Trip Report
The Verdon - Some Recollections and La Demande: a 34 Years On TR.
Saturday April 7, 2012 7:48pm
For me like many rock climbers in the UK, the front cover of Mountain 61 was a revelation. Somewhere in Europe there was at least one crag that had weather and rock comparable in quality to that in California. Article after article had emphasised just how good both of these were in the US, and not just in California; most places in the US seemed to have rock and sun in abundance. This issue of Mountain brought the promise of the same close to the UK - you could drive there!

My copy of mountain 61 has succumbed to mould in the loft, this is a b...
My copy of mountain 61 has succumbed to mould in the loft, this is a b/w scan of the cover photo showing Ron Fawcett on the Traverse of Triomphe de Eros, taken by the late and great Pete Livesey.
Credit: Blakey

The following summer I embarked on a modest road trip with my then climbing partner Dennis Lee, we started in a traditional vein, driving to the Dolomites, in a couple of weeks we scored a number of significant ticks, the most memorable being an almost free 'Pilastro' on the Tofana de Roses.

Finishing the steep stuff on the Pilastro, Tofana de Roses. It is not ...
Finishing the steep stuff on the Pilastro, Tofana de Roses. It is not the vertical chose pile it appears!
Credit: Blakey

This was quite a deal and made us feel a little less mortal, if not a pair of studs and worthy of venturing to the Verdon. We had the Mountain article as a guide, it couldn't be too hard to find, could it, things were looking great and could only get better...........

A day later we had pulled into La Palud, for those of you who have been to the Verdon, and La Palud, you should understand that what you see now is a metropolis. Back in 77 (or was it 76?) there was no campsite, we pitched our tents on a little field that is occupied by the Camping Municipal's fence - we had a campfire that used an old gendarmerie soccer post as fuel - that August, when we were there, we were the only people there!

The next day Dennis and I set off to have a look at the crag and see what we fancied, We stopped off at the Belvedere Sublime for the obligatory 'have your breath taken away moment'. Looking across the sweeping verticality of the Falaise de L'Escales, it was easy to comply, (indeed it still, is every time go!).

From the belvedere we could, we thought, see Eperon Sublime in profile, this was a very worthwhile tick, so we parked up and headed off to look for the descent. Eperon Sublime is one of a number of classic five or six pitch routes which launch off La Terrasse Mediane, a huge wooded ledge half way up the cliff. Getting to the route involves a committing abseil. Back then the only descent was down Luna Bong and it had justifiably earned a significant degree of notoriety.

Walking along the cliff edge we eventually came across two shockingly small bolts, connected by a rusting brown chain only suitable for suspending a small medallion, not a human being. Peering over the edge it was clear that the abseil would only contact the rock for a short while before is hung free, a full 1000' above the green ribbon of the river below. I volunteered Dennis to go first, we grew the ropes and he gingerly lowered himself over the edge - I followed, spinning slowly in space, with two turns of the rope around my leg to add friction to the Sticht Plate. It was very, very, spooky!

Looking down the first Luna Bong abseil. The trees below are on the Te...
Looking down the first Luna Bong abseil. The trees below are on the Terrace Median, a huge ledge half way up the cliff.
Credit: Blakey

Approaching the first anchors on the Luna Bong abseil. You got dangero...
Approaching the first anchors on the Luna Bong abseil. You got dangerously close to the end of the rope, then had to hook a tree with your foot, get a bit of a swing going, and grab it!

Credit: Blakey

once on the ledge we set off up Eperon Sublime, three long pitches up a tapering corner lead to an impasse. the corner and crack in the back of it disappear and the yellow, crozzelly featured rock turns into a solid grey sheet of featureless Limestone. At that time we had never encountered rock like this.....

Thankfully, out to the left was a horizontal line of pockets that shot out left around the face of the buttress to god knows where.

