Climbing the vertical walls of Gorge de l’Ardeche.

The Ardeche region is steeped in history and it was known in the early nineteen eighties as the testing ground for some of Frances most famous climbers. They tested themselves against this extremely technical limestone and became the premier climbing force throughout Europe.

Karine embracing the vertical world…..could it get any more vertical really. Sector Le Viel Audon – Photo Maurice de Jonge 2017

Since these heady days, favour has moved away from the technical static movement required here  and the Ardeche has been somewhat forgotten. Coming to the region at the suggestion of my beautiful wife Karine (she’s French) was one of the truly great decisions on my climbing adventures around the world.

Cirque de Gens Sector….this is an amazing natural amphitheatre with about three hundred bolted routes.

We have been here for two weeks now and I have to say my climbing has improved. The polished and sometimes run out sports routes here are at times spectacular in their movement and testing simply by nature. Whilst humbling it may be, the stunning verticality here is at first scary and then over the course of time, it displays a technical design that I have not experienced on limestone before.

Rob working his way through and out of a huge hueco at Barrasses Sector

Thailand and Kalymnos offer the steep buggy tufa routes and at times technical slabs are available, but the Southern Ardeche region around Balazuc and Pont d’Arc are simply worth travelling to. The bouldery short routes are super and the long routes are definitely sustained and challenging. Like everywhere you need to pick and choose but its all vertical and super fun.

Balazuc from Barrasses Sector…….a village of character.

The bolting is a little “old skool” in some sectors and there are also the original steel bolts from the seventies and eighties still present. We climbed on the stainless U-bolts and the newer fixed hangers. It just simply felt safer. There is no use risking your life for a sports route.

Testing myself crack climbing and having to clip on the face…..Barrasses Sector

Some of the sectors we have experienced are Cirque de Gens (Pradons), Mazet, Le Viel Audon, Barrasses (Balazuc) and La Roche (Vogue)

Ingrid bridging the gap to move onward and upward. Sector Le Viel Audon – Photo Maurice de Jonge 2017

After not sports climbing for a few weeks the Ardeche was a rude awakening to the vertical world again, but I have been loving the challenge and the diversity in styles. I have not climbed cracks before and I was up for the challenge. I feel I have a little fitness back now and am ready for the next part of the journey.


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