Barberine GietrozValais West, SWITZERLAND
Climbs 220 – Rocktype Granite – Altitude 1300m – Faces all
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Sitting just twenty minutes drive from the world famous climbing town of Chamonix, the village of Vallorcine can be a haven of tranquility in comparison to the manic hustle-bustle just down the valley. If you are more interested in climbing perfect granite than posturing in a bar, then a quick trip to Vallorcine and its surrounding crags could be the perfect antidote to an overcrowded or weather threatened alpine trip.
Alan James on one of the easier routes on sector Afrique - L'Anormale (6b)
UKC Articles, Jun 2013
© Jack Geldard
The rock surrounding Vallorcine is a mixture of granite and gneiss and there are many different crags and sectors. The main area is a hillside above the hamlet of Barberine, known as Barberine and Gietroz (this is the area linked by the map on the right - or view the routes here in the UKC Logbooks). This area has virtually all styles of climbing, from the low angle and low grade multipitch slabs of Barberine, to the steep single pitch climbing of The Gorge (situated up the hill side above Barberine, and usually accessed from the Swiss village Gietroz) and a few mid grade single pitch venues such as The Zone and Sector Afrique. Outside of this collection there are plenty of other crags to go at; from single pitch shady venues, through to longer multipitch routes up the Berard Valley, such as L'ete Indien and Into the Wild which are fantastic multipitch outings in the tail end of the well known Aiguilles Rouges, facing the Mont Blanc Massif. The hidden small cliff of Le Couteray is an excellent little venue, but climbing is not officially allowed here, and climbers must be discreet. It is however home to a few routes between 6a+ and 8a+, with one of Europe's hardest offwidth climbs (Thai Boxing) splitting the crag down the middle (see photo below). And of course for those wanting something less extreme there is the easy access slab of the Dalle de Vallorcine, with first pitches popular with groups and children.
Spot the climbers! The ever popular Dalle de Vallorcine offers easy access multipitch slab climbing.
UKC Articles, Jun 2013
© Jack Geldard
As well as roped climbing, close to Vallorcine is a healthy does of bouldering up at the Col des Montets. These beautifully situated rocks are fairly roadside, have a great mountain view, and have problems of all grades, from simple slabs through to unclimbed projects on roadside blocs.
The easier crags in Vallorcine do get quite busy in the summer, as climbers spill over from Chamonix, especially if the weather is poor in the mountains, but if you explore the area a little more, it is fairly easy to get away from the larger crowds and have a subalpine, and sublime rocky experience with views of the Mont Blanc Massif, without having to dash for a cable car or fight your way down the snow arete on the Aiguille du Midi.
For those seeking more adventurous outings in the mountains, Vallorcine also has its own 'big crag'. Les Perrons de Vallorcine sit high above the village and have several large rock walls with long routes. Jon de Montjoye and Hilary Sharp made the first ascent of several of these routes, their last being - Bada Boom - back in 2010. This 11 pitch 7b monster of a line has had just a few repeats but is reportedly of the highest quality.
Jon de Montjoye told us:
"The steep multi-pitch routes on this magnificent south facing mountain crag are up to 370m high and are situated on the Franco Swiss border above Vallorcine. The approach from the Emosson Dam in an hour and fourty five minutes. I would recommend the following routes: Ballade des Gens Heureux 6a+, Squatteur de Lune and Grevolle Directe 6b+, Bada Bing 6c+, Bigger Bang 7a, Alea Jacta Est 7a+, Bada Boom 7b. The traverse of the Perrons is a classic in either direction, either for itself or as a finish after a route."
Rock Rider Helmet from Mammut
The Rock Rider is an extremely light in-mold climbing helmet suitable for a wide spectrum of applications: From sport climbing to alpine multi-pitch routes, and from classic high-altitude tours to ice and mixed climbing – this helmet offers outstanding performance in all kinds of terrain.
Sixteen ventilation openings together with air channels inside the helmet ensure an optimal temperature during strenuous climbing routes. The versatile, adjustable wearing system guarantees a perfect fit and high comfort.
For easy transport to the rock, the adjustment system can be folded into the helmet shell. For early morning starts in the mountains, the Rock Rider''s four stable clips can be used to safely and securely attach a headlamp.
Photo Gallery - Climbing around Vallorcine:
UKC Articles and Gear Reviews by Jack Geldard - UKC Chief Editor: