Tag Archives: Spring Break

Spring Break 2014 – Climbing in En Vau: Take 2


Friday, 23-May-14

Location: Cassis, France – Les Calanque D’En Vau (pronounced “onn vow”, if I still have got it correct)


Quote of the day:

Erin (resting on the stones) – “Yay!  I found a snail in my cleavage!”

Ben (climbing) – “Wait what now?”


By this point, we’re getting quite good at the whole morning routine.  Awake, breakfasted, coffee’d, bacon’d, and ready to start walking all in 45min or so… and that’s taking a relaxed breakfast where we chill, watch the sky, and eat a delicious croissant.  Or two.  Maybe one with chocolate in it as well.  This is France, I can do what I want.

Even the walk down to En Vou was quicker today, or it at least seemed a lot quicker.  I think the trail was a combination though – instead of tons of crowds, it was just us.  And instead of taking an insane detour away from the trail, we actually stuck to the normal trail that leads directly over to the Calanque.  So that probably helped.

But either way – we made it, and set up shop at Le Petite Aguille.  Climbing details are, as always, listed down below.  But the non-detailed version is that the climbing was amazing, the views were perfectly clear, and the sun was burning brightly down upon this, our last day of adventure on the Mediterranean.  We climbed, we chatted, we ate, and we posed like rock stars while summitting “The small needle”.

In fact, that posing part was pretty key – As I summitted the top, I struck a nice and solid pose… which elicited a resounding cheer from the cliffs.  What.  Why… I look around, then look down, and see that just as I finished a whole group of tourists had been walking past.  I guess they’d stopped to watch me finish the route, and took my pose as a call to cheer and clap.  Huh.  Nice to know I’m appreciated, I guess.

So we climbed, we enjoyed, etc…

Then, it was hot out.

There was a beach nearby.  A cool Mediterranean beach.  That had crystal-clear water to swim in.

We went swimming.  Bjorn went deep-water soloing; a solid traverse out a ways.  Rebecca swam all the way out to the deep water of the boat-lane.  I did some bouldering on the cliffs near the beach, and sunned myself there for a while.  Daniel stepped on a sharp rock.  We enjoyed ourselves immensely.

But there was still more climbing to do afterward…



La Petite Aguille

  1. Variante Nord-Oeste – 5.9 – Daniel leads.  Sort of.  Daniel actually lead two climbs as one… he got distracted by a shiny bolt halfway up, and decided to take a different route instead.  It’s ok though, because they were both super fun.  This one took a solid Arete to the pinnacle.
  2. La Face Norde-Oeste – 5.9 – Rebecca Leads.  Actually, since she just took one side of the route Daniel had done, and went to the correct anchor.  This climb was a bit more protected, since it was in an off-width about half of the time.  But not a normal offwidth… instead of a crack, this was a crack that lead into a cave.  Too small of a crack to fit a whole body through, but enough to chicken-wing an arm into.
  3. Note on actual summitting… it wasn’t easy.  See, the previous climbs all terminated about 10ft below the summit… and there really wasn’t any gear above the anchor.  At all.  So you had to climb up 10ft, then stand on a 4 sq.ft. ledge, then downclimb 10ft again.
  4. After Swimming   Face De La Mer – 5.6 – Ben & Bjorn Lead. This climb was directly viewing the beach, and it was quite fun.  Simple, lots of small ledges and interesting holds from the salt erosion, and somehow it wasn’t even super polished.  Crazy-talk.


Dalle Du Chat (A crag right by the beach)

  1. Passagers Du Vent – 5.10c – Bjorn leads.  This was an amazing climb.  I think it may be the hardest outdoor climb that I’ve completed, to be honest, and it felt like it.  Lots of tiny holds… they were good, but never where you wanted them.  I’m sure that it would be progressively easier the more times you do it, but the first time… yeah.  Lots of tough pulling, cursing, and just lunging for it.  Totally amazingly worth it.


La Saphir

  1. La Saphir, P1 – 5.6 – Ben Leads.  A good and fun end to a great and amazing climbing trip.  Erin and My last climb in Southern France, and it was excellent.  A lot more run out than I remember it being before, but quite fun with an amazing view at the end.  Excellent.

