Standing overlooking the Les Dentelles des Montmirail Range in the is a truly awe-inspiring experience. They are so appropriately named. When you view them from the cemetery in the tiny village of Suzette the range looks like rows of sharp teeth rising up from the plateau below. The hills undulating in autumn colours below. Right now the autumn tones and the landscape looks truly stunning.
While it may not be a super world famous crag where everyone goes to climb, it is one of the most visually striking places I have had the pleasure of travelling to. This is my second trip here in about three months. As much as I would like to say I have climbed a lot here I would in fact be lying. I have climbed here very little, However the reason we came back here was to climb a lot more.
The weather this morning is at best, absolutely terrible. It has rained all night and the winds are strong and cold. The ground is very wet and motivation is low at best. There is still a very positive attitude to getting on rock though. I was hoping for a little rematch on “Crescendo” 7a (23), a route at Le Grozeau that I tried last time I was in the area. Today this was not going to happen. Thierry wanted to take us to the Clapis area on the Southside of the range.
When we arrived at the car park I jumped out of the car and just looked up and stared at the incredibly intimidating walls in front of me. I was feeling both inspired and inferior. It was so beautiful here. We walked in through the forest and although it is only about four hundred metres above sea-level, it felt increasingly alpine in its nature. The wind, the cold and the clouds were all part of this wonderful thirty-five minute walk in.
Settling in at the base of the cliff after trekking up and traversing across, the giant slabs stared down at us while we ate, rested and planned our afternoon. It was now about one o’clock and the narrow window of opportunity was shrinking. I got up and grabbed my rope and pack and traversed down to the base of a long slab line called “Les Meilleur best Possible” 5b (15). Looking up and surveying the wall I located the anchors some thirty-five metres above me and began to tie in.
I must say with no apologies and regret what-so-ever “I hate slab climbing because I am bad at it!” However I am a firm believer in working on my weaknesses and this was my goal for the day. Stepping onto the sloping face I could feel the first climb trepidation creeping in. I moved up slowly and placed my feet with a certainty that I was now becoming more used to. Pressing down and curling my toes a little just to feel the rock a little more positively.
As I settled in, I would occasionally look behind me as I moved up, staring out at the valley glowing golden with hints of deep green that divided us from the vines below. The rock was cold and the friction was stunning. All meaningful to an avid climber, but most of all I was calm and the wall was where I wanted to be right now. The clean white-grey limestone was for me enough.
Completing the route and lowering off I smiled at Karine. I love being in the great outdoors with my darling wife. She makes all of this truly special for me. She tied in and began up the route. The sun was shining on her as she moved slowly and diligently upward. I was in the shade and cooling fast, but Karine looked almost serene way up there. Being engulfed by the wall she continued to the top.
Good fortune was favouring us, as the weather remained stable for the rest of the afternoon. We chatted with Thierry and Catherine. Karine and I decided to repeat the route once more just because we were happy where we were and whilst the temps were dropping the sun was still with us. The second ascent was an even more tranquil experience, I was just so in “the zone”. Everything went flawlessly and I smiled as I clipped the anchors.
It is when you are absolutely present that you have the greatest experiences. It’s not about being anything but content. I put on my down jacket and belayed Karine again. She just looked so at ease. This what climbing is to us now. It is an absolute pleasure to be able to do this “thing” together. We have great times and we experience fabulous places. Les Dentelles des Montmirail is one of these places. Don’t miss out on climbing here if you enjoy what you do. It is definitely worth exploring the area and spending time here on stunning lines towering above pines and vines.