Dennis on the traverse of Eperon Sublime, it's the 70s; headband -chec...
Dennis on the traverse of Eperon Sublime, it's the 70s; headband -check, Whillans harness - check, EBs - check, Hexes - check, power tache - check!
Credit: Blakey

Around the corner is a flake that leads to one of the dead trees that litter the crag like petrified veins. He brought me up and I shot off up the next pitch using a bolt for aid (that had yet to be eliminated) and we were soon at the top, wondering at the exposure, rock and fragrances of the crag.

The next day we drove down to Couloir Samson and walked through the tunnels in search of La Demande (The Question). It had been described to me as unmistakable, and sure enough the line was clear, a sabre cut slash up the full height of the crag.

Looking up the height of the L'Escales cliff. Le Demande finishes in t...
Looking up the height of the L'Escales cliff. Le Demande finishes in the chimneys on the right hand side of the prominent buttress. The lower half follows the ramp line that curves up from the low right side of the photo.
Credit: Blakey


Le Demande is one of many five star classics that climb the full height of the cliff, 11 pitches of 6a+, perhaps a little harder if you aren't used to cracks and chimneys. It has the benefit of being shady once you hit the chimneys at half height. Back in the seventy's the bolts were truly manky, as were the soft steel pegs, and the penultimate pitch, a flared groove with a hideous crack was very becky, one shitty old bolt just above the belay followed by about 40' of unprotected squirming up the groove - All very manly with a high pucker factor, it's now protected by three bolts and is much more mellow!

We did several other routes on that holiday, on no occasion was anyone else on the crag - we had the entire place to ourselves - hard to imagine today. One memorable route is no longer included in modern guides; Voie de Gros Surplomb. this followed a crack and chimney system on the front of L'Imbut. The chimneys eventually got very deep and led to a Y shaped apex at the big roof. This space was occupied by an ancient Vultures nest. Branches as thick as you forearms choked the chimney and made exiting on the ramp out right a bit tricky. Nowadays, thanks to a lot of ecological encouragement the Vultures are back, and the nest probably occupied. - any contemporary ascent would probably have a Jurassic park feel to it!

Low down on Voie de Roumagou, Falaise de L'Imbut.
Low down on Voie de Roumagou, Falaise de L'Imbut.
Credit: Blakey

Dennis deep in the chimney, approaching the nest!
Dennis deep in the chimney, approaching the nest!
Credit: Blakey



I returned the following year with some other mates,

Left to right; Kevin McLane, Nigel Robinson, Bob Smith and Blakey havi...
Left to right; Kevin McLane, Nigel Robinson, Bob Smith and Blakey having a coffee outside Bar de la Place - 1977 -ish
Credit: Blakey

and repeated most of the classics, but added Pilier des Ecreuils to the tick list, memorably finishing in it a storm that saw a lot of folks in shorts and t shirts benighted on the crag. That year I did La Demande again, this time with Bob Smith, our three hour time could have been improved on, but in one year the place had become popular and there was a log jam in the upper chimney that turned our sprint into a crawl.

Snow at Easter - it's not always hot in the South of France!
Snow at Easter - it's not always hot in the South of France!
Credit: Blakey

Bob's pose attempted to be more heroic than mine. The storm came out o...
Bob's pose attempted to be more heroic than mine. The storm came out of nowhere, and being in the gorge you couldn't see it coming. We heard the thunder, but mistook it for artillery on the nearby ranges.
Credit: Blakey

My camera BITD was a little Rollie B35 half frame - one reason why the...
My camera BITD was a little Rollie B35 half frame - one reason why the slide scans aren't so good I guess. I have no idea where Bob and I are on here! Close to the top of something.
Credit: Blakey

Several more visits took place over the years, some with my wife, and some with servicemen and women who I was taking on courses. Another ascent of the Demande took place during that period, it was noticeably more polished, but much better bolted. This would have been in the mid 90s.

