Trip Report
Every torrential rain cloud has a silver lining.
Tuesday December 4, 2012 8:04pm
“Spain, we always go to Spain in October.” This is what I kept telling my climbing buddies when we were planning this years October trip to..............France. “Why do we want to go to France? It’ll rain and then we’ll wish we were in Spain.”

I lost the argument, we went to France.

We flew to Montpellier in the South of France, picked up the hire car and drove north for two hours until we arrived in an area near Buis Les Barronnies. It was 3pm, the days are short in October so I insisted we went out and climbed. We managed one route before dark enveloped us.

The first day it went dark early so only the Lego men were climbing.
The first day it went dark early so only the Lego men were climbing.
Credit: Andy Fielding

We’d seen on the French news that a bad storm was heading our way and was due to hit us sometime the next night so off we went the next morning and found ourselves some nice limestone to play on. We started gently on a few easy routes with the aim of getting on something harder by the end of the day.

Paul at Rocher du Grand Travers just before the rain came.
Paul at Rocher du Grand Travers just before the rain came.
Credit: Andy Fielding

Well I’m not one to say “I told you so” but about 12 noon I was heard to say “I told you so” as the heavens opened on us and we got soaked running back to the car.

Back in our rented house we learned from the French TV station that not only had the rain come early but it was here to stay for a few days. There was much debating about what should be done. One guy wanted to stay, sit out the rain and read his book. We’d come on a climbing trip so I made a suggestion which was ignored so I tried again and was ignored again. I’d noticed on the weather report that the French Alps (Chamonix) was dry and forecast to be sunny for two days. I tried again and this time Paul, one of my buddies started to warm to the idea. “Where will you climb, you don’t know where you’re going” came one response from Pete. “We’ll find a climbing shop, buy a guide book and go climbing” was my response. “That’ll take an hour to find one” was the rather negative come back. “OK we’ll set off an hour earlier then”.

Eventually only me and Paul decided to go for the 550 mile round trip so at 4am the next morning off we set. “Why are you bringing the duvets off the bed?” Paul asked me. “If you think I’m driving all the way there and back in a day you’re wrong. I’m sleeping in the car tonight, here have a duvet, you'll need it.”

By 9am we were in a shop in Chamonix buying a guide book and by 9.30am we were at the crag.

Paul in Chamonix with some old timers.
Paul in Chamonix with some old timers.
Credit: Andy Fielding

Roadside crag, Chamonix.
Roadside crag, Chamonix.
Credit: Andy Fielding

The sun was just coming up over the Aiguille du Midi and casting its rays over the fine road side crag we’d found. We climbed there all day until we decided it was time to eat.

Andys last climb of the day.
Andys last climb of the day.
Credit: Andy Fielding

Then we struck on a problem. We knew the distance we had to drive so we had some spare money for diesel/gas. We also had money for food but what we hadn’t banked on was how much the toll roads would cost us just to get here. With very little funds left we decided we could only afford a 5 litre box of red wine and some bread as our evening meal. We figured if we drank lots of wine a) we wouldn’t notice we were hungry and b) the night would go quicker.

Bread and wine (we'd eaten all the bread but we still had 4 litres...
Bread and wine (we'd eaten all the bread but we still had 4 litres of wine to drink!).
Credit: Andy Fielding

The night past quickly (the red wine trick worked!!) and in the morning we again woke to blue sky and the sun slowly creeping over the high aiguilles and glaciers that surrounded us.

The view from the car in the morning. Aiguille du Midi and Bossons Gla...
The view from the car in the morning. Aiguille du Midi and Bossons Glacier.
Credit: Andy Fielding

Breakfast was bread and jam. By 8am we were driving up the Chamonix valley as far as we could before walking up to the Aiguillette d’Argentiere.

On the walk up to the Aiguillette d'Argentiere.
On the walk up to the Aiguillette d'Argentiere.
Credit: Andy Fielding

Andy on the pinnacles.
Andy on the pinnacles.
Credit: Andy Fielding

This turned out to be a magnificent days climbing. We had the crag to ourselves save for the odd hiker that stopped to take photos of us messing around on the two pinnacles. The views were fantastic, the company brilliant.

Andy and Paul on the Pinnacles.
Andy and Paul on the Pinnacles.
Credit: Andy Fielding

The Aiguillettes and me.
The Aiguillettes and me.
Credit: Andy Fielding

Les Aiguillette (the pinnacles).
Les Aiguillette (the pinnacles).
Credit: Andy Fielding

By late afternoon we realised that if we were going to drive back tonight we had to head off before dark. So off we set but with virtually no cash between us we had to set the sat nav to avoid all toll roads. The 4 ½ hour drive we’d had the day before was now showing 7 hours on all the back roads. We didn’t care, we were high on the fact we’d had two great days climbing in a beautiful place. The sat nav played up a few times directing us down roads we found were closed or blocked. The 7 hours turned into 9 hours eventually arriving back at the house at 2am.

