Off to France on Monday for 10 days and was wondering if anyone had any tips or recommendations for a first visit to the Verdon?
Climbing around British 5c and 6b+ sport. Mainly looking for the longer multi pitch sport routes but will have a full trad rack with us as well.
I was there last week for a couple of days. Still reasonably quiet. There's a new guidebook that appeared this year available in the the climbing shop.
Apart from lowering in and toproping top pitches, the obvious first places to go are Dalles Grises - bombproof abseils in and a whole host of routes at the right grade. Helmet essential as the abseils are popular as they also provide access to other secteurs. Grades are quite stiff so start off below your top grade! Further up the road is a crag with an even easier approach - 10m from your car - at the Dent d'Aire parking. Easy abseils in and a handful of 3 pitch routes from about 5+ to 6b+. The downside is of course its easy access as it's popular with guides and clients.
It was OK in the sun last week, but has suddenly become a lot hotter - suncream! Maybe look for shade...
Expect to get spanked!!
Attach your rock shoes to your ankles somehow to make sure they don't tumble off into the void when you slip them off at belays.
Make sure you check out the pizza van in La Palud!
If, like me, you intensely dislike polish, looking at the equipping date is a good guide. Newer routes also tend to be bolted in a much more friendly manner.
The last time I was there the newer guides just repeated all the mistakes and inaccuracies of the older guides, so if something looks a bit wrong, it probably is. The topos are not great in reliability terms compared to other popular areas.
If you get a hot spell, the climbing on the Rive Gauche (left bank) of the gorge is in another guidebook and a lot of it is very nice (plenty of easier routes there too) and much of it is in the shade all day or almost all day. You can still find shade on the popular side mind, it's just trickier and means moving from one sector to another between morning and afternoon.
Don't leave things that people might like to steal visible in your car/van and lock the doors at night. Marseille is close enough that it is a target for criminals going on a wilderness crime spree, if you talk to Verdon regulars it isn't long before the stories start to flow about their experiences of crime. On the up-side I never heard any stories that involved violence.
The instant exposure of abbing over the edge to a hanging belay for a little single-pitch route in the sky is quite something to experience and definitely not to be missed.
> I never experienced this in 3 Verdon trips. Grades always seemed on point.
Assuming you are going to the classic Verdon and not one of the modern steep single-pitch sectors, the climbing is vertical or slabby and pretty technical with variably worrying runouts between bolts. So if you do a lot of UK trad the grades might feel quite fair. If you do a lot of steep tufa/jug pulling with bolts every 1.5 metres in Leonidio/Kalymnos/Rodellar/etc/etc then the grades might feel quite hard.
Watch out for 6a's, particularly crack climbs. I was told the reason for this is a lot of them were opened before people starting grading anything 6b.
Sometimes the bolts are very spaced on easier sections, don't just romp up expecting to find a bolt at some point - be careful with route finding, and don't do a move you don't really want to reverse 6 or 7m above your last bolt, shout down to your belayer to check the guidebook, and find yourself on a balancy traverse round a bulge to get back on the route.
> Don't leave things that people might like to steal visible in your car/van and lock the doors at night. Marseille is close enough that it is a target for criminals going on a wilderness crime spree, if you talk to Verdon regulars it isn't long before the stories start to flow about their experiences of crime. On the up-side I never heard any stories that involved violence.
I was there a few times with a friend from Marseille, he always left the glove compartment open and his car unlocked. He also had angry words with someone that was going round trying car doors one time we were there.
> It’s hard to even conceive of a better route than this at the grade (maybe even any grade):
Indeed! As a first route in the gorge it'd be guaranteed to loosen the bowels!
In fact, it's so good I did it three times in the early 80s. The last time, we were joined by a guide with two clients who rapped down just as we'd got tied in on the hanging belay and I was setting off on the first pitch. As I looked down at the four of them swinging from a couple of 8mm bolts (1983), I felt quite thankful that I'd got a few protection bolts clipped between me and Pete... The guide followed Pete's heels up the pitch and immediately began to belay his clients, climbing together, up the first pitch. I was gobsmacked to see that he'd simply passed his two ropes through a krab on the belay - no Italian hitch or device of any kind - and just clamped the 4 strands of rope together underneath the krab with his hands. One client did slip causing mild consternation but he just clamped tighter and luckily the client rejoined the rock pretty quickly...
I climbed in the Gorges du Verdon last year and used the guidebook Rock around the world : https://omegaroc.com/en/multi-pitch-climbing-guidebook-rock-around-the-world/
There is a selection of almost 30 routes at grade 6b-6c. Every route I climbed was excellent.
I also use this book for my trip in Jordan in 2020 and it was very helpful
Enjoy the Verdon
The obvious "Big Tick" multi-pitch routes are La Demand https://rockaroundtheworld.co.uk/2016/05/21/la-demand/ and ULA https://rockaroundtheworld.co.uk/2016/05/19/a-taste-of-exposure/ but neither could be described as sport routes.
Another suggestion for a wet day venue would be Sector Hulk https://rockaroundtheworld.co.uk/2016/05/19/sector-hulk-and-an-adventure-in-the-depths/
and if you want a nearby sport venue out of the mountains you could check out Quinson https://rockaroundtheworld.co.uk/2021/11/19/quinson-climbing-by-the-verdon-but-not-as-we-know-it/
Enjoy Verdon - it's fully deserving of the over-used "World Class" accolade! Cheers, Dom
If you can find the guidebook "52 years and 520 routes" (in English or French), it is by far the best guidebook, but sadly out of print in both languages. Otherwise, Bruno Clément's book VERDON INTE'GRAAL is the second choice. I have not used Le Verdon 2022 from Lei Lagramusas, but I have heard that it is as riddled with errors as their 2010 guidebook.