Spring Break 2014 – Climbing in Sormieu


Thursday, 22-May-2014

Location: Cassis, France – La Calanque D’Sormieu


Today, we split up the party.

If D&D ever taught me one thing, it’s that you never split the party.  Thankfully, this area of France has been free of both Dungeons and Dragons for the past few hundred years, so I think we’re safe this time.

There had been a debate the evening before about what to do with Thursday – originally, Wednesday was going to be our mid-week rest day, to make sure people didn’t get too burned out too quickly.  But since our rest day was forced into a Monday (stupid rain…) we were now looking at 4 days of climbing straight… And Daniel had been climbing for nearly a week straight before that.

So, our rallying cry became;

Bjorn, Rebecca & Ben – “To Sormieu!”

Daniel & Erin – “To Marseilles!”

All – “To keeping clouds at bay!”


Short version – we all drove to Sormieu, where Daniel and Erin dropped us three off and headed off toward Marseilles to do a bit of tourism and exploring (the castle from Man in the Iron Mask is in Marseilles) while the three of us climbed through Sormieu.  Bjorn had actually climbed there before, so we had a pretty good idea of where we wanted to go.

As a note, the mantra for this entire day worth of climbing has been “climb fast, and be ready to bail off once it starts raining”.  As the day went on, we lost more and more of the distant mountains to clouds, then to rain.  It always looked about 10min out from a torrential downpour, but somehow it never actually materialized.  Just luck, I guess… that, and the amazing skill of our climbing.  Not even the clouds wanted to stop watching us long enough to drop the rain.

After finishing up the last route we headed back down into the town of Morgieu to get our first taste of the typical “French hospitality”… AKA, not at all hospitable.  We stopped into a cafe to grab some coffee and drinks, though they only had water, beer, or cold tea for us… <shrug>, cold tea actually sounded good, and tasted just as good as it sounded, so I wasn’t unhappy at that.  No, what caused the unhappiness was our attempt to close out the tab – the waiter just could not be bothered.  Bjorn ended up walking up to him (he was sitting at a laptop, I believe) and handing him a the bill and our Euros… to which the waiter grudgingly gave us a bit of change.

But it was a fun day – I guess the only thing left to say is that, if you’re ever in a long roadtrip with Erin… tell jokes about sawdust and poop.  I don’t know how it came up, but the poor girl nearly fainted from laughing so hard.  We had her in a constant state of gasping laughter for nearly 20min on that ride home, discussing how North Korea uses sawdust to balance their diet… and the “unique” effects that must have on their daily routine…

Crag Lou Spigaou

This was nearly straight above the town, a very nice short approach… a lot different from the previous days.  We tramped our way up the scree field, set up shop, and started in.  With Jackets.  The sea breeze was quite noticeable here, and I was actually quite glad to have my nice orange jacket with me… I was comfortable, but I know that I would have been quite unhappy without it.

  1. La Balade de Gecko – 5.9 – Bjorn and Rebecca Lead. Really fun route; starting out clean, with a rather interesting overhang near the top.
  2. L’Hiver Menace – 5.9+ – Bjorn and Rebecca Lead.  Almost the same as the previous route actually, though more slabby than previous.  The top bulge was still the more interesting though.
  3. Ceci N’Est pas une pipe – 5.9 – Bjorn and Rebecca Lead. Again, roughly the same rock and same basic route.  Dangers of climbing lots of routes on the same huge face…
  4. Pierre De Folie – 5.8 – Bjorn and Rebecca lead.  Nice change of pace; this was a super-slabby route that got a bit boring halfway up.  No real memories of this one, to be honest.
  5. La Prima – 5.6 – Ben and Rebecca lead.  I… actually forgot that I was leading on this one.  Thankfully, I had already racked up from muscle memory, and Bjorn reminded me that… you know… maybe I should clip a draw or something.  If I feel like it, of course.  The climbing was more of the same – a slabby route with a few interesting moves.  But not many jugs or real holds, so quite reminiscent of Whitehorse… except a lot shorter.
  6. Boum chanka – 5.9 – Bjorn and Rebecca Lead. Ohh man!  This is my jam!  A good handcrack, a dihedral, a few good stemming moves, and even a chimney section.  With just enough off-width climbing to make it interesting, this climb was by far my favorite of the day.  Bjorn kinda disliked it, but that’s just because he’s roughly a billion feet tall.
  7. Le Vi Au Bout Des Doigts – 5.10b – Bjorn leads.  Tough route; Rebecca takes the first few clips, but Bjorn finishes it out.  tough slab climbing, very tough slab climbing.


