Sunday, June 24, 2012


The last month or so of my life has been a total whirlwind of activity and adventure. I celebrated my 27th birthday on May 16th, finished my first year of grad school on the 17th, and left for a three and a half week climbing trip in France on the 19th.

Upon arriving in Paris at 7 a.m., jet-lagged and already sleep-deprived from the previous week of finals, Jonathan and I decided that the best way to torture me in my exhausted state was to wander endless halls of the Louvre- the leviathan of all art museums.

France... bread... synonymous.
I bravely lasted a few hours before I became so tired that my need for sleep overpowered my love for art. By the time we were on the subway, I fell asleep sitting up, and Jonathan had to catch me as I slid out of my seat.

waiting for the subway train
We also visited Notre Dame. It was pouring rain outside.

After one night in Paris, we drove seven hours south to the tiny mountain village of Sigoyer where we rented a little "gite" just underneath the legendary Céüse, which is often considered the best sport climbing crag in the world. 

the steps to our little house

cows. everywhere.
baby horse.

Everything about this area was phenomenal- the verdant scenery, the friendly country folk, the pastures of dairy cows, the sweeping fields of wildflowers- and of course, the impeccable climbing.

wildflowers for days...

the view outside of our bedroom window...
which sometimes included... kitties!!

The crag is located on top of a giant hillside, which means that every day we got to (had to) hike uphill for about an hour to reach the climbing. Being a Colorado native, I'm no stranger to hiking, and although I had been warned about the hike being rather heinous, I was convinced it would be no big deal for me. The first day confirmed my assumptions- the hike was long, but really not that bad. The next day the trail somehow seemed to have gotten a little bit longer... the third day the distance increased again... and so on and so forth until I had to forfeit my opinion and concede that indeed the hike is nothing trivial. In fact, it's exhausting. 

up and down this whole thing. every day.

We often ended up climbing until sunset and hiking out by moonlight.
Atop this uphill slog sits a sweeping stretch of tan limestone bedecked with streaks of blue, home to a legion of world class routes- many of which are (in my opinion) run out enough to be considered scary. I spent the first week of my trip trying to remember how to climb outside, adjusting to the cliff's style of crimps and pockets, and getting used to climbing well above the last bolt. 

The following week I climbed Angel Dust, which is considered by some to be the best 12a on Earth. It was incredibly fun- sustained and technical with great rhythm and some thrilling run outs. I also did San John's Pecos 12c, an absolutely beautiful line that climbed up a blue streak on pockets, through a run out upper section to a bouldery crux right at the top of the route when you're good and pumped. For the remainder of the trip I tried Maka Walu, a really fun, sustained, and pumpy 13a. Other highlights included belaying Jonathan on Corail de la Vie, a 14c first ascent, and watching Adam Ondra on Jungle Boogie, a 15a first ascent.

Jonathan on his F.A.
The Berlin Wall
The view from Céüse is one of the most beautiful I've seen from any crag. Couple that with the serene sound of bells clanging in the distance (a noise that traveled from a goat farm at the base of the hike) and the quick rolling clouds that traversed the sky and changed the light numerous times per hour... it's breathtaking.

Outside of climbing, we made the most of our limited time in France. We visited an old friend from high school, Andy Kovacic, who was attending the Cannes Film Festival with his short film Nando. We stayed with him at a veritable villa in Nice, spending the day swimming in the Mediterranean and walking the picturesque streets. Nice is believed to be among the oldest human settlements in Europe- around 350 BC Greeks of Marseille founded a permanent settlement there and called it Nikaia after Nike, the goddess of victory. Through the ages, the town changed hands many times due to its strategic location and port. I felt a palpable sense of history when wandering through the town- a feeling of depth and a placidity that only comes with great age.

We also visited the alpine town of Chamonix, home of Mont Blanc, the highest mountain not only in the Alps, but in the European Union as well. We attended an Arc'teryx climbing festival, which for us included a VIP dinner high up in the mountains at a tiny restaraunt/hotel that you can only reach by a small train. Apparently Napoleon used to hang out there, and I can understand why- the views were stunning and the four course meal and wine were scrumptious.

The view from the restaurant
The Alps

On a different rest day, we spent the day in the Verdon Gorge, a spectacular area adorned with jewel like turquoise waters. The natural beauty of southern France truly impressed this jaded Colorado girl.

My time climbing at Céüse, though all too brief, prepared me for a summer full of adventure and climbing. The skin on my hands is tougher from the harsh limestone, my legs and heart are stronger from the daily hike, and perhaps most notably, my head is much calmer- after those run outs, I think every climb that I get on this summer will seem tame in comparison. I just got back to the States a little over a week ago, and am already planning my next excursion. 

As always, thanks for reading!

No comments:

Post a Comment