Recommended routes up to 6b+: Afin que nul ne Meure (6a+), Ticket Danger (6c) (the last 4 pitches to make it 6a+), Rivière d'Argent (6b+),Rêves de Fer (6b+) (I think the route is actually called Rêve de Fer, but whatever), La Demande (6a). Of these, only La Demande requires a rack.
> It’s hard to even conceive of a better route than this at the grade (maybe even any grade):
I abbed down the wrong line for this and ended up hanging in space 60m below the start of it. it was absolutely traumatic. I quickly learned I can’t prussic and took 2.5hrs to climb my rope by wrapping it around my legs. I then had to do some sketchy transverse to the bottom of it and lead the whole thing as my partner had already lost the plot due to the ordeal of getting to the belay!
Without a doubt the scariest experience I’ve ever had.
"Impressed"...that's one word for it. I went with a mate as a very young, very green sports climbing newbie (6b on a good day) having been spanked by Buoux slabs and looking for something "easier"...maybe we started in the wrong place but I just remember looking over the edge, feeling a slight loosening of the bowels and then executing a Monty Python style "run away!!" manoeuvre...
I'm planning to head to Verdon in late summer this year. Very interesting to read the comments here on how hard the routes are. I would probably restrict myself to the 6a Verdon routes, which I believe leaves plenty of variety.
I'm a confident HVS leader, occasional E1 5b leader (can definitely follow any E1 5b), and I routinely (e.g. yesterday) lead onsite sport 6a and 6a+ in UK without falling. At sport 6b I tend to fall or rest maybe 50% of the time. But i always get up it. At 6c there is realistically little chance i will onsite without many rests or falls. And i might not make it to the top without genuine rope-assistance.
Just so that I'm being realistic - and i don't ruin the experience for other climbing partners - please would someone suggest some UK routes that i should use as a benchmark? e.g. - if you can onsite these 5 climbs, then you are good to go on Verdon 6a.
The 520 routes … guidebook by Pascal Faudou is good to have, second choice the lei lagramusas from this year. If you want to operate in the 6a-6b range, the new routes by Pascal Faudou are a sure bet. ( Crise de gouttes, les doigts dans le nez ….)Pretty new, so not nearly as polished as the old classics of the same diffficulty ( afin que.., ticket etc…) . Do some on the main Escalès cliff for the history , exposure etc, but the other crags are worth a go too
Amazing place but personally I found very nice to have a grade in hand, first time I went was an eye opener, if you do trad as well la demande is the obvious tick, polished but still amazing. Wide is love is a great intro to the exposure of the gorge. There are lots of nice single/2pitch routes off the lip for evenings with a bigger route in the morning before the heat of the day kicks in. les doigts dans le nez is a great sustained 6a+. If you need a change of venue for a day due to weather/exposure etc buoux is incredible and close ish as well.
Thanks everyone for the recommendations, we started off yesterday at the Dent d’Aire and got a few nice routes in in the evening. Been round the road a few times and got a feel for the place so looking forward to more, got a bit spanked by the style last night but I’ve never climbed on limestone before so I’m going with that!
Word of warning Duncan, it is very warm just now and not the sort of weather I think would be fun for climbing in the sun. We’ve been going out around 3pm to get the south and east facing crags in the shade and they’ve been lovely, especially with a breeze.
> Start with Wide is Love, to get your head in.
What he said. Easy access, one pitch and the belay from heaven or hell depending on your view on things. The only really memorable sport climb I've done and frankly, that's for the position, the belay, pulling the ropes down and the first 15 feet. Big air, very big air....
If only. I was onsighting a fair bit of 7a uk and there were 6b pitches in the verdon i simply couldn't do on a top rope. Old routes are graded hard and spaced, really spaced bolts. So it's hard to know what you are getting in to as you ab in.
A complete ish guide is good yo have because there are lots if routes and when you get down it is easier to sort out what is what than a select guide. Also they show the escape routes off the terraces.
Go Dalle grise area. Know how to ab properly.
> In 52 years, 520 routes they advise climbers who go down Rêve de Fer to carefully count the raps to avoid “un grand moment de solitude avec le prusik”
It must be common then. Had I been able to communicate with anyone I may well have called for rescue. But I couldn’t and in any case I had no idea how they would actually rescue me. I was just hanging there in free space hundreds of meters off the ground in a right sorry state. I was at least 5m from the rock so couldn’t even use that to help me get back up.
Funnily enough I did a similar thing the second time I did wide is love. I dropped into the 6c next to it. Realised it looked quite a bit harder. I just rigged a sort of self belay thing and climbed back out on the top rope. Stopped half way to sort it all out and carried on. That was actually quite fun.
Many thanks to all for the recommendations. We had a great trip, unfortunately it was unseasonably hot for May and we couldn't really climb before late afternoon many days. I also found the grading quite stiff, but I also did little to no training or climbing before I went so the 6b's were hard enough and had a fun time being schooled on how to pull on quickdraws!
La Demande is a real marvel of the Gorge, the chimney pitches are outstanding and hellish in equal measure (the polish is horrific).
High marks for the pizza van that is run by a genuinely nice couple, Lou Cafetie for good food and beer and the bakery for 10/10 bread and pastries. Jean-Marc who runs Camping Bio du Verdon is also a great guy and helped us immensely when we arrived with beta about suitable routes and has been climbing in the area for many years, would happily go and stay there again.
Hopefully going back in October with stronger fingers so please drop any other recommendations you might have.