My jaw dropped and my eyes widened as the car veered around yet another tight corner on an ever increasingly narrowing road. The guide rail appeared to be getting closer and closer with each turn and then it all went black…………………………..we were in a bloody tunnel and the there was the faint glow of light at the end of it. As we emerged from the tiny black hole that had seemingly eaten us whole, my eyes widened even further, my jaw dropped again and tears filled my eyes. I was staring at Gorge du Verdon!!!
Oh my GOD!!!!! It is spectacular, that’s the word that came to mind….SPECTACULAR!!! I was in Alpes du Haute Provence looking at one of the most majestic sights I have ever seen. I have been emotionally moved by a few of the places I have seen, but this was at least equal to standing on top of Angels Landing in Zion National Park in Utah U.S.A. The Verdon is so incredibly picturesque. No matter where you stand you are looking at pure beauty.
The canyon is so shear and the walls are so incredibly tall. They look blank and intimidating and they also look absolutely stunning. Staring at the place was bringing up huge excitement and a serious amount of nervousness as we had come here to climb. I had seen the photos, I had read and heard a little about peoples experiences here and I knew the climbing was technical too. It is no place for the faint-hearted or the unmotivated.
We had arrived early and decided to do a 4 pitch route called “Que Justice Soit Fête” 6b (19/20) that required a little bit of adventuring. We racked up and started down into the gorge to the river or so we thought. We followed the instruction diligently. We had to walk through a 200 metre mine tunnel to a view point called Baume aux Pigeons, climb over the guard rail and on to the cliff edge. Locating the fixed rope and hidden Via Ferrata we clipped in and made our way down to the rivers edge.
Here we were…….Maurice, Karine and I standing on the edge of a fast flowing river looking up at this enormous buttress. I was thinking “holy shit this is so out of my depth and I am scared as hell”, but fortune favours the brave and it was time to suck it up as the next step was the tyrollean line across the river to a huge boulder and then jumping across to another boulder and on to the far bank of the Verdon.
We all did this with relative ease, however it was a first for Karine and I. Karine found pulling her body weight across a river a little taxing and still feels it in her biceps now. I on the other hand loved it! We headed up the right hand trail for about the next ten minutes slowly but surely making our way up higher and higher. We reached the end of the trail and started looking for indication of our route. We found nothing…..absolutely no bolts, no name on the rock, no belay area or station…..nothing.
We headed backdown and crossed the river a little disappointed and dejected but, in all seriousness it was a good little insight into the difficulty that may lay ahead when climbing here on a regular basis. Maurice and I talked about where the route might start and we walked around a little to get a different view of the landscape. I finally found where the photo of the route was taken. I shouted out to Maus and K and pointed up. We had come across the river at the wrong spot. The guide was in fact incorrect and we had followed it perfectly.
Maus and I decided to have a swim and freshen up a little as it was a scorching hot day and it was hot even in the gorge. We stripped down and wandered tentatively into the flowing water. As soon as the water hit my body I knew it was now and never and I dived in………I had to fight to breath. Oh my God it was cold…..but so so good. This was part of the fun of adventuring in places. Whilst being a “cool” tourist spot, it is also a very adventure orientated place.
We identified where we needed to be to access the route but decided to call it a day. After drying off we decided to call it a day and head out of the gorge. We were hungry and in need of a place to stay for the next few days. So we headed up to the car all sweaty and horrible. We packed the car again and headed to La Palud, found some food and a gite (B&B) for the next couple of nights. Maurice kindly took us out for a fabulous dinner in the incredibly beautiful village of Moustiers near Lake Sainte Croix.
Tomorrow is another day and the adventure will continue. 🙂