Sunday, 10 August 2014

Off the beaten track in France

So in a totally unplanned move we seem to be living in France. Well at least Kate, the horses, the dogs and a newly acquired Siamese kitten are. I am spending my time working in the UK with Scarpa, the GB Team and importing the wonderful shapes of Flathold into the UK and holidaying in France. You are probably imagining I have headed to the glory crags off Ceuse, the in vogue Verdon and Gorge De Loup or the hundreds of other jewels of Southern France. Instead i spent last week visiting the region of La Lot.

La Lot is a river to the South of the Dordogne, a stunningly beautiful region of rolling hills, valleys, rivers, lakes and more importantly not many people. The Medieval influences can be seen in many of the villages and hamlets and still retain much of their original magic, without the modern day influences of traffic and tourists that we struggle to escape here in such a cramped UK.

It has been a long-time since I have been on a road trip. The plan to visit un chartered territory, with only the local guide in hand. First up was St Gery, a crag i have wanted to visit for years aftr seeing an iconic Petzl poster of Dave Graham shaking out in a knee bar on the classic Bastion A La Mansion.

A pleasant walk in to St Gery

St Gery is a perfect place to visit with a van, as are all the crags around here. Every town has campervan parking it seems. Loo drops, toilet, hook ups and free camping. St Gery goes one better, its only yards to the cafe, boulangerie and super market and only 5 minutes to the crag itself.

A wonderful view back along the crag and La Lot
The Bastion Cave with a climber on a great 6c+
Dave Graham on the classic Bastion A La Mansion photo: Sam Bie


Next up was Autoire where the level upped as far as stunning villages go. The Cirque De Autoire provides a stunning view of another wonderful village, which when you walk through the streets the few houses there are seem to be a throw back to a bygone era. It is home to one of the best 7a’s i have climbed and a superb 8a that starts up a medieval castles wall high above the village. You could easily spend a week here, plenty of routes of all grades, tufas galore and if you are in need of a rest day there is plenty of kayaking around, the insane Rocamador village and the stunning Gouffre De Padirac to visit.
La Diable En Rit Encore 7a. A perfect tufa.

High on Reve Et Reveler 8a

Inside Castle De Anglais

Medieval door heel hook lowering!!

I had spotted another great looking crag in the guide which on the map is a Gouffre (cave or sink hole, similar to that of Gaping Gyll in the Dales). Roc A Dor is where the locals when the temps hit 40, it is always cooler climbing in a hole. Sadly it is not a well frequented crag and was more like climbing at Gordale at the start of the season where everything is a little dusty. The 6c was bit of a battle and when it came to an 8a i just opted to switch straight into red point mode with a brush in hand. Nevertheless it was well worth it and the 8a was as good as anything in Yorkshire.
6c Gouffre Climbing


On my last day i headed to an old school but very famous crag called Eaux Claires, home to the 1993 classic Hugh by Fred Rouling. Old school as in not steep, tiny pockets and monos, like a hard version of Buoux!! A quick scan of the guide I spotted one of the earliest 8a’s in France,  La Capallete climbed in 1983 is nails. I so schooled by it that i failed to do 3 of the moves….note to oneself, i must get better at half pad monos and pinkie pockets. Nevertheless i enjoyed the fact it was hard and will certainly be heading back. In fact I am writing the at Stanstead on my way back out. 



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