large memorial cross by the road,
next to a shack covering a cattle drinking
fountain. The path dips under the
fence just before the cross, and contours
to the crag in about five minutes. I
don't know exactly how many routes there
are at present, but there is no shortage.
The crag I enjoyed
the best was Rochers du Quint (pronounced
like the philosopher Kant, appropriately
enough as many of the routes make you
think). Up to 35 meters high, it is
confusingly also known as Baume les
Dames, but they are one and the same.
The excellent quality of the rock here
is given away by some of the route names
such as Petit Verdon( 6b+). Ozone (7a)
is an essential tick, with brilliantly
sharp holds and flutes. Also A Chacun.Diamant
(7b)+ is great fun, especially if it
is raining, as it stays completely dry.
Many of the routes have tufas to pinch-grip
and of course gouttes. It is a good
crag for the grade seven climber, there
being 48 routes in that category. For
the super-heroes there are six 7c+,
ten 8a/8a+, four 8b/8b+, and two 8c
routes, enough for a week at least,
even for Dougie Hall. Quint is on the
outskirts of Baume les Dames, 30km from
Besancon on the N83. It can be reached
cross country from Ornans quite quickly.
Just before the N83 drops down the hill
into Baume les Dames town, turn right
down a minor road towards Champvans
les Baume. Just before the hill drops
down into Baume les Dames again, there
is a right turning at a mini roundabout,
with a convenient signpost to Rocher
du Quint. Follow the road under the
railway to a parking spot peacefully
situated by the river Doubs. The crag
is about 200 metres to the left, the
rocks to the right are a climbing playground
called Baume Rousse that has 50 routes
of their own. The 1992 topo is available
from Libraire Papeterie J.M. Blanchon,
in Baume les Dames. Gilles Blanchon,
the proprietor equipped and climbed
many of the routes himself.
The final crag I
shall give details of is Pont de Roide.
It is not very high, 10-20 meters, but
it is over 1 Km long. It is in an exceptional
setting below a nature trail/fitness
circuit and picnic spot above a tributary
of the Doubs. Even though the routes
are short, they make up in quality for
what they lack in height. There are
plenty of easy routes in grades 4 and
5, but treat anything harder with respect,
the grading is arid. It is a good place
for a mixed ability group with something
to entertain all standards of climber.
A topo is under preparation, and will
be available in the village. The village
of Pont de Roide is 40km
from Baume les Dames. In it, on the
right bank of the river (facing upstream)
is a minor road, the D124 and is signposted
to the Site Protege Des Roches and Parcours
Sportif Mais Pour Tous. Follow the winding
road until it ends at the parking spot
after about 5 km. The crag is found
by following the fitness trail (doing
the exercise activities illustrated
on boards is obligatory !). About 50
metres, after exercise number 6, a path
leads down to the crag.
Fun and Games
All the above crags
were well equipped by sports climbing
standards. A fifty meter rope (or two),
14 clips two long slings with screw-
gate krabs, wine and beer and picnic
kit are the essential gear required.
Also indispensable is the Michelin Motoring
Atlas and the main crags mentioned in
this article can be located easily using
it. There are many other crags in the
area that we did not have time to visit.
To name some :- Nans-Sous-Ste-Anne and
Refranche (both about 35km south of
Besancon. Falaise En Arc De Cercle near
La Breme. Crags near La Barmaud close
to the village of Cleron (La Roche du
Cerf ?). An immense 150 meter crag called
La Baume near Hautpierre and close to
the Cascade de Syratu and also La Justice.
Don't bother with Montfaucon on the
outskirts of Besancon, it was the only
poor crag we encountered. The not too
distant Dijon crags of Saffres, Hauteroche,
Brochon and Fixin are all good crags,
and add to the large number of routes
available in this generally unknown
(to Brits) area.
Away From The Crowds
The Doubs undoubtedley
worthy of a visit. It is away from the
established oversubscribed areas visited
as a matter of habit by British climbers.
There are over a thousand routes in
the immediate area, and they tend to
cater for wider range of rock climbing
ability than other French areas I have
visited. Therefore the routes and area
would suit a family climber, especially
if they did not want to spend too much
time travelling, or only had a week,
but wanted the freedom of having a car
with them. It obviously isn't Buoux
or Verdon, but we enjoyed our visit,
and will return to it soon.
Tell us about
any relatively unknown climbing areas
that you know about. Don't keep it all
to yourself. E-mail to: email@example.com
into Winter Rock
asked my friend Peter Rowlands for a
write up on his early experiences in
winter climbing, Peter is known to all
as' little pete' in spite of being 6'5",
and is a regular at the Rope Race climbing
centre in Marple. Peter is 17 and attends
Stockport College. Peter was interested
in winter climbing and this is his account
of how he got started.
started rock climbing through a love
of hill walking, spending time out in
the hills with family and friends from
school. many of whom were starting to
get into climbing. I've been rock climbing
now for about eight years and have had
a strongly traditional upbringing in
the sport. This comes from spending
most of my time climbing with people
from an older generation, no insult
intended, it has been an excellent apprentiship.
I have always wanted
to do some of the 'classic' mountain
routes, and doing the long routes has
been something I also enjoy. I suppose
good general fitness and having
a desire to climb hard routes helps
to motivate you towards bigger rock.
The next step was to find a partner
with the same level of interest but
with a lot more experience!.
so much time at the Rope Race allowed
me to meet a great many climbers of
all backgrounds and abilities, this
is where Rob Coppeck was putting up
a card on the notice board asking for
a winter climbing partner. Rob has many
years of mountaineering experience and
also holds the Winter Mountain Leader
award. After doing a few indoor routes
together and sizing each other up we
decided to plan for Scotland. We also
took in a few trips to North Wales and
the Lakes before we tackled the Ben
The first trip to
the Ben was a complete disaster,
the weather was terrible and gave no
let up for the whole week, undettered
we made plans for a return. Second time
round and we climbed, good weather and
near perfect snow and ice. A route on
Anoch Mor and then two routes on the
Ben, Comb Gully and East Gully.
partnership had formed and the next
trip was put in action, a week in the
CIC hut at Easter, the Ben beckoned.
A busy week taking in Tower Ridge, Green
Gully, 5 gully, Vanishing Gully and
also Central Gully.
As winter 97 draws
closer our thoughts turn to further
climbs, Scotland again no doubt but
perhaps further afield, being a poor
student means lots of spare time but
very little spare cash so we'll have
I asked Peter to
outline some of the things he felt would
be of interest to others who want to
get out in the winter, this was his
"To get started
a good background in winter hill walking
is essential. Navigation, Routeplanning,
Weather forecasting are key skills on
top of all the basics of hill walking.
You must add to this Avalanche awareness
and an understanding of snow conditions.Get
out and practice these as often as possible
and don't ignore the fact that there
are lots of climbers who you can talk
to. Then comes Crampon and Ice Axe techniques,
practice your rope work until it becomes
second nature, learn about snow and
ice belaying. It sounds a lot.....it
is. If you are starting from scratch
get out and do lots of hill walking,
take time to find a good club or start
using your local climbing wall, try
some scrambling. Many centres offer
weekend or week long training courses,
apart from teaching you they are usually
located in some of the best places for
climbing. My main problem is doing this
type of climbing on a student budget,
the cost of getting the gear together
can be expensive, for clothing, equipment
and some boots my bills came to £1400,
you could easily spend a lot more!"
If you have any
questions for Peter E-mail me and I'll
pass them along. Ed.