Then more recently (last September) the opportunity arose for a short trip with a local climber, Graeme Read who hadn't been to the gorge before. We worked out a sort of sports plan, which was kicked into touch somewhat by the debolting of ULA, the closure of the tunnels, the unseasonably hot weather and ubiquitous polish.

To cut a long story short, amongst other things we did The Demande, my fourth time up it. it was no less fun, and abseiling in, down the Dalles Grises and Pilier des Ecruiles added to the sense of commitment.
Graeme on the penultimate abseil down Pilier des Ecruils
Graeme on the penultimate abseil down Pilier des Ecruils
Credit: Blakey


Looking down one of the early pitches. these are a mixture of face and...
Looking down one of the early pitches. these are a mixture of face and crack climbing on a sometimes slender ramp.
Credit: Blakey

Looking down the most slender section of the ramp, about half way up.
Looking down the most slender section of the ramp, about half way up.
Credit: Blakey

In the chimneys,on one of the more open pitches,  Graeme turning an ov...
In the chimneys,on one of the more open pitches, Graeme turning an overhang.
Credit: Blakey

In the chimneys now, Graeme is looking past me to his lead, the flared...
In the chimneys now, Graeme is looking past me to his lead, the flared spooky pitch.
Credit: Blakey

Graeme approaching the sanctuary of the tree. BITD one low bolt protec...
Graeme approaching the sanctuary of the tree. BITD one low bolt protected this pitch.
Credit: Blakey

Shoes off - bliss!
Shoes off - bliss!
Credit: Blakey

We took a light rack, if your climbing well you won't use much of it at all, but it's nice to have something. Grade is very debatable, I'd judge low to middle 5.10. Some water is a good idea, but unlike most routes on l'Escales this does get some shade, and there may be an updraft which can cool you down, tangle your ropes, and make communication impossible ;-)

Some other observations

The pitches are all quite long, we did it in 12, the stances are all bolted, with two large, cemented in, ring bolts. Most of the stances are good. The usual approach is through the tunnels from Couloir Samson, one small torch is useful. If you have just one car, and leave it there you can usually hitch back to where you're parked. Abseiling in has the advantage of getting you back to your car quicker - parking is 5 minutes from the top of the route.


So four ascents thus far - I turn 60 in four years and my nipper will be sixteen then, I wonder.............


Steve

It's real late here now and some of my old photo's won't for some reason upload. I'lll sort it and add them later.

meanwhile here a web link to a good article on UK climbing posted by Alan Carne, a british guide working in the Verdon.

http://www.ukclimbing.com/articles/page.php?id=2076








  Trip Report Views: 4,116
Blakey
About the Author
Blakey is a trad climber from Newcastle UK.

Comments
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Brian in SLC

Social climber
Salt Lake City, UT
  Apr 7, 2012 - 08:31pm PT
Only stopped by briefly and looked in.

Verdon, France
Verdon, France
Credit: Brian in SLC

Crazy watchin' Edlinger gettin' 'er done back in the day:

tom Carter

Social climber
  Apr 7, 2012 - 11:23pm PT
Wonderful report!

Thanks
scaredycat

Trad climber
Berkeley,CA
  Apr 7, 2012 - 11:34pm PT
what Tom says. Thanks for posting.
portlandclimber

Trad climber
  Apr 7, 2012 - 11:56pm PT
verdon is for men only. am really drunk so cant comment properly right now. other than it is for men and exposed muchly.
bring large nuts. essentially.

Cosmiccragsman

Trad climber
AKA Dwain, from Apple Valley, Ca. and Vegas!
  Apr 8, 2012 - 12:18am PT
I wonder What ever happened to Patrick Edlinger.
I climbed with him for a week or so out at JT,
When he was here in the states, for a tour, in The 80s.

The dude was an awesome climber! I saw him climb, "More Monkey",
downclimb and clean, then turn around and solo it, and then,
downclimb solo it.

He said if I ever made it over to France he would give me a tour
of Verdon, but I never could make it. I sure missed out.

