Climbing in the Calanques - Marseille - France


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Sport climber
Topic Author's Original Post - Jun 3, 2012 - 04:09am PT
Les Calanques

"Les Calanques, situated between Marseille and Cassis, is one of the largest rock climbing areas in France. The climbing is enormously varied with technical slabs, steep overhangs in caves, multi-pitch routes up to 250m long in the mountains, and steep single pitches right on the sea's edge. In total there are around 2,500 bolted sports routes and around 1,000 trad routes."

Credit: Camp to Camp

An article in English about the Calanques:

Marseille and the arrondissements:

The Calanques seen from the air:

Photos of some of the walls (Pierre Pisano):

Area in En Vau where the Hemming traverse can be seen:

Access issues:

Climbing restrictions: Climbing in the Calanques is restricted from the 1th of July until the end of the second week of September every year. In my view the best time for planned climbing there is from medio September until medio October. It's often "too" hot even in the shadows during summer.


Routes: Photos and drawings of historical interest (G. Albert):

Mme Tanner, Gaston Rebuffat, Robert Tanner, André  Coudray, Gisele Alb...
Mme Tanner, Gaston Rebuffat, Robert Tanner, André  Coudray, Gisele Albert, Georges Albert, Novembre 1937

A book about the history of climbing in the area: "Des rochers et des hommes. 120 ans d'escalade dans les Calanques." By Bernard Vaucher.

Some photos from the area (though not only Marseille):

Traverse climbing - cliffs and ocean (go to 2:50 and you get the feeling)

How to get to some of the sport climbing crags by help of public transport:

Bus 21 Luminy from Centre Bourse to Luminy. From Luminy you can reach Cret St. Michel, Morgiou, Aiguille de Sugiton, Le Virage, Paroi des Toits, Socle de la Candelle and more. 20 min to 60 min to walk from Luminy to the areas/crags.

Les Goudes
Bus 19 Madrague from Castellane to the end-station. From there change to bus 20 Callelongue to Callelongue. From Callelongue you can walk to the different crags in the Les Goudes area. 15 min to 60 min walk.

Colline de Lun
Bus 23 Beauvallon from Rond Point du Prado to Beauvallon. 20 min to walk from Beauvallon.

Bus 45 Marseilleveyre from Rond Point du Prado to the end station. 25 min to walk.

Roy d'Espagne
Bus 44 ("Roy d'Espagne" or "Floralia Rimet") from Rond Point du Prado to the stop closest to the cliff(s).

How to get to Centre Bourse, Castellane and Rond Point du Prado:
To take the old harbour (Vieux Port) as starting point. From Vieux Port it takes 5 min to walk to Centre Bourse and 20 min to walk to Castellane. From Vieux Port you can also reach Castellane by subway. At Castellane you can change subway line and get to Rond Point du Prado.

The Calanques - Sormiou area - Colline de Lun - Roy Tore Fallaas
The Calanques - Sormiou area - Colline de Lun - Roy Tore Fallaas
Credit: Marlow

Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
Jun 3, 2012 - 05:51am PT
I always wanted to climb in the Calanques but never got there.

Social climber
"close to everything = not at anything", ca
Jun 3, 2012 - 06:11am PT
nice of you to compile info like that

i went there in 2001 in the middle of august. it was hot. i couldnt find anyone who was willing to climb with me. and large areas were closed due to fire danger. i did some bouldering/soloing on really easy/small stuff but it seems i missed out. and i hear that if you know where to go, and can access shady coves from a boat, then climbing in summer can be quite enjoyable....cest la vie...for another time

spud state
Jun 3, 2012 - 09:03am PT
I was just there a couple of weeks ago. The place is awesome. You used to be able to take the tourist boat to the clanques but the place is becoming a national park. So now have to be approached on foot.

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Jun 3, 2012 - 10:21am PT
Do you have to brush away the cobwebs on the trad routes?

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Jun 3, 2012 - 12:08pm PT

Photos of cliffs, food or bottles of wine would be appreciated.
Mighty Hiker

Vancouver, B.C.
Jun 3, 2012 - 12:16pm PT
So if you're climbing there, and carrying pitons, do you go calanque, calanque, calanque?

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Jun 3, 2012 - 12:19pm PT
Most climbers there bong, bong, bong.

Westminster Colorado
Jun 3, 2012 - 12:37pm PT
Spent 4 or 5 days there before going to the Verdon about 13 years ago. Great place.

En Vau
En Vau
Credit: Dickbob

Sport climber
Topic Author's Reply - Jun 3, 2012 - 01:27pm PT

There are around 1000 routes on the Adventure climbing list of the Calanques, the most important areas being le Devenson, l'Eissadon, l'Oule and Castelvieil. The adventure routes are mostly bolt-free (non equipee). Among the routes are some routes known for their excellent climbing and other routes deserving their cobweb. Though I am not the right person to ask since I am a sport climber mostly climbing sport routes.

A link to a site showing you the way to 996 adventure routes (click on 996 voies):


For pictures from the area - see as an example the last link in the OP. Not much climbing - but a lot of pictures from the area.

Mighty Hiker

A calanque is a fiord (fjord in Norwegian). Placing pitons is called "pittonage".


The quality of the sport climbing cliffs I know well is excellent. The quality of the rock at the adventure cliffs, Devenson as example, is said to be variable. There are routes on excellent rock and other routes on rock of variable quality.

