Sunday, April 28, 2019

Spring Climbing in Provence

As part of our somewhat theme this year of improving our climbing skills we decided to do a concentrated week of climbing with a group. Last time we tried this we had fun, so we figured why not try again. This time the destination was Provence...

We met the gang in the cold drizzle at the train station in Bern on Sunday, piled into the van, and then drove down to Eygalières (with an amusing shopping stop in Avignon, the only place we knew a supermarket would be open) and the nice weather. After installing ourselves in the villa we had a nice apero, did a real round of introductions, and then talked about what was to come during the week. We followed up with dinner prep, a good meal, and then headed off to bed.
Villa Las Rosas
Intro day, make sure everyone knows the basics and that the guide has some confidence that we're not going to kill each other while climbing.
Climbing in Orgon, Sector Beauregard Mur du quatre
Lots of easy routes and general practice

G, F, E, C
Orgon, Sector Beauregard, Mur du quatre
Unusual day since we didn't climb together. Nice location with some longer routes and good views, though it did end up getting rather crowded

Aureille, Sector Latran
E, H, I, J (top rope), K (tried and failed top rope), R (tried and failed lead and top rope)

A, I, E (lead and top rope with approach shoes), J (top rope)

Sector Rue du Moulin
C, D (top rope speed - there unfortunately wasn't time to do it in lead)

For dinner we did some grilling. We didn't actually have any charcoal or wood easily available, so creativity was required. :-)
Climbing with views
Drive down to Calanques, hike into Le Pouce, climb, long drive back.
Topos from the new version of the Calanques book, we only have photos.
Fun climbing with nice views on limestone that was almost white; plenty of other people around.

Sector Le Pouce gauche:
N, O
Sector Le Pouce droit:
B, I, F, A, C
I again as a crack climb and to downclimb
F again, top rope in approach shoes
A with downclimb by us bothand, again quasi-speed from Greg
Calanque de Sormiou, Le pouce in upper left corner
Mouriès Nord, Prairie
Idyllic location, great slab climbing and we were mostly along (just one other pair in one of the other sectors).
It rained gently for a bit less than an hour just after Greg finished the first route, but we waited another hour (doing knot practice and drinking coffee) and everything dried out and was great.

U right, U left, S, T, X, Z, A (top rope Andrea, Greg failed on top rope), X again (greg)

Nice dinner in Eygalières afterwards.
lovely meadow and rock at Prairie
Today we did a bit of projecting.
Orgon, Acteur's Studio
Nice place to climb, only one other group near us.

V (lead and toprope), P (project - we were supposed to do this redpoint, Andrea made it to the second to last bolt, greg flashed after watching Andrea), I (greg failed), H (Andrea failed, greg lead), M (greg failed on lead)
project at Acteur's Studio
packing up and heading back to Bern and, once again, crap weather.

Not something we'd want to do every year, but we had a lot of fun and learned a good amount. The group also worked really well and we ate well, neither of which is a given. :-)

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Easter climbing near Locarno

It's now definitely a tradition for us to spend the Easter weekend (or at least some time in spring) climbing around Locarno. This time we stayed in Locarno itself in our "usual" hotel. We were wel organized with dinner reservations, again, and made dinner reservations for Fri and Sat on Thurs evening. So Thursday was pizza in the hotel, Friday was Osteria Borghese, Saturday was Citadelle, and Sunday was Loconda Locarnese (we noticed this after dinner on Thursday and made the reservation on Friday). We ate very well. :-)

The climbing:

Thursday afternoon
The usual warm-up climbing at the Rovine del Castelliere.

  • Capretto: 5a 
  • Sibi: 5c 
  • Ramezzo: 5a+ 
  • Vespa: 5b 
  • Mich: 5c 

Very nice to be back in Tessin and enjoying the lovely gneiss.

Multi-pitches on the wonderful slabs at Placche Rosse

  • Lavori di giardinaggio (4c, 4b, 5a, 5a, 5a, 5b, Andrea started) 
  • Pation (5c, 5c, 5b, 5a, 5b, Andrea started) 

Unbelievably, we had the slabs completely to ourselves. This is such enjoyable climbing: a game with careful footwork, balance, and psychology. Loads of "well, let's just see... oh! that foot placement did work!" moments. The abseils went pretty well too. Each route took about 2 hours, including abseiling.

Since we're sure to forget, again, here's a photo of what the very well marked turnoff to the approach path looks like:

Quartzader, the long route on the Speroni that we also did last time. This time Greg started and did the whole thing free. A opted for a single p.a. on the 6a pitch.

Though we got there early, there was an SAC Jo group (9 total) there in front of us, and we ended up going up behind them. Lots of waiting ensued, but we switched ourselves to expect it and the two kids in front of us were amusing, so it ended up being fun. The route really is a nice one. Total climbing time, including all the waiting, was about five hours. If we'd been on our own it certainly would have been quicker.

After a nice lunch break up top (the group, thankfully, left relatively quickly), we opted to just walk back to Locarno. So instead of descending through the gorge, we traversed through the woods (on a mostly decent path) to p647 (above the hut marked Scogli on the map) and followed the trail/road/trail/road the rest of the way back to Locarno. This was a nice walk.

A new area for us: Balladrum. We took the bus to Ascona and then walked up. After a bit of extra walking (wrong turn along the way) we made our way to the crag, which has an awesome view out over the lake.

When we arrived there was one other couple there (beginners). We started with Dickschädel (4c on the wall, 5a in the SAC book), which was steep and more challenging than it seemed like it should have been (maybe the style change was just too extreme?). Then Andrea did Kathleen (5a), Greg's head wasn't in it, so he did the route in top rope. We both then top-roped Da chi o da la (5c).

We then did Der Pirat (4b) in our normal shoes (Andrea in her approach shoes, Greg in running shoes), which was hugely fun. We remembered that it's also good to practice downclimbing, so Andrea did that. Greg wanted to play too, so he did a speed climb back up in top rope and then downclimbed. After a quick lunch break we did Hunter (4c) in the normal shoes, with downclimbing, too. Really fun stuff and great practice for mountaineering season.

At this point we were ready to go back to "real" climbing, but unfortunately the crag had filled up and the routes we were interested in were all occupied. Rather than hanging around waiting (and then climbing in a crowd), we opted to just head back. The first stop was for a beer at the kiosk in the park at Premcagno. Afterwards, since it wasn't that far, we ended up walking back to Locarno instead of taking the bus.

After arriving in Ponte Brolla, Andrea proposed that we do one of the easy multi-pitches on Rovine del Castelliere wearing our approach shoes. We were early enough that it was unlikely to be crowded, so we did that. We started at the very bottom on the easy slab to get oriented (not super easy...) and ended up taking Coniglio to the top. At the moment it seems like 4a is about the best we can do with the approach shoes on that kind of slab. And that wasn't always easy.

Up top we enjoyed the solitude (alone!) and views during our lunch break with a great view. We walked around the corner and down to the first abseil stand and then did a few abseils to get back to one of the shelves with a lot of routes. And lots of people. Lots of people. Andrea climbed XXX (5b, in the climbing shoes), but Greg was too bothered by the crowds to feel like he could get back into climbing.

After descending to Ponte Brolla we took the bus back to Locarno, picked our extra stuff up at the hotel, had a snack break on a park bench, and then went to the train station to see if we could find a seat on the train at around 15:30 (we had seat reservations for the 16:30 train). Since we were 30 minutes early and the train was already there, this worked quite nicely... we got a pair of seats and then settled down for the long, full, train ride back home.