Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Calanques - a climber's paradise.

Situated in southern Provence, the Massif des Calanques consists of pure white limestone cliffs that span some 20km of the rugged Mediterranean coastline between Cassis and Marseille.  The word calanque itself originates form a Corsican expression for an inlet or a fjord, which are often seen here.  Blue turquoise waters, bays, and islands add to the magnificent scenery.  The Calanques offer over 1500 routes of sport climbing, trad climbing, cragging, and multipitch climbing of varying grades.  Who would resist to go climbing here if offered to stay with some friends in Marseille?  Not I.

It turns out that about 13 of us headed down to Marseille from Grenoble to enjoy good food, climbing and the sunshine.  The group was diverse as far as nationality and climbing ability goes, but we all had the same goal - to have a good time.  We had a pretty decent German, Italian, Colombian and Spanish presence, however, I was the sole Czech/Canadian as well as one French participant (Steph).  You can imagine that planning and organizing amongst such a large group was not very easy or efficient, but eventually we always somehow figured things out :)).

Day1.  There are several sectors in the Calanques and on the first day we decided to climb in the Sormiou area.  Several of us decided to do some multipitch climbing directly above the sea and so that was the plan for the day.  Climbing from the sea level requires to do a rappel first, followed by climbing up back to the starting point. They say that if you can't climb back up, then you can always swim back to Marseille :))  I don't remember the names of the routes we did, but they ranged from about 5b to 6a(+).  (Something like 5.8 to 5.10a/b)  The limestone here was amazing as it was very grippy and quite different from what I'm used to in Grenoble.  We also had to be careful not to drop the rope in the ocean when rappelling, since we were only about one meter above the sea!  The climbing was really fun and at the end there was a 10a traverse that was rather challenging.  After a fantastic day outside we hit a Lebanese restaurant in Marseille with really good food and great entertainment by a beautiful belly dancer.

Moi et Martino, like two peas in a pod, just barely above the ocean. (Some photos taken by Steph M.)

All three of us - our little multipitch team.
Steph leading one of the routes for us.

Martino and I, going up at the same time on double rope.

Ahhh, the views...

Day2.  On the second day we headed to the Sugiton sector where we hung out at a nice little crag and did some easier climbing.  I did some leading and toprope climbing on easy routes (5.8/5.9) and we had a nice relaxing time.  Half of the group did multipitch climbing but since we started around 1PM, we ran out of time...we were supposed to meet at the car at 6PM but the multipitch took our friends till 10PM and I think we ended up getting to Grenoble at 3AM!!  Since our group was done sooner though, we had a little dinner and beer at Andrea's place.

Looking down at the bay with turquoise waters and beach packed with people already at the end of March.

Thomas on one of the routes we did.  Here the limestone was not as nice as the previous day but it was still very interesting and fun.

Nelly on another route.

Lots of neat flowers around including fragrant rosemary bushes everywhere.

Most of the crew sans Steph who is taking the photo...

"The Spaghetti Climbers" doing crazy stuff (happens to be the name of our email climbing list)

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