Ken Roberts - - Climbing
sport climbing . . .
A small "school" of climbing, west of Chambéry. 3c-5b, mostly 4s. 18-23 meters, well-protected by some sort of bolts. Limestone with pockets.
GPS Parking latitude/longitude = (N45.58099 E5.82311) = (45.58099,5.82311) walk south on forest road a couple of minutes to the rock.
A "school" of climbing, west of the Lac du Bourget and Col du Chat.
Georges + I climbed on the Bébé Mutant section. 20 meters, well-protected by some sort of bolts. Limestone with lots of horizontals. Started with 4a, worked up to 5b, some leads, some top-ropes. Difficulty + name marked at base of each route.
Two weeks later, Sharon + I came back, and she enjoyed climbing 4a + 4b + 4c, and I managed to make it up a 5c and even 6a (with some jamming technique).
Sainte-Barbe section was closed due to rock-fall concern when Georges + I climbed, then opened again two weeks later when Sharon + I returned.
GPS Parking lat/long = (N45.70987 E5.79359) = (45.70987,5.79359)
Some short routes and some longer ones, west of Chambéry. The short ones are 3b up to 6s. The ones to the right of the access trail were interesting, but not much more than 10 meters of real climbing, even if the total length was 20 meters of more. There's also a "family" group of at least three 4b just to the left of the access trail. Those are better for a group on multiple top-ropes simultaneously -- the short climbs to the right require directionals, so difficult to keep ropes from crossing, and descending climbers coming down on ascending. Lots of loose rock around there, if you're walking around anywhere slightly off the main base area of the short climbs.
GPS Parking lat/long = (N45.57889 E6.05792) = (45.57889,6.05792).
? les Deserts ?
Supposed to be a "school" of climbing, northeast of Chambéry, on the Roc des Rochettes near les Deserts. But in 2010 there were signs there saying it was on private land and climbing is forbidden. Anyway the routes didn't seem enough interesting for the kind of climbing I'm looking for.
? ghost wall ? St-Thibaud-de-Couz
Old "school", also a multi-pitch route, southwest of Chambéry. Georges + I read about it in an old guidebook, went out and looked for it, didn't find it. Access trail probably overgrown. Difficulty of the "school" climbs might be around 4-5? No idea of quality of protection.
GPS Parking lat/long -- maybe somewhere around (N45.51172
E5.83563) -- or possibly (N45.51184 E5.83534) which might be near the start of
the access trail -- rumored to be between 3rd + 4th telephone poles on the steep
dirt maintenance road (but Georges + I didn't see it).
This is a bit tricky, since my climbing in France so far has been on climbing "approach" shoes (with fairly good rubber), not real rock shoes. I did fine on climbs with recognizable holds, but I got stopped by one steep slab move on a 5b, maybe could have gotten it with real rock shoes -- or maybe since I was on lead in an unusual situation where I was concerned about the consequences of a fall, maybe I got psyched out.
Also tricky because my only recent climbing in USA has been a couple of short days at the Gunks (which seems to have different ratings then some other areas).
Here's my best guess so far, comparing some climbing "school"
(training) rocks near Chambéry to the Gunks:
Protection: The climbing "school" rocks around Chambéry have bolt protection more closely spaced than the natural pro on any lead of a climb of comparable difficulty in the Gunks (based on my leading 5.3-5.6 climbs in the Gunks years ago), in many cases much better.
hike/climb Petit Tas + Dome de Bellefont
in the Chartreuse. 10sep
Georges and I climbed the Petit Tas passage up from the east side to the Chartreuse plateau on a weekday, then hiked to the summit of the Dome de Bellefont. There are three requirements for doing this: (1) find the Petit Tas trail; (2) hike up some pretty steep trail; (3) climb the Petit Tas. Starting with the first, here's some possible help with GPS navigation. Since much of this was under trees and near cliffs, locations from my GPS are not always accurate.
* road junction for La Batie: latitude/longitude = (N45.34424 E5.90547)
seemed like only one or two legal parking spaces on the narrow road west up from this junction toward the trailhead -- so be prepared to look for parking elsewhere.
* trailhead La Batie = (N45.34637 E5.90457)
trail starts roughly due west from la Batie
* junction with trail up from les Guillots = (N45.34734 E5.89700)
(the trail up from la Batie was much nicer than the one from les Guillots, especially on descent -- glad for David's suggestion of this)
* junction of trails -- sign "sous les Charassons, 1330m" = (N45.35093 E5.89744)
trail going left from junction was a normal-width forest road (not narrow). Road has puddles and mud for several days after significant rain.