If you climb routes from 5c (American 5.8/5.9) and up you very seldom find polished routes.
Bruce Kay

Gym climber
Jun 3, 2012 - 01:40pm PT
And how does the climbing rate in terms of quality? I know the nude beaches and ambiance are top notch but is the stone brilliant or merely good? As soon as you say gear or trad I always suspect that stone quality takes a hit or for some reason misses a mention as somehow placing your own gear makes up for it....? I dunno.

I might be there next year and would love to go but I'm not that interested in choss or mediocre contrived squeeze jobs.

I remember seeing at least one classic crashing waves sea cliff picture that looked fantastic. Is that true? I've never actually done a real sea cliff climb and the idea of doing so above the medateranian sea is super appealing! (as opposed to fulmar sh#t and fog that is)

also - polish. how badly polished is it?

Sport climber
Topic Author's Reply - Aug 1, 2012 - 08:32am PT
Georges Livanos, alias Le Grec - King of Les Calanques

"Contrary to « professionals » and today’s young climbers, he only climbed during week-ends which during his years started only the Saturday afternoons and during his summer holidays which were a maximum of 4 weeks – in his time no 35 hours week and no RTT - le Grec used public transport: so to go and climb on the Bertagne peak, with Sonia and his friends, they were taking the tramway to Aubagne, then the bus to Gémenos and then walking to the foot of the wall. To go to Chamonix, he took the railways and was driving a Vespa to go to the Vercors, it was the vehicle he used for his work as a sales rep for printing material, with which he travelled up and down the Bouches du Rhône, the Var and Vaucluse during 10 years. He waited until his pal Robert Gabriel stopped climbing in 1956 (for wedding reasons) to find a new rope mate, Marc Vaucher who had a Citroen DS and at last enjoyed the comfort and saving time that a car is giving you. Le Grec never learned how to drive as also he never learned how to swim. For a Marseille man that is really taking the cake! Himself stated that he was « a Sunday climber » and not a true « sportsman » as the young stars of today navigating in the 8th grade! Despite this, his list of ascents is still today amazing and above all of high quality: Oh the Livanos routes! Repeating them sufficed to convince oneself that you were part of the better ones! They were a must : "The one who did without bivouaquing the Livanos pillar at Archiane could consider the big North walls…" …Bruno Fara, Climbing years 1970), that is in the Vercors as in Dolomites, then in the 1950s and 1960s, there were much less French climbers there. This is how he concluded his scoring at the end of 1978, when, aged 55, he stopped climbing after 40 years of activity"

The following is a quote from his book Au delà de la verticale:

'The eagle doesn't hunt flies' said one of Tartarin's companions. One day, I had myself written to Robert Paragot : "When you have hunted lions, rabbits look meager. And I will quote "Robert Gabriel: "If I killed myself in the Calanques or in easy ground, I would not dare go out any more".

“Le Grec” lived to be 81 before he died in 2004.

Georges Livanos in CASSIN, once upon a time the 6th grade (1982)

"To Have or to Have not" Hemingway: a quotation from Georges's book:

"I will quote Gervasutti, as his judgement much more serene, is one of his peers, his rivals, although this competition always was marked with the highest fair-play: 'He is the man that never backs down once the goal is set. Comici and the Dimai brothers climb the Cima Grande di Laveredo North face in several instances, going up and coming down. Cassin would have stayed on the wall a week, but he would have climbed it. Other climbers are certainly more brilliant: so for example, Comici and Soldà. Comici climbs for pleasure, physical and spiritual, loosing often the result at stake. For Comici, climbing is an end. For Cassin, climbing is a mean. One should not judge Comici solely from his ascents ; many alpinists, in this case, would be superior to him. Cassin, in his case, must be judged from his record, and from this point of view, he fears no comparison." "About his lightning victories, the indestructible 'Veni, vidi, vici' has been used. It defines well the indelible iron mark of the Cassin's style. Caesar revised by Hollywood can be seen in the title of a movie full of gunfire of all calibers : 'I go, I shoot and I come back'. So then... Cassin a hero of swashbuckler novels, of western movies? D'Artagnan and Buffalo Bill? Cassin superman of comics? Why not?"


Sport climber
Topic Author's Reply - Aug 13, 2012 - 01:10pm PT
Calanques au Coeur

I guess you were there 30 years ago. Today is 30 years too late. Still a lot of excellent sport climbing.

Yes, topless is cool as Reilly knows, but out of style as you know.


Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
Aug 13, 2012 - 01:26pm PT
That ain't Les Calanques, I didn't see no topless shots.

Sport climber
Topic Author's Reply - Sep 2, 2012 - 12:35pm PT

not much of a
Sep 2, 2012 - 04:39pm PT
Yeah, I tried to buya place there with enough land to plant all your tents, (those of you I know not all 4000) but it was to expensive. Even La Palud (sur Verdon) was too expensive.
As for Cham, i don t think it s gonna fly either. I can buy a space for Darwin , Whisper and Jax but that s it.

Now what about Brrittany? Who is willing to tackle the granite of Armor. Lots of boulders to FA and small routes too.

Cheers from France


Sonoma County
Sep 4, 2012 - 12:33pm PT
looked at the guidebook for the area and was blown away with all the routes. squeezed? maybe. :)

Sep 4, 2012 - 02:52pm PT
in a word -greasy

Sport climber
Topic Author's Reply - Sep 4, 2012 - 03:07pm PT
... and wet. ;o)
Brock Wagstaff

Trad climber
Sep 4, 2012 - 03:12pm PT
The Hemming Traverse 1977.
Hemming Traverse
Hemming Traverse
Credit: Brock Wagstaff
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