Well, where do I start this article about possibly my favourite place to climb so far in France. I had a lot of expectations built up in my mind about going climbing in this legendary area and there were comments from friends along the way that the grades were tough and the style was super unique. I was truly intrigued by what I was hearing and this is one of the many reasons that I really wanted to go and visit Gorge du Tarn.
Some friends from the U.S. had set me up with where to buy the guidebook, so when we arrived it was one of the first things on our list. We wandered around Le Massegros, our home for the next three weeks and located the tourist office. Look no further I said as I found the guidebook right in front of my eyes. Happy days and off to a great start.
The first sector we climbed at was La Muse. It was a small crag just five minutes walk from the car park and had a range of routes that would suit us all. The crag was in the sun in the morning but the shade came quickly and the climbing was fun. Only fifteen metres high but still a great introduction for us and enjoyable routes.
As the days flowed by, we checked out more sectors and became a little more accustomed to the style. Working out how to actually hold the rock was an adventure in itself. The vertical routes were technical and at times runout (don’t worry its good for your head) with sustained climbing throughout. My friends were right the grades felt solid, but the climbing was just so good.
Its very surprising that there are only approximately six hundred or so routes in the gorge. I was taken aback at first given the historic significance of the area and its impact on French climbing history. Having said that the variety in this small number of routes is remarkable. Noir Desir and Cancer sectors provide a short bouldery and steep series of routes with a series of 6b+ routes that will provide great entertainment even for the strong amongst you.
On-sighting in the gorge is a task not to be taken lightly as it is very difficult to read the rock at times. The sustained consistency of the routes creates a great pump and figuring out where to rest is one of the strategic failures that I continued to display. It did change with time but initially it was the key failure point. Baumes Basses and Baumes Chaudes sectors provided a plethora of routes to help rectify this issue…..LOL!
As the fitness improved I felt a calm consistency in movement and began to really enjoy the area. Holds became a little more positive, technical improvement made things flow a little better and I generally felt like I could really settle in here. There is so much climbing in such a small place. So many different things to experience and enjoy.
As I discovered here on several occasions, there are more ways than one to climb a single route……Sometimes the road most travelled is the one you may need to avoid……Depending on how you assess what has been put in front of you. From time to time it is important to look the wrong way. You might just find a better alternative.
After three weeks here, I can honestly say that we barely touched the surface and I am already devising and scheming on how we can get back there for a month or so next spring. It is truly a beautiful place and I would recommend it to anyone who loves this sport to put it on their list of places to visit.