Ceuse - Summer sport climbing in France

by Mark Glaister Aug/2011
This article has been read 41,739 times

This article, first published in 2005, has been reformatted for 2011.

Ceuse's long thin band of grey, ochre and steel blue limestone is often said to be the best sport climbing crag in the world. The validity of this statement is enhanced when its nearby cousin's in the South of France pale when comparisons are made with perhaps the exceptions of the Gorges du Verdon and Buoux.

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+Evening cragging in Ceuse, 64 kb
Evening cragging in Ceuse
© dave657, Sep 2010

Ceuse (Céüse) is positioned within easy reach of the southern French and Italian Alps and is easily viewed about 10km south west of the town of Gap.The climbing at Ceuse is all about long single pitch sports routes with a smattering of multi-pitch outings on its larger Grand Face. The rock is immaculate pocketed limestone with almost no loose rock or vegetation and is supplied with stunning blue and grey lines. The style of climbing usually involves a big helping of stamina and a willingness to climb between the good but often well spaced bolts. Grade wise Ceuse has always been promoted as a crag for those operating at the highest grades but this gives a skewed impression as there are now many routes in the grade range from 6a to 6c.

The unbroken line of crags that make up the various sectors at Ceuse are at an altitude of around 7000ft. Due to the altitude and the proximity of the massif to the main Alps the climbing season at Ceuse runs between late spring and autumn. Don't be tempted to go too early after a heavy snowfall winter as seepage and cornice danger are possible (the area above the crag is a ski area). Sun and shade are to be found in equal measure with the left side getting shade in the morning. The altitude keeps the air temperature manageable during the summer but the walk in is best done before the heat of the day kicks in.

+Unknown climber pulling through the crux roof on Tenere (F7c+)., 221 kb
Unknown climber pulling through the crux roof on Tenere (F7c+).
© ali k, Jul 2008

+Carte Blanche, 163 kb
Carte Blanche
© Dirk Smith, Jul 2011
Most of the pitches at Ceuse are three star. The far left of the crag is best known for the famous lines around the Cascade that drains from the summit plateau. Lines such as Mirage 7c+, Ténéré 7c+, Vagabond 7c, Le Privililege du Serpent 7c+ and Super Mikey 7b+ are all well travelled and their reputations known by many worldwide. For those looking for much easier clmbing the sectors left of the Cascadehave lots of good climbing in the 6th grade. Moving right from the Cascade sector a load more grade 6's present themselves before the overhanging lens of the Face de Rat. Next comes the show-piece of the crag in the form of Sector Berlin. Gone here are the rather ugly starting overhangs of the Cascades area leaving just the leaning 30m faint pocketlines of some of the most beautiful climbs anywhere. All the routes are exceptional with Blocage Violent 7b+, Berlin 7c+, La Couleur du Vent 8a, Zargreb 6c, Super Mario 6b, and La Petit Illusion 7a+ being the most popular. Next up is the awe inspiring Biographie sector home now to Chris Sharma's Realization at 9a+ one of the most difficult pitches in the world. For brilliantly sustained easier lines sector Demi Lune is as good a place to start as any with lots to go at around the central section and the lines of Katina 6a+, Papyrus 6b, Marylou 6b and Carte Noire 6a. The left side of the sector is defined by the long dark streak of La Femme Noire 7c+. For those looking for even more the cliff extends for as far again with more established routes and potential for many more.

+Ceuse - Cascade Sector, 169 kb
Ceuse - Cascade Sector
© ANC, Oct 2010


Logistics

Within an hour and a half of a number of low cost airline destinations Ceuse is easily within the striking distance of those searching out a quick hit from the UK. A car is required to get to the great camping site, but from the camping no driving is required, however be warned the base of the crag is an hours walk car or not.

When do I go?
Being at an altitude of around 7000ft and not too far from the Alps climbing at Ceuse is restricted to the period between late spring and autumn. Sun and shade are to be found in equal measure and the altitude keeps the air temperature manageable during the summer.

Who flies where?
Many of the UK based Lo-cost airlines fly to destinations that surround the Ceuse area. The main locations are Nimes, Marseille, Nice, Grenoble and Turin. Expect to pay between £10 and £150 for the return flight from the UK. Ryanair and Easyjet are the main flight providers for the region.

Where do I stay?
Camping at the lovely site of Les Guerins is recommended just up the hill from the village of Sigoyer. Gites are also prolific in the region. There is a small Hotel with a bar in Sigoyer.

What's the scoff like?
There is a small amount of food available from the campsite and in the village of Sigoyer. Large supermarkets are located in Gap along with many restaurants and bars. The small hotel in Sigoyer has a bar and restaurant.

Which guide do I buy?
France : Haute Provence
France : Haute Provence (Dec 2009)  Book

The first in a series of guidebook to the brilliant sport climbing found in the South of France. Haute Provence covers the crags from Céüse in the north, through Orpierre, Buis...
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Where can I buy gear and food?
Gap is the spot for all food requirements. Gear shops are located in the central area of town (see guidebook). A Decathlon is located on the road out of Gap in the direction of Briancon.

What else is there apart from the climbing?
You could spend an equally worthwhile trip without tying on to climb! Lovely villages stunning Walking and Mountain Biking, White Water thrills plus the Ecrins and its 4000m peaks just up the road.

+Mark Glaister, 95 kb

About Mark Glaister

Mark is a climbing writer and photographer who has travelled to crags near and far for 35+ years. Mark started out climbing at school with friends on the sea cliffs and inland crags of Devon. At 18 he packed up his flares and Whillans harness, tied back his long black hair (where did it go!) and headed for the North, living between the Peak and Dales before moving on to the Lakes for work where he was based for around 20 years. During the 90's, Mark with his then partner Emma travelled extensively spending 1995 to 2000 in a van in the States, Canada, Europe, OZ and New Zealand. The last decade has been a transient one hopping between the Lakes, North Wales, Devon and Lancs, with trips away mainly on guidebook (Rockfax) work or for articles to places such as Sardinia, Finale, Ceuse, El Chorro, Lofoten, Mallorca and Turkey.

UKC Articles and Gear Reviews by Mark Glaister:


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