* water tank ("reservoir") = (N45.34914 E5.89121)
* start of trail for Pas des Charassons = I didn't capture GPS latitude/longitude. It's somewhere between the water tank and the start of trail for Petit Tas.
We missed it on first pass. There was no cairn any more. It starts angled right away from forest road, so it's easier to see going north. So if miss it at first going south, try again going north.
* start of trail for Petit Tas = (N45.34719 E5.89007)
pretty steep, slippery when wet. Very difficult until it dries out after rain -- and it doesn't dry out fast because it's sheltered under big trees. Trail starts going West.
* trail turns North (near scree) = (N45.34711 E5.88684)
* trail reaches ledge = (N45.34862 E5.88600)
follow ledge north + east
* Petit Tas - bottom (GPS reading inaccurate because cliffs) = (N45.34932 E5.88715)
We had a 45-50 meter rope, so Ken led most of the it to belay just above the big pine tree with rope hanging from it -- which produced substantial rope drag after passing a smaller pine tree (? diameter 15cm ?) about mid-way. Perhaps if had stopped and belayed from that smaller pine tree, might have had less rope drag later. Anyway Georges took over above the belay and led to the top. The upper section had like 10m on nice rock, unlike much of the rest with significant vegetation.
Protection was mostly quick-draws ("dégaines") clipped to the artificial cable anchor points or rope knots; or slings ("sangles") wrapped around trees. But for extra protection, Ken placed a medium/large Friend and a medium/large stopper ("coinceur") -- small stuff didn't seem useful. Perhaps other people would have found the Friend and/or stopper unnecessary, and just relied on the quick-draws and/or slings.
* Petit Tas - top (approx) = (N45.34946 E5.88705)
After this we joined the GR9 trail SSW to the Col de Bellefont, then climbed the Dome de Bellefont.
A more interesting way to the summit of the Dome de Bellefont might have been to go to the east side of the NNE ridge of the Dome, then climb SSW to the summit of the Dome. But we've heard this has a very steep section, and we didn't know the best place to cross to the east side. For more info about this option, see the guidebook: Chartreuse Inédite, by Pascal Sombardier (Glénat 2006).
Then we descended west, and followed the GR9 north to
* trail junction GR9 with Aup du Seuil access = (N45.35571 E5.88390)
* trail crosses of ridge by Aup du Seuil at = (N45.35816 E5.89684)
Then we descended the trail back to la Batie.
VF via ferrata France: Savoie + Isere
The French style of via ferrata routes really is different from northeast Italy around Lake Garda and the Dolomites:
For my own style of climbing, the greater number of larger metal holds gets in the way of me climbing free directly on the rock (using the cable only for protection). A more frequent problem is that the expectation of more artificial aids leads to selecting terrain for VF routes which tend to be steeper than in northeast Italy -- often too steep for me to climb with my mediocre free rock-climbing ability, so I end up relying on the metal holds anyway.
Still there are some via ferrata routes I liked in France around Savoie and Isere:
There are several guidebooks, one in English translation which is fairly useful but doesn't have GPS latitude/longitude for parking and key waypoints, doesn't have much insight about which climbs are good for climbing directly on rock and skipping metal holds, and missing three of the recent climbs.
Also the VF guidebooks for France tend to ignore some fine mountain routes with only short moderate sections protected or aided by cables or fixed ropes. For some ideas about those, try Pascal Sombardier's books (in French) about the Chartreuse + Vercors areas, especially his recently updated book, Chatreuse Inédite.
Haven't found a single website which gives much insight beyond the English-translation guidebook or the official info given by the creators and sponsors of the newer VF climbs. But if can read French it's worth doing a web search on the name of a particular climb and finding helpful comments in places you might not expect. Note that the French word for via ferrata is "via ferrata".
Roc du Vent near Beaufort
Sharon and I had a great time doing it on a weekday in September. Rated AD. Lots of variety, beautiful setting. Lots of moves on rock (especially slab, friction, undercling) available on the long first ridge section if skip using many of the steel stemple rungs (barreaux, or sometimes échelons).
I've heard and seen other happy reports from local French and visitors. I'd gladly do it again.
