Altitude 991m a.s.l
The magnificently-positioned Wideislove (5+) in the Verdon. © Alan James
The Verdon Gorge is one of Europe's prime climbing destinations; huge cliffs, magnificent rock, easy access, dramatic situations and an amiable climate for a good part of the year. The majority of the routes are reasonably well bolted, though a significant number of climbs, including several of the major classics, require the carrying of a light rack. Double ropes are sensible on any of the longer routes; whether or not to carry a rucksack, approach shoes, wind/waterproof, water depends on weather conditions and team ability. Benightments are not that uncommon on the longer routes, the balance between speed and safety is a tricky one - as ever!
If approaching routes from above, it makes sense to ensure you are in the right place before committing to the abseils. Almost all routes have their names painted at the top (on plaques or on the rock), but often these are faded or tricky to find, sometimes a bit of detective work is required to ensure you have the correct starting point. It is worth pointing out that many of the grades feel pretty stiff, though a large element of this is the awe-inspiring setting of many of the climbs. Having a grade or two in hand may be a good idea until you get the feel of the place.
Most will find the grades here fairly stiff so be prepared to drop a few grades. Approach is usually from above by abseil or by walking along the bottom of the gorge (Sentier Martel) for the longer routes.
The Verdon Gorge is one of southern France’s geological marvels and it has long been a major (as in; 'take one look down then drive away') tourist destination in the summer months. In the winter it can be snowy and very cold up here. The gorge is situated 60km north of the coast and is reached by some pretty tortuous roads. The areas covered here are normally accessed from the tiny hamlet of La Palud, at an altitude of around c1000m, which is reached either from Castellane (to the east) or Moustiers-Sainte-Marie to the west via the D952 which links the two towns, in about an hour's drive.
All the routes described in the Gorge are either accessed from above, generally by abseil, from one of various parking spots along the Route des Crêtes, the road that runs in a loop from La Palud, or from below, parking at the Couloir Sampson. A short section of the Route des Crêtes just west of its highest section is one-way (clockwise).
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