We woke in the morning with a definite plan. Our plan was to conquer “Une Valse pour Manon” 6b+ (20) in the Paroi du Duc Sector of the gorge. 6 pitches of beautiful limestone all the way to the top of the wall. It was going to be a real adventure with long walk-ins, a tyrollean river crossing, one hundred and eighty odd metres of climbing and then four long abseils back to the base of the route.
After a brief breakfast of croissants and coffee we headed into the gorge and parked the car in the same place as the day before. Its good to have rituals. It keeps you focussed and creates a good level of comfort. Maurice, Karine and I discussed safety procedures and non-verbal communications for our pending escapade.
We racked up, I grabbed the rope and walked ahead on the approach to the tyrollean. Our host Olivier had told us to be aware that if they open the flood gates, the river could be raging…….It was moving a lot faster then the day before and it was higher. I clipped in and zipped across the river in about six movements. Karine and Maurice followed quickly and we were off up to the base of the route.
Once we located the base of the route we chatted briefly about the day ahead and finalised any issues or doubts in our minds about what we were embarking on. It all sounds a little serious and to be honest it is, but its also a lot of fun to. Helmets on, knots tied and checked and on belay. I was off leading the first pitch. It was not hard at all but, I was climbing in the Verdon Gorge and this is a place of legend.
I clipped the first anchors and my partners followed on easily. We were using a one hundred metre rope and Maus and K were simul-climbing. It was a first for me, however I understood the process well enough. They reached the anchor and we were all “in hard” (sort of safe). We continued up the second pitch. The climbing on this pitch was sensational at the grade. It was technical, runout and a little heady to say the least.
Maus took the next two pitches, the first short and technical with a serious “heel hook and mantle” to the anchor. The next was a long technical 6b+ pitch. Maus climbed it well considering the sun was beginning to make the climbing very sweaty and a little desperate. Karine followed and met Maus at the anchors. I began to climb with the rock in full sun. It was 33 degrees in the shade and I was baking…..so were my buddies thirty metres above me at the anchor.
As I approached the anchors Maus confirmed there was an abseil anchor there. We all agreed we should get out of the sun and not risk serious sunburn and possibly heatstroke. There was one pitch to complete but the heat was unbearable and we had to make a decision. Thus began the rappelling section of our day.
Two hundred and fifty metres above the river stood three people looking down and all thinking…..Jesus thats a long way to the bottom! I put my hand up and took first abseil duties. We sorted out the rope and I was off, heading down, not knowing where the next rap rings were and feeling a little anxious. I reached the anchors rather quickly. I settled “in hard” and the others followed. We laughed a little when we were standing on the “ledge”.
Off I went again, this time fifty metres to the next anchors. I tell you there wasn’t much rope left when I go there either. We were glad our safety protocols were all solid and the knots in the end of the rope weren’t required, but I was happy to see them when I got there. That was the biggest single abseil I had ever done.
Karine and Maus joined me and we were off to the bottom of the route. I happily touched down and was really stoked with what I had done. Karine joined me a few minutes later and was absolutely exhausted. It was an epic experience for her. She sat in the shade while Maus began his ascent to join us. Glad to be out of the sun Maus took his shoes off and I began to pull the rope through. The wind was a little up and I carefully pulled the rope. As it fell over the second last ledge, I thought we’re good……Oh god was I so wrong!!
The rope was stuck on something we couldn’t see, nor could we release it with some solid jiggling and throwing from below. I tied in and headed up the first pitch to the fourth bolt and traversed through the shrubs to the ledge. Sitting there beautifully wrapped around an old piton was our rope. I quickly released it and headed back across and down to the team. What a fantastic day out with two much loved and very “good humans”.
We finished our day with a well deserved swim, a great meal and some beer and wine. Life doesn’t get much better and we all really enjoyed the experience. Tired and well fed, we headed back to our accommodation and settled in for the night.
Day two in Gorge de Verdon proved to be a much greater adventure than imagined, with a far greater reward.
You’ll never never know, if you never never go. 🙂