Friday, 17 April 2015

Sport climbing in the South of France

Winter in Cassis holds the promise of a visit to the world famous climbing areas of the Calanques and Cap Canaille. Actually Cassis is rather far from the more popular climbing venues of the Calanques. But there are a couple of single pitch sport climbing areas accessible from Port Miou ten minutes drive from Cassis.

Calendal sport climbing area with Port Miou in the background

Most of the climbs here are grade 5 and 6 but there are a few 4's at Calendal.

The imposing cliffs of cap Canaille from Plage L'Arene

More accessible from Cassis via the Route Des Cretes is the amazing Cap Canaille. The guide book says 'Canaille is absolutely no climbing practice area' The cliffs are geologically complex and many routes have + 10 pitches many grade 6 and above. However on top of Cap Caneille are a couple of interesting single pitch sport climbing areas catering for all levels of difficulty.

Vallon de Mallombre
 The Vallon de Mallombre is north facing and therefore great on a hot summers day. The Semaphore Area is south facing so great on a winters day and this is the area my daughter Laura and I chose to spend an afternoon on a couple of single pitch sport climbs.

The drive to the Semaphore car park is an adventure in itself as the Route des Cretes is a petrol heads dream.

Route des Cretes beloved of motor cyclists.
 I'm relieved to say Laura's rental Alfa Romeo handled the corners nicely.

On a previous reconnaissance we had discovered a number of bolted climbs a short walk from the car park. These were on a mixture of grey limestone and 'pudding stone'

 Imagine you have collected a load of pebbles from a beach and mixed them into a cement matrix: that is like pudding stone which was produced in a river delta millions of years ago perhaps? It looks crumbly but can be very sound to climb on  providing reassuring holds. In fact an excellent beginners climbing surface.

A flavour of what its like to climb here can be seen at

Because the Semaphore area is positioned on top of  a 300m cliff there are excellent Mediterranean views with a sensation of great height even though the climbs themselves are not very high.

We had an excellent afternoon on Cap Canaille. The sea cliffs themselves offer hard  sport routes which are more like mountaineering but here and there are excellent bolted practice areas. We'll be back next year!


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