Understanding the route is tricky. There are two VF climbing sections on separate rocks, and a tunnel which crosses underneath the first climbing section. So if you're confused by the diagrams you've seen in guidebooks + web pages, that's why. Here's a sequence of latitude/longitude waypoints which might clarify:
That area also has one of prettiest road bike crossings of a pass in the French Alps: the upper sections of both sides of the Cormet de Roselend together with a side trip to the east side of Col du Pré.
VF des Perrons from Venosc up to Les Deux Alpes
10sept - [ map ]
Lots of moves on rock available if skip the steel holds, if comfortable leading difficulty level 5c free free rock climbs (face moves). Fortunately the steel holds are smaller than most VF in France, which made it easier for me to find holds directly on the rock.
Variety of interesting rock types, variety of interesting moves. Found very good friction on the rock - (my "approach" shoes which I use for VF have climbing rubber) - not polished because most VF climbers put their feet on the metal. Of course I used the metal holds for some steep sections -- perhaps if I were a better climber I could have done more of it directly on rock (maybe bring my rock shoes next time, though it's kind of long for that). Seemed like the largest number of interesting rock moves I've made in one day on any kind of climbing.
Hope I get to do it again.
Didn't find much overhanging sections like in some other French VF rated D. Perhaps it's rated D because of the smaller holds, or sometimes need to find footholds on rock, or the overall amount of climbing. Very different from the other D rated climbs I've done in France.
Fairly obvious trail from top of climb roughly northwest to village of Les Deux Alpes. Then I walked thru the village to the top of the lift from Venosc, around (N45.0029 E6.1196). The lift was not running after the summer season, so I took the hiking trail (starts by the top station of the lift) down to Venosc.
If don't like down-walking (though the trail is reasonable if have hiking poles), better to do it when the lift is running. Advantage of doing it when the lift is closed is less people -- nice for me, since I like to go slower to work out the free moves on rock.
I parked by the base of the lift, lat/long approx = (N44.9873 E6.1160). But since the lift was closed, I could started higher in the Venosc village visitors parking roughly around (N44.9901 E6.1168).
I note that VF St Christophe, nearby southeast up the same road with parking roughly around lat/long (N44.96329 E6.16334) -- is rumored to have some sections with rock-contact climbing available.
Roche Veyrand, St Pierre d'Entremont, Chartreuse
10sept - [ map ]
Georges and I climbed it on a Sunday morning. Beautiful setting in the north Chartreuse (if only there could be more VF in this area), interesting moves, variety. Some free moves on rock available if skip holds, but not sustained. The upper section though mostly artificial, seemed interesting enough anyway.
Starts with an AD+ section. We overtook a family with children, but there were several good spots for passing. There's supposed to be an "escape" to the descent trail before the upper TD section, but I didn't notice a sign for it.
The upper section looked very intimidating, but then turned out to be mostly not as hard as that: two or three interesting short overhangs, and some steep diagonal upward sections. One long traverse section (something I normally dislike) turned out to have some interesting variety.
It doesn't finish quite at the summit, but it was getting cloudy so I voted for just starting the descent. Georges wanted the direct steep trail, which indeed was steep -- had some cables. There's a critical spot where I missed the trail (went left instead of right). Fortunately Georges was familiar and called me back up to the correct turn (which had a cable which I had somehow missed).
Upper section did not as hard as the upper section of the Bastille in Grenoble. I might rate it TD- instead of full TD.
Parking in the village of St Pierre d'Entremont around latitude/longitude = (N45.4182 E5.8550). If planning to take the steep descent trail (? les Clapiers ?), could try to park higher around (N45.4188 E5.8537), or perhaps a little higher. But if taking the easier longer descent thru la Fracette, then makes more sense to park down in the village.
les Prises de la Bastille, Grenoble
10sept - [ map ]
Did it with David on a weekday morning. Interesting climbing (though completely artificial). Unique setting above the city of Grenoble + Isere river -- finishes thru a window in the old fort.
Local resident told me that the name is a play on the French revolution which started in Vizille nearby.
First section is has traversing with some interesting ups + downs, a long monkey bridge (pont de singe) (1 cable for carabiner protection plus 2 cables for support, one for feet and one for hands) which I didn't like much. Other French VFs with bridges as long as that have gone for the pont nipalaise bridge (1 cable for carabiner protection plus 3 cables for support: one for feet and one for each arm) which feels more secure. Then a hike to the second section.
Second VF climbing starts very steep. Then there's an escape option. Warning: looking ahead at that point, the next sub-section looks easier. But it's not. And it's a diagonal traverse, so very difficult for a stronger partner to belay or help. So if you're in doubt, escape now. Later there's another escape for those who find they don't have the strength for the third subsection. David and I took that escape. Then we missed a turn and accidentally down-climbed part of the top of the third subsection: My guess it that we didn't miss much interesting by skipping it.
