/ Sports climbing Ariege
I am aware of Chez Arran but just wanted to take a sounding from like minded punters ;)
In terms of quantity there's an enormous amount of developed climbing here, much of it in a very compact area no more than about 15 km in diameter. For grades 4, 5 and low 6s there's maybe, at a guess, at least several hundred good quality routes on three rock types and plenty more average or very short routes. I'd say it would take a herculean effort to run short in a month and certainly not in a week!
You're right about the grades, especially slabby low 6s, which can often feel 2 or 3 grades harder than equivalent steeper sport routes in the UK. Once you get up into higher grades they become much more comparable to most other areas. I think much of it is due to climbers here getting a lot of practice on thin or balancy routes so finding them relatively easier than steeper jug-hauls.
May is one of the best months in general as it's usually possible to climb on the higher (multi-pitch, sometimes trad) faces as well as on the valley crags. And it's not usually so warm by then that you won't be able to also climb on the south-facing valley crags, particularly in the mornings.
Plenty of good places to stay too - although obviously I may be a little biased as to which to recommend the most!
Thanks John. I did have a look at some on line topos but was struggling to find that many easy routes - clearly looking at the wrong crags. That's the problem with having no Rockfax guide to an area for those of us wanting it on a plate ;)
I'm not looking for grey slabs per se, and am happy on walls in 6a/+ territory and even the odd 6b. Maybe I need some coaching...
I may well send you an email about availability of accommodation in May but was checking it out as a concept first.
For the highest concentration of easy routes look at Auzat, Sinsat (Falaises, Verdun), Calames, Sedour and Appy, but there's plenty of others with more than enough good routes up to 6b for a whole day or more, and if you're into multi-pitch there are some amazing full day routes I can also recommend, on the Dent d'Orlu and elsewhere.
> Thanks John. I did have a look at some on line topos but was struggling to find that many easy routes - clearly looking at the wrong crags. That's the problem with having no Rockfax guide to an area for those of us wanting it on a plate ;)
Don't worry - we are on it. Won't be out for May though!
I knew you would be...
There goes the neighbourhood . . . . glad to have got a few trips in beforehand!
> I knew you would be...
End of the year probably.
+1 to everything above. We are operating up to mid 6's and there is loads to go at. Really, *lots*. If you only go for a week you will barely scratch the surface. Great rock too - the granite is a pleasure and even the low-grade limestone is sharp and rough.
We've been here 3 years and never even heard of anyone using it!
As for guides, there is one guide in English - a lovely modern photo-topo by Graham Lynch to the limestone around Niaux, which contains many of the best grade 6 and grade 7 sport sectors in Ariège. I'm not sure where if anywhere you can get this in the UK but we have a stock here for sale if you're interested. Alternatively there are French topo-guides to other areas such as Calamès, Sinsat and Orlu, which are all very usable even with no French language at all, although obviously the more French you know the better. The CAFMA online topos ( http://cafma.free.fr/plan.htm ) are a fantastic resource too, especially for single-pitch crags where you only really need a map and a simple line topo. The biggest weakness of these is that they don't tell you where the best routes are (but we can help with that!)
I forgot to mention that we have guides and printouts of the online topos for guests to use, so you don't really need to bring anything out with you at all ;-)
Thanks John. Trying to sort stuff out and not be too reliant on your help (plus I like to look at guides beforehand to get some inspiration) but I think I may well take you up on the offer of some assistance. Not seen the new Niaux guide advertised in the UK. I find the on-line topos really hard to get into but I will print the obviously relevant ones off. The long routes on the Orlu look interesting as well.
If you're staying with John, right next to Calames, and want to venture over to Auzat you may need some transport as we struggled to get rides that far.....I could be wrong though.
John - Is Donna (the scottish lady) still running the place down the road from you?
I think you have your Johns mixed up. Our chezarran.com place is in Ornolac, in the main Ariège valley between Tarascon and Sinsat. It's Jon Stoelker who has a place near Calamès.
We stayed with John and Anne (Arran) last May for 10 days. It was our first European sports climbing trip. At the time I climbed f6a-b, and Sophie, my Mrs climbed 5s. There was sooo much to go at and I went up a grade in 10 days. You will have no problem finding suitable stuff on limestone, granite or gneiss, and once you get there and look at the local tops it all makes sense. Definitely recommend Chez Arran (John, Anne, well be back in the not too distant future I hope...)
AH, Apologies for that John.
Cheers Jon number 2...that's a shame about Donna, she seemed to have a good set up there.
Few more questions.
Anybody camped here in late August:
It this a good base for the area or are there better sites for 16 nights?
Are many of the sports crags and bouldering areas kid friendly (3-5 year old boys)?
That time of year you'll probably need to book in advance, since that site seems very popular in the summer. I tend to prefer more remote camping with fewer facilities but other people I know with families seem to rate the site highly.
In terms of location you couldn't really do much better in August, as it's just a few km from Tarascon, very close to great shady limestone on both sides of the valley, not far from shady granite further up the valley, and very handy for other fun stuff like show caves, canyoning and horse-riding.
Many of the crags are kid-friendly enough, given the obvious limitations of being natural rock on hillsides. The initial sectors of Alliat are within walking distance and should be fine, as is Sibada on the other side of the valley. Up at Auzat the right hand sector is very popular with families. Plenty of other options too. Bouldering just a few km away at Laramade is kid-friendly at the bottom, on the good boulders in the meadow, but gets much steeper further back. The other good bouldering is at Orlu, half an hour or so away, which is a nice place for families too.
Thanks for taking the time to give such a great reply. Much appreciated.
What are you favorite more remote sites with less facilities (if you want to share that is, I'll understand if you want to keep silent on them!)
Sorry to say I haven't stayed at any more remote sites around here so can't really recommend anywhere. I was talking more generally in my earlier post. We stayed in a few places while scoping the area and house hunting a while back but for obvious reasons we don't tend to camp much here now!
Thanks for your help John.
It's at Lordat, up on the side of the Ax - Tarasacon valley. Pluses - spacious, great views, handy for the bird of prey show, cooler at night than down in the valley. Nearest crag - Appy which is good for half a day. Downside, lack of shade, and a slightly hairy drive (the first few times) down to Luzenac to reach the majority of the climbing areas.
Thanks for the info
In reply to john arran:
Personally I thought their biggest weakness was that a few of the topos (and indeed descriptions, to a lesser extent) for the remoter mountain routes bore no resemblance whatsoever to what was on the ground! Oh well, all adds to the adventure! Other than that they were excellent, though.
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