Gorges du Tarn

I’ve just returned from a trip to Gorges du Tarn in the south of France. We were a mixed team with Glyn and I looking for 7s and low 8s, and Kerry and David on 5s and 6s. The Tarn is great for maybe 6c and up so we checked out the nearby areas of Le Boffi and Gorge de la Jonte too.

We took the midnight ferry to Calais (screaming kids running wild is not conducive to getting any sleep) and drove down via Lyon. Here we sat in 3 hours of traffic and then picked up Glyn who’d been living in Chamonix for the summer. The drive from Lyon to the Tarn is amazing: scenic with really fun roads. And the last section through the gorges brought out many oohs and aahs from my rock-hungry passengers.

We pitched up at Camping Beldoire in Les Vignes, a friendly campsite by the river. By this time it was about half past seven in the evening and we’d begun our journey 26 hours before. But we were here! We had to climb! So after a quick swim in the river, which was surprisingly cold with a surprisingly strong current, we headed for the Sector Figues au Cul. Glyn and I led a couple of 6s on the right – which the other’s top-roped – and then we both on-sighted Les Couilles au Cul, a nice 7a (Glyn took a headtorch for his ascent). We were back at the campsite enjoying dinner by half past eleven.

Me taking a 'victory jump' (failing to bring enough draws to clip the chains!)

The next day it rained, but most of the crags are big and steep so we went up to Sector Tennessee and all did Choc Frontal 5+ and Souvenir de Bleau 6c. The latter was an apt name, with both routes having delicate, smeary moves throughout. Glyn then attempted Tennessee, not realising that the extension was 8b rather than 7a+! A lot of the routes are still closed due to re-bolting (see http://www.ukclimbing.com/forums/t.php?n=509435), so we headed down to De Que fas Aqui? and did Feerie…, an awesome 7a+ corner. I didn’t take quite enough draws with me so had a fun jump from the chains! We also did Farniente, a good 7a and I had a play on Moules Frites, an 8a with a desperate crux section.

Day 3 we went to Le Boffi and visited sector Damned. A good range of 4s, 5s and 6s kept Kerry and David happy while Glyn Redpointed P1 of Sac a Glue 7b+. Great moves but a tad reachy for me. We also did Mac du Mal, a cool 7a+.

Glyn red-pointing Sac a Glue

A semi rest day was in order the following day due to my tattered finger tips. We swam in the pool, sun bathed, swam in the river, ate scrambled eggs, did a spot of easy climbing and then went out for pizza. All rest days should be like this!

The next day was the big day for me, Sector Tennessee. I had a big on-sight and a big flash in mind. We warmed up De Que fas Aqui on a cool un-named 6b+ and P1 of Self Control, a 7a with nice delicate face climbing but a steep crux low down. Up at Tennessee we smashed in the awesome big 7b crack-line of Une Colonne Derriere les Verrous and the pocket pulling dream Les Ailes du Desir 7b+. Both onsight for me and Glyn (you can’t see anything useful from the belay on either). We both had a look at the 8a extension but were pretty knackered and psyched out so left it after a couple of spacey falls. Kerry then had her first lead fall(s) on Orange Sanguine down by the road, not giving up ’til her arms wouldn’t pull any more – brave girl!

Kerry, moments before the lob!

Back to le Boffi the following day and Dave and I visited Sector Generation Mythe Errant and did the route of the same name, plus Dave led his first 6a after maybe 4 months of sport climbing. Impressive! He also seconded 6b+. We then headed back to Sector Damned and Glyn and I did one of the awesome 6cs there, followed by the crack pitch of French Kiss 7a+. I then scraped a guns blazing on-sight of Qui Pese ou Qui Pose 7b, and Glyn Cruised on the flash, wicked route.

Dave: "I'm done in, let me down!" Me: "Go on, pull a bit harder" Dave: "Um, OK" (Throws in a drop knee and cruises to the top)

On the Saturday we went to check out Gorge de la Jonte. Very cool place, loads of rock. We did a few routes at Les Patates and then headed over to Le Reverend where Glyn was psyched for El Monstro Del Muesli! He on-sighted the 7b to the first lower off, then went bolt-to-bolt to work the top section. I then flashed the 7b and dogged the top too. Glyn set off for a quick redpoint, not expecting to do it, and absolutely cruised it! Very impressive stuff. I gave it an attempt that evening and two more the next day before we left for home, but kept falling off the crux. Not enough muesli.

Me Attempting El Monstro Del Muesli!

And then home! We dropped Glyn off in Lyon and drove through the night for the 6am ferry, with more over-tired kids. That evening I thoroughly enjoyed falling asleep to 2 films in a row.

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