South of France
Just back from another great trip to France. This time it was to slightly warmer climates for a spot of Rock climbing, Editorial shooting and generally hanging out with a great bunch of people i'd never met before! It was a short visit, only 6 days but we managed to pack in a different crag (sometimes two) everyday. We flew into Nice Monday morning and got picked up at the airport by our host Peter. He'd brought along his Jaguar Limo which proved to be the smartest "Cragging" car i've ever had the privilage to be driven around in. A short 15 min drive into the foothills behind Nice and we were at our (it has to be said) rather palacial accomodation which was to be home for our stay, again curtesy of my new best friend Peter! A quick change of clothes (i put my shorts on) and after some brief introductions to the rest of the team who had arrived back from the supermarket with the weeks food, we headed off to our first crag, La Turbie.
La Turbie (See Photo below : Lucy Creamer climbing the Second pitch of Dis Merci 5+, 6a) sits on the hillside above Monaco, with amazing views over the tiny Principality's 3 harbours and virtually into the Royal Palace itself. The climbing here is a multitude of all grades, easy through very hard, single and multi pitch. The sun shone for the afternoon and it was just what we all needed.
The Sun rose on day two and it was back to La Turbie. I'd seen a shot i wanted the day before, but the sun only hits this particular face in the morning, so the crew had kindly humoured me and agreed for a return match. I hung around on top of the cliff while the rest of the team headed down, an hour later Lucy emerged into the bright sunlight on the upper wall and after a lot of running around to change angles I got the shot i wanted.
After two hard days of constant pulling on your finger-tips its time for a rest. But once again our host Peter kindly agreed to show Lucy and I around some different crags while the other guys took a rest day. We headed over to an immense piece of rock (this is the huge dome of rock you can see in the distance as you fly into Nice airport) above the small village of St.Jeannet. The Cliff, also known as St.Jeannet is home to over 600 routes. Some routes are a maximum of 10m, by contrast the longest ones go on for roughly for 400 - 500m, thats about twenty pitches or at least a long day of climbing. We didn't really feel like "a grand day out" so we headed for "La Source" one of the many shorter sectors. We had another great morning exploring the area, did some climbing and was back in the carpark for a late lunch. I managed to persuade Peter to climb a classic route of the crag, La Mao 5+. The line caught my eye straight away, a soaring corner crack splitting the crag "who's up for a spot of offwidth" Peter and Lucy groaned, but pete agreed to be photographed (See below)
In the afternoon we headed over to Peters local crag La Colle Sur Loup, only 5 mins from the front door! It was a tired threesome who headed home that day.
"Its a long walk in" i dread those words. When you've got a camera bag weighing close to 25kg's, a climbing sac with all you're rigging gear, as well as a 50m static rope you know that the hour long uphill walk isn't going to be pretty! But like most of the places i "Sweat" myself into, the view's always worth the "Shlep" in there, and La Grotte (the Cave) at Peillon was no exception. A vast overhanging hole in the hillside, dripping in Tufa lines. Most of the routes here were put up by Axel Franco, a short powerhouse of a man sometime in the 90's and judging by the fact the finishing holds overhang the starting ones by anything up to 35m's you just knew you were in for a real fight on this Old School crag - non of us were disapointed - take a look yourself, Lucy Creamer in the horizontal, looking for something, anything! to pull on. The route is Batman 7c+.
Friday, the Penulitimate day and guess what, the sun was still shining, it had been very kind to us (we later found out it had also been gorgeous back home in Sheffield, typical) so to really take advatage we decided to take a slightly longer drive than usual and head to Chateauvert, 1.5hrs West.
I'd heard about this place from lots of people. Quality climbing in a beautiful river valley and only 10mins uphill walk - heaven! Chateauvert is another one of those crags developed sometime in the past centuary, bloody hell that makes it sound prehistoric! its not super steep compared to the previously mentioned crag Peillon, but gently overhanging. We had a great last day there, ticking off some easier lines before heading over to a large steep wall opposite the parking. The guys, Alex and Szymon set up base camp under a tasty looking 7b+ and proceeded to explode all over the wall with varying degrees of success. Amira and Peter found a few longer middle grade lines and Lucy headed for a really nice looking 7b+/7c which she onsighted. (Photo of Szymon going for the onsight on Sigma 7b+)
Saturday afternoon we flew back home, worn out but very content with our S of A trip and especially the new firends that we'd made. After all at least 50% of what makes a good trip are the people who's company you keep and ours was definately one of the best trips i'd ever been on. For whatever the reason the dynamics really worked. So its a great big thank-you to Alek, Szymon and Amira for making a great week into a special one and an especially huge "heads up" to Peter for being the perfect host, model/stooge, Chauffeur and all round great guy "THANKS PETE"