Thursday, 22 October 2015

The Dark Basalt Columns of the Auvergne

Kevin on L'eros-gene

A canoe trip on the River Allier in the Massif Central France gave Kevin and I a great opportunity to visit this sport climbing outcrop near le Pradel.

For a full description of this bolted outcrop visit:

'Sacre blue!' I hear you say. Bolting basalt columns is like bolting Fingles Cave in the UK or selling the  Giants Causeway to the Chinese! To put this 'rock desecration' into context however one has to realise just how much basalt there is in the Massif Central. 2.6 million years ago or so the area contained hundreds of active volcanoes and consequently great lava lakes. When these lava lakes slowly froze, contraction sometimes formed a palisade of vertical basalt columns. Over millions of years erosion by the River Allier has exposed these columns to view providing tantalising climbing possibilities. These outcrops are numerous along the Allier Valley so one should not feel too outraged by the odd bolted area.

The outcrop is not visible from the road if you approach from Lavoute Chilhac. The approach path was signposted, a bit steep in places and takes about 20 minute walking through lovely woodland. Eventually we emerged from the woods at the foot of the outcrop with its basalt columns sweeping upwards like giant reddish black teeth.

We walked along the foot of the outcrop to find the easier climbs at the extreme right hand end. The outcrop is south facing so to avoid the heat of the day we arrived at around 6.00pm. This only gave us an hour or so of climbing. With printout of climbs in hand we quickly found the grade five climb pictured below:

Erogenous zone

With a name like that how could we resist and I was soon leading it in the twilight.

When it was Kevin's turn to climb twilight had turned to dusk. He completed the climb is some style but when the time came to coil the rope and pack it away I was cursing not bringing a head torch. We lost the track on the way back  in the pitch dark which was far scarier than L'eros- gene!

Basalt columns at Le pradel viewed from across the Allier Valley.

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