There is even a pic of me in his book, "Rock Games" out at Gunsmoke.

He Liked Hippy Lettuce also and we shared many a bowl around the campfire at HVCG.
Mark Rodell

Trad climber
Bangkok
  Apr 8, 2012 - 12:51am PT
Excellent trip report. Always wanted to go there and with these pictures the longing returns.
Blakey

Trad climber
Sierra Vista
Author's Reply  Apr 8, 2012 - 03:17am PT
Cosmic, I understand Edlinger runs a Gite d'Etape in, or around La Palud. It's I imagine he still climbs like a demon.

Steve
Marlow

Sport climber
OSLO
  Apr 8, 2012 - 05:01am PT
Cosmic

Rock Games, page 29, a John Gill problem.

Edlinger today: "Il reste une figure de l'escalade et continue de pratiquer et de vivre sa passion. Il a cessÚ la pratique du solo Ó la naissance de son premier enfant."
J. Werlin

Social climber
Cedaredge, CO
  Apr 8, 2012 - 09:58am PT
Great TR --thanks.

Nice Edlinger story Dwayne. That guy was my inspiration BITD. Such movement!
Rick A

climber
Boulder, Colorado
  Apr 8, 2012 - 11:01am PT
Steve-

Great TR, thanks. Wonderful to go back and do it with your son.

I was in France in 76/77 too, but the only limestone we knew of at the time was the Calanques.

Mike Graham at En Vau, 1976
Mike Graham at En Vau, 1976
Credit: Rick A

I guess we should have read that Mountain cover story! Damn, still need to get there.
Blakey

Trad climber
Sierra Vista
Author's Reply  Apr 8, 2012 - 11:21am PT
Hi Rick,

I was in Cham the summer - 76, that you and Mike were there, not that you'd recall us!

We did the Brown Whillans on the Blatiere, before heading off to the Dollies. The next year, 77 I guess, we ended up in the gorge.

Happy days,

Regards,

Steve
bmacd

Trad climber
100% Canadian
  Apr 8, 2012 - 04:29pm PT
Thanks for sharing your voyage into the past. Good reading and great photos .!.
bergbryce

climber
East Bay, CA
  Apr 8, 2012 - 04:40pm PT
Awesome TR. Bonus points for the time travel!
Cosmiccragsman

Trad climber
AKA Dwain, from Apple Valley, Ca. and Vegas!
  Apr 8, 2012 - 05:12pm PT
Looking at it now, Marlow.
Now go to page, 116, and see if you can spot, Cosmic.
That's my Friend, Dave Titus, bouldering next to Patrick.
Zander

climber
  Apr 8, 2012 - 05:25pm PT
Thanks for the trip report Steve,
Zander
Mungeclimber

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
  Apr 8, 2012 - 05:30pm PT
sublime is right

I have, unfounded, thoughts that the Verdon is one big huge euro cluster job of climbers.

Dolomites sound more appealing.

which would be better for someone that doesn't want someone climbing up my arse?
Marlow

Sport climber
OSLO
  Apr 8, 2012 - 05:31pm PT
Cosmic

Page 116: Then I will put a few cents on the guy with the red and white sunhat to the right being you.
Blakey

Trad climber
Sierra Vista
Author's Reply  Apr 8, 2012 - 05:44pm PT
Munge,

It depends on what you want to do, and when you can go. I was in the Dolomites last year, in August , if you pick your routes, no crowds, same with the Verdon.

There's more contemporary stuff in the dollies that's on rock that equals the Verdon's, and the scenery is amazing.

Really though, it's no different than going up to Toulumne on a holiday weekend and expecting to get Regular Route, or Cathederal Peak to yourself......

I recall doing the East Buttress on El Cap as part of a conga line1 ;-)

Brian in SLC

Social climber
Salt Lake City, UT
  Apr 8, 2012 - 05:46pm PT
Post that pic of Cosmic!