Coffee and wifi. 4 1/2 hours driving done, 4 1/2 hours driving to go.
Coffee and wifi. 4 1/2 hours driving done, 4 1/2 hours driving to go.
Credit: Andy Fielding

Ideally we could have done with the next day off but we felt guilty at leaving Pete for two days when we’d told him we’d only be gone for one day. So we dutifully went climbing and we climbed again the next day but it felt slightly anticlimactic clipping bolts on endless bits of limestone.

Back to the bolt clipping on limestone. This really should have been a...
Back to the bolt clipping on limestone. This really should have been a rest day!!
Credit: Andy Fielding

Paul and Pete on top of the ridge.
Paul and Pete on top of the ridge.
Credit: Andy Fielding

We finally managed to get Pete off the slabs and onto some steeper lim...
We finally managed to get Pete off the slabs and onto some steeper limestone.
Credit: Andy Fielding

Chamonix was a trip to remember. Thank God it rained in the whole of France except Chamonix and thanks to Paul for letting me drag you all the way there and (slowly) back. Memories are made of trips like this. Here’s to the next one mate.


  Trip Report Views: 1,129
Andy Fielding
About the Author
Andy Fielding is a trad climber from UK.

Comments
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nutjob

Sport climber
Almost to Hollywood, Baby!
  Dec 4, 2012 - 08:17pm PT
Why didn't you just go climbing in Spain in the first place?
Everyone knows it rains more in France. ;)
Lynne Leichtfuss

Sport climber
moving thru
  Dec 4, 2012 - 09:11pm PT
Nice TR. Love Chaminox, even tho I've only been there is the winter.
Dr.Knox

Trad climber
Salzburg, Austria
  Dec 5, 2012 - 02:39am PT
Very nice! I love Cham and the crags south of it. For your next journey: see some nice french cafe´s, avoid McDonald´s, in France and Itlay you get the best coffee in the whle world!
Gal

Trad climber
going big air to fakie
  Dec 5, 2012 - 02:49am PT
Way to make it happen! sounds fun!
Andy Fielding

Trad climber
UK
Author's Reply  Dec 5, 2012 - 01:37pm PT
Way to make it happen! sounds fun!

It was great fun and the best thing about the trip was that the Chamonix part was totally unplanned.
this just in

climber
north fork
  Dec 5, 2012 - 01:40pm PT
Big thanks, best thing by far on the taco today.
Mikemcee

Social climber
Mill Valley, CA
  Dec 5, 2012 - 02:11pm PT
Wow, a taco thread with no drama? Shocking.

Thanks for posting some real live climbing stoke Andy...much needed!
Silver

Gym climber
  Dec 5, 2012 - 02:48pm PT
Cool TR and Unplanned is always better because you have no expectations just you being in the moment without some story in your head about how your trip should be going.
labrat

Trad climber
Auburn, CA
  Dec 5, 2012 - 02:59pm PT
Nice!

Thanks for posting up....... :-)
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Dec 5, 2012 - 03:08pm PT
Awesome, thanks for sharing!
Mungeclimber

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
  Dec 5, 2012 - 03:09pm PT
Tres Bien!
SCseagoat

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
  Dec 5, 2012 - 03:09pm PT
Hey great trip...and bread and wine! Works every time!

Susan
Wrighty7777

Trad climber
Rugby
  Dec 6, 2012 - 05:30am PT
Mate I can't say any more than you have about our trip apart
From thank you for persuading me to go it was without a doubt
One of the most memorable 2 days ever!!
Just goes to prove the weather is always better just round the corner
Or in our case a messily 5 hour drive away!!
Roxy

Trad climber
CA Central Coast
  Dec 6, 2012 - 10:47am PT
bread and wine was all Muir needed.

sweet trip, thanks for sharing it!
10b4me

climber
  Dec 6, 2012 - 11:12am PT
TFPU, looked like fun
Andy Fielding

Trad climber
UK
Author's Reply  Dec 6, 2012 - 02:11pm PT
thank you for persuading me to go it was without a doubt
One of the most memorable 2 days ever!!

That's why we climb.
Silver

Gym climber
  Dec 6, 2012 - 04:19pm PT
Oh and you're welcome.

Silver ;)
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