Second climbing section is usually rated TD (tres difficile) -- seemed to me it fully deserved that rating.
Then a short walk and a final VF climbing section up into a window of the fort. Fortunately David knew the way down from here, which was interesting (included a long steep enclosed stairway). There's also a lift down, but I have no idea how to reach it from top of VF.
I'd recommend not doing it on a weekend, and definitely do bring a "cows tail" sling + carabiner for resting -- because lots of local city residents (and some visitors) try it who find they lack the strength or competence, so be prepared to be able to hang comfortably while waiting for them to sort out their problems. You might even be glad you brought it sometime in the second section just to be able to sit back and rest both arms.
Rock is definitely polished: might not hurt to use shoes with special high-friction rubber.
Nearest parking (? though perhaps not the safest for car or contents ?) is roughly around (N45.19498 E5.71875). The VF climb starts nearby.
Also nearby is a street (? around (N45.19403 E5.72518) ?) which might be the steepest paved road around the French Alps -- supposedly has sustained 17% grade including a section around 20% - (while the famous Alpe d'Huez climb averages around 8% grade)
Grotte Carret near Jean d'Arvey
10sept - [ map ]
Did it with Georges on a Sunday afternoon. Very strenuous, also interesting.
I was hoping more if it would be inside the cave, but the route immediately exited onto the face. Lotsa nice freed moves on rock at first, then it gets so steep and hard that I didn't think about anything but using the metal holds -- smaller than most VF in France.
Steep climbing soon leads to a dramatic overhang. One person had taken an impressive fall on it and was hurt (though no visible blood or bruises, I guess because it's an overhang). He and his partner were waiting for us to pass so they could retreat.
Someone else found it much too hard, so their partner was more or less dragging them up the overhang (instead of retreating). We passed them a while later (not many good places for passing).
There were some additional strenuous overhangs later, including one where the footholds were placed in a way that made it more difficult. (How the person who got "dragged" thru the first crux handled those later overhangs, I have no idea).
Several French websites + people think it's harder than the Grande Diedre by Crolles, which used to be considered the hardest VF in France. So I guess Grotte Carret is now the hardest. Some people rate it ED+.
Definitely bring a queue de vache (cow's tail sling + carabiner) and know how to use it for resting. Even if you don't need it yourself, you might need it to rest if you get stuck waiting behind someone else.
(A French VF climber I met said that the Grande Diedre (rated ED) by Crolles is a very interesting climb -- but I haven't done it or even looked at it)
We parked at (N45.6115 E5.9933) near reached by a left turn from Les Deserts (up the main road from St Jean d'Arvey). We started by hiking south from the second parking to Col de la Doria (N45.6067 E5.9892), then down west, then up roughly north with some zig-zagging to the bottom of the VF climb in a cave near an old building, roughly (N45.6095 E5.9791) - (which is to the left and further up the hill from VF P'tchi -- if you came this far, and you have the strength + technique to do the hard Grotte Carret climb, don't make the mistake of accidentally doing P'tchi instead).
10sept - [ map ]
I did it on a weekday. Very sustained vertical or slightly overhanging sections, including long traverses (so the amount of muscular work is much more than would be expected from the total vertical gain. Seemed to me it should be rated at least D, more likely D+, compared to the other VF climbs I've done in Savoie. Also I did not like that I was working so hard on the long traverse sections -- because if I'm working on a climb, I want to be moving upward, not sideways. The environment of the P'tchi climb is not so varied + interesting on those long traverses: most is on a vertical (or slightly overhanging) wall -- does not get into any "grotte" or "grotto". The traverses have lots of exposure, air under the feet, but after a while it seemed like just the same exposure to me.
There are two cable-protected routes which start near the Grotte Carret: The one to the right (east) is called "P'tchi" and officially rated AD+. The other to the left (west) is called "Grotte Carret" and rated ED. (One guidebook says there is also an easier route with a ladder and a cable-protected section west from Grotte Carret, closer to Croix du Nivolet, which they rate PD -- I suspect the two harder routes did not exist when the guidebook was written.)
P'tchi seemed to me to have sections as hard as the hard sections on Cascade de la Fraiche at Pralognan (often rated D), but much longer than Fraiche. It has no subsection as hard as the short D-rated section at the top of les Bettieres at Nancroