Friday, May 21, 2010

The French Files, Part 1

Winter finally came to end for me kicking and screaming…it held on for dear life as long as I could let it (or as long as my cool work opportunities could let it!). The season came to a close with helping to administer the AMGA Ski Mountaineering Guides Exam. We ran this program in a new venue: Hatcher Pass and Girdwood Alaska. I would show you all the cool places we went, and fun videos of the candidates working hard and skiing really cool things, but 10 days of long hours and hard work led me to be the biggest bumbly ever on the plane flight home. I didn’t realize my pack was open under my seat on my first flight back from AK, but my camera, ipod and altimeter watch all fell out. Ouch, that is a huge loss, can you say take a match to $1000 dollars? Well, you can’t dwell on that stuff to long, its only money and material goods. Lucky for me, I have great jobs and am not in dire straights financially while I live my dreams. Really, LUCKY ME!

So I got ‘home’ to Squamish for about a day, and then had to go to some meetings for the Backcountry Lodge owners of British Columbia in Penticton, so I got to actually rock climb for a day in Skaha! So psyched to be on the rock again, even got to almost onsight an 11d on the first day, except the baby butt smooth and WET rock at the chains sent me for my first big whipper of the season! Good times.

We returned home to Squamish and basically packed for the next adventure. 5 weeks in France! Clipping bolts, drinking red wine, eating soft cheeses. Holiday!

We started our journey in the Gorges Du Tarn, an area in the Midi-Pyrennes in southern France. It seems that the Tarn is not quite on the radar for global/European tourists, but very much so for the French. No one really spoke a lick of English around there, and Jasmin was forced to open up the corners of her mind of grade school French, and did pretty well. We found a ‘gite’ or room for rent adjacent to someone’s house – very common here, and very practical. We had a small two story place, with a kitchenette, couch, bedroom, washroom, walking distance to everything in the small town of La Malene, all for 32€/night! We stayed in the gorges for 10 days getting hopelessly pumped as we opened up our climbing season.

The gorge is filled with small, old style towns, including monestaries and castles up to 1500 years old. Quite scenic with all the old places and architecture and very green. Trails everywhere for walking, and over 2000 climbing routes in the 3 small river valley’s of the region. What more could a climber want? It was also quite wet; we had rain every single day, but luck for us the rock dries fast and most cliffs are steep enough that they stay dry in all but the heaviest downpours. That is what else a climber could want!

The limestone of the gorges is all a bit overhanging and extremely pocketed. It tends to be sharp, so our skin, baby soft from ski gloves, took a beating. But the 25-30m overhanging routes whipped us into shape pretty quick, and by the end of our stay I had already sent a slew of 5.12s, so the head was back in it. Good thing, because the next leg of our journey has taken us to the classic Verdon Gorge, for some committing 1000’ foot long multi pitch old school style routes…but more about that next time. Enjoy some photos from the first part of our trip.

The town of La Malene

Jasmin climbs 'C-100 Francs'

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