Spring Break 2014 – Climbing in Luminy and Morgeiu


Wednesday, 21-May-2014

Location: Cassis, France – Les Calanques  D’Morgeiu and Luminy


This morning was basically the same as Tuesday morning – especially because we headed to the same little town of Morgeiu to park.  Luminy can be accessed either from the nearby university or the town, and since we were hoping to get some climbing in both, we decided that the town would just be the easier option.

The drive today was… easier, I guess.  We had far fewer “Damnit French drivers!  WTF!” moments, though that may just be because we were getting more jaded to their insanity.  Also of note: Daniel loves honking the horn.  I guess it’s his Virginia heritage, but he almost never honks here in the States… now that he had a real reason to, his grin stretched from ear to ear.


Crag #1 – L’Abri Corier

Way too many people.  SKIP IT!


Crag #2 – Aguille De Sugiton

Ahh… this is more like it!  Less people, and a truly excellent sea-breeze keeping us cool.  Actually… almost cold.  Glad I brought a jacket.  At one point I literally had to stop climbing and brace against the rock to make sure I didn’t get knocked off the wall from the gusts.  It was, in a word, awesome.

    1. Permission Exceptionnelle – 5.7 & 5.9 – Lead = Daniel.  He strung these two into one larger climb, since both were sort of short.  The first pitch was rather regular face climbing, but at the center of the second pitch… well, it was a really interesting little bulge that we had to work over.  Harder for the lead though, since there’s one hidden hold way up top that was truly excellent.  Seems to be a theme here… find the hold, crush the climb.
    2. Les Helvetes – 5.8 – Lead = Rebecca.  Really fun route; super long and sort of pumpy, but definitely the kind of face / crack climbing that I love.  I climbed it twice.

At this point, we had to retreat off the climbing.  The wind had been quite nice and pleasant… but now it was just getting difficult.  Literally clawing up a climb, as the wind tears against you, is not fun.  Nor is it a safe way to lead routes.  So we took the smart move and fell back to L’Abri Corier.


Crag #3 (#1 again!) – L’Abri Corier

Still a lot of people.  But they’re university students, and pretty cool, and fuck it we’re going to sneak in between them and climb.  They’ve got open ropes everywhere anyways, so it’s all cool.  Yes, we do check with the “guide” – turns out she’s actually a professor at the university nearby, who teaches Sports Psychology.  They’re climbing outdoors to get an idea of fear while sportsing.  Cool.

  1. Manon Des Fontains – 5.7 – Lead = Rebecca.  Very long climb that goes up a huge left-facing dihedral… quite similar to my favorite climb at Rumney (Holderness Corner), and we have a blast on it.
  2. Choupinette – 5.3 – Lead = Ben.  Very short and simple climb, but still a good fun time.
  3. Passe Simple – 5.7 – Lead = Ben.  A longer version of Choupinette, very similar moves.
  4. Poupette – 5.11b – lead = Daniel.  This climb.  Short, very hard, tough bouldering moves out of a cave to start.  Looks a lot like Cro Magnum from Crow Hill, and Daniel led it beautifully.  I… did not.  I… did not make it past the first bolt.  Rebecca and Bjorn got to the second and third, if I recall.


After the climb, we drove home.  Simple story, though it does have a short segment where we get home, then immediately change into swim gear and jump in to the Mediterranean near the Villa in Cassis.  Erin calls us crazy.  She is 100% correct.