Tuesday, 11 September 2012

A summer of climbing

When its dry and the rivers are low, climbing is the perfect compliment to kayaking. Climbing stretches the spine and invigorates body parts kayaking cannot reach. 
So, finding myself in a gîte near Salon de Provence for most of August I just had to get some climbing done with my daughter Laura. Provence is a world famous climbing region with masses of limestone. To gain local knowledge we hired a guide who took us sport climbing near the picturesque village of Eygiuieres . When sport climbing the leader uses fixed bolts for protection on rock faces that generally have few cracks in which to place traditional gear.

Laura climbing at Eyguieres, nr Salon de Provence

Hearing about our rock escapades the owner of our gîte , Michel , was very keen to be taken climbing. To beat the heat we got up at 5.00am drove to Chateaux Virant to be at the foot of the rock face as the sun rose over Mont Saint Victoire.

Michel at Chateaux Virant, Provence

On the Sunday 2nd and Monday 3rd September, back in the UK, Stephen and I returned to Dorset for more sport climbing. After driving to Portland in the rain the weather cleared up and we spent Sunday afternoon exploring The Veranda of Battleship Back Cliff. 

Stephen starting ‘Phil’s Route’ Battleship Back Cliff, Portland

I love thumbing through climbing guides and reading the names given to climbs. Several climbs on The Veranda have musical references: ‘Love on the rocks ;)’ ‘Limestone cowboy’ (apologies to Glen Campbell) and ‘I get high with a little help from my friends’

Colin finishing ‘Phil’s Route’ Battleship Back Cliff, Portland

On Monday we drove over to Swanage to try some traditional climbing (Stephens favourite) When trad. climbing the leader places their own protection in cracks in the rock as he ascends. On reaching the top he can then belay a ‘second’ who takes out the protection as they climb. Traditional climbing can be considered the purest form of climbing.

Colin and stake belay above Subluminal cliff, Swanage

The climb we had selected was called ‘Suspension’ graded Severe. First we abseiled (not my favourite activity) onto a rock ledge 20ft above the sea. Anchored to the rock ledge I belayed Stephen as he lead the climb. (nicely done) Thee pulls on the rope meant he was safely at the top. Three further pulls  signalled that it was my turn , removing protection as I climbed. After testing Stephens belaying skills to the full I finally made it to the top with all the gear. Yes I did fall off!
I’ve been on a steep rocky learning curve this summer. Now I can’t wait to get back to white water kayaking.

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