Have a friend here who's done la Demande 4 times as well...and highly recommends it. On my list of things to do...someday...hopefully.

Great TR and history!

Verdon Opera Vertical 1983
Verdon Opera Vertical 1983
Credit: Brian in SLC

Grimper au Verdon 1991
Grimper au Verdon 1991
Credit: Brian in SLC
Cosmiccragsman

Trad climber
AKA Dwain, from Apple Valley, Ca. and Vegas!
  Apr 8, 2012 - 06:02pm PT

Credit: Cosmiccragsman

Credit: Cosmiccragsman






That was my Japanese Kamakazi hat, Marlow!
Marlow

Sport climber
OSLO
  Apr 8, 2012 - 06:25pm PT
Cosmic: My first thought was... it must be the mad hatter... Lol...
Cosmiccragsman

Trad climber
AKA Dwain, from Apple Valley, Ca. and Vegas!
  Apr 8, 2012 - 06:29pm PT
Notice the, BIG, chalkbags?

Almost all you can find in most climbing stores nowadays
are those small GAY fingerbags!!!
Marlow

Sport climber
OSLO
  Apr 8, 2012 - 06:38pm PT
Yes, solid stuff the chalkbags. Every time you dip your fingers you get chalk all the way up to your elbows. And the colours... jolly and gay... except the left one.
Hankster

Social climber
Golden, CO
  Apr 8, 2012 - 06:39pm PT
BLAKEY!!! Love these TR's from you man. Your Riglos TR fully coincided with my trip there and this one is doing the same. The Verdon has been a dreamtrip of mine since the early 80's and we're looking for tickets NOW! I love where your heads at man!!
Cosmiccragsman

Trad climber
AKA Dwain, from Apple Valley, Ca. and Vegas!
  Apr 8, 2012 - 06:45pm PT
Take me with you Hankster.
Maybe I could get Patrick as a guide.

:)
Hankster

Social climber
Golden, CO
  Apr 8, 2012 - 07:48pm PT
Take me with you Hankster.
Maybe I could get Patrick as a guide.

That's like 4 birds with one stone right there, DEAL!!
Blakey

Trad climber
Sierra Vista
Author's Reply  Apr 9, 2012 - 05:39am PT
Hankster,

I'm off out climbing, but will post up some stuff later that may be of use.

Cheers,

Steve

Dos XX

Trad climber
Los Angeles, CA
  Apr 9, 2012 - 08:21am PT
Simply fantastic! Thanks for sharing this!
steve shea

climber
  Apr 9, 2012 - 09:41am PT
Great TR. I got a tour with Joel Coqueniot in 79' From Calanque to the Verdon. We did Squirrels Pillar and something else right near it. We walked in and saw no other climbers only a few river rafters. Joel was an early Verdon climber also put up some good stuff in Cham. I remember topping out almost right at the car in the Verdon.
Blakey

Trad climber
Sierra Vista
Author's Reply  Apr 9, 2012 - 05:40pm PT
Hankster,

Some stuff that may be of use.

There's accommodation to suit all tastes, a couple of formal hotels just outside La Palud that offer B&B through to full pension. In the Village itself are a couple of climbers accommodation spots; La Perroquet Vert, which is part of the climbing shop set up has new clean rooms and offers a pretty good continental breakfast, La Wapiti is a bit more basic. In September we stayed at Perroquet Vert and were pretty happy with it.

There are two bars in the village centre, one has a proper restaurant, though both are cool with you buying a pizza from the wagon in the square and eating it as you have a beer.

I don't know if you have a sports plan, but for that 'Old School vibe' that you two seem to enjoy, i'd recommend: La Demande, Triomphe De Eros, Luna Bong, Eperon Sublime, Dingomaniaque. All of these will be polished to some extent but are not so hard that it turns into a show stopper. A good introduction to the polish will be found on say, the 6c routes on Mirrior de Fou.... If you are comfy on these then head for Pichnibule! But I wouldn't want to be out there on that in any heat ;-) And sh#t, if you can do that then you can do loads!
(My partner in September thought La Demande was harder than Biceps! It's not but.....)

Unlike the Luna Bong raps, The Dalles Grise raps are straight forward, we used twin ropes so the length wasn't an issue. You can continue down Pilier des Ecureuils. Walk dow to a cord that takes you to a tree, the chains are to its left looking out - keep pushing yourself to the right to hit the belays. 3 raps to the ground, the last free. There are other abseil pistes, but I'm not familiar with them.

If it gets unfathomably hot, then Annott, about 70kms East offers some really good shady/leafy dragging on unusual sand/limestone studded with huge ammonites.

I'd guess that when your not climbing you'll be jumping? The top of Wide is Love seems a popular jump off point....

The walk through the gorge from Chalet Malines to Couloir Samson is a classic - 11 miles with stellar views, tunnels(torches a good idea), funky steps and huge crags.

Above La Palud a short walk leads to a deserted village, follow the old road East from this and you come to an old medieval chapel up in a crag, theres some easy spelunking (no torch required) out it's back that takes you to the upper cave/overhang.

It's all fab, and the first view of the gorge takes your breath away.

Have a blast!

Steve




Mungeclimber

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
  Apr 9, 2012 - 05:27pm PT
Thx Blakey.
Blakey

Trad climber
Sierra Vista
Author's Reply  Oct 26, 2013 - 04:07pm PT
I have managed to acquire a photo from BITD, socialising outside the bar in La Palud.

It has taken up it's rightful place in the tale and reflects the fashions of the day - white painter pants!

Regards,

Steve
squishy

Mountain climber
  Oct 26, 2013 - 08:39pm PT
Love that place



RyanD

climber
Squamish
  Oct 26, 2013 - 08:48pm PT
Wow, pure gold here. The TR & many great comments & contributions from others.
Blakey

Trad climber
Sierra Vista
Author's Reply  Oct 27, 2013 - 03:13pm PT
Some other random photos from 2004...

Pitch76 (6B+ = @11a) on Pilier des Ecrureuils, Les Escales. Lo...
Pitch76 (6B+ = @11a) on Pilier des Ecrureuils, Les Escales. Loz relaxing having got onto the foothold
Credit: Blakey

The start of Pitch 6 @ 6a = 10b
The start of Pitch 6 @ 6a = 10b
Credit: Blakey

Higher on the same pitch
Higher on the same pitch
Credit: Blakey

The penultimate pitch a mere 5+!
The penultimate pitch a mere 5+!
Credit: Blakey

In the gorge near the outfall into Lac de St Croix
In the gorge near the outfall into Lac de St Croix
Credit: Blakey

The top of 'Wide is Love' is a popular launch point for Base Jumpers.
The top of 'Wide is Love' is a popular launch point for Base Jumpers.
Credit: Blakey

Bruce Kay

Gym climber
BC
  Oct 27, 2013 - 07:17pm PT
blakey - cool thread here. I tried to get there last spring but wound up down at Cassis after a visit to Boux.

Anyway, i noticed you were with Kevin Maclane BITD and thought you'd like to see he is still getting at her up here in Squamish. He moved here back in the seventies doing the usual logging thing and somehow evolved into a sort of buddhist monk climbing guide author.
Here's a picture of him from a month ago.



kevin Maclane on  <br/>
 <br/>
 <br/>
kevin Maclane on



Credit: Bruce Kay
Blakey

Trad climber
Sierra Vista
Author's Reply  Nov 11, 2013 - 04:58pm PT
This is a cross posted image from another TR. It's been my screensaver...
This is a cross posted image from another TR. It's been my screensaver for a while......
Credit: Blakey
eKat

Trad climber
  Nov 11, 2013 - 07:25pm PT
BBST!

(As a reminder = BBST = donini for Bump for a Better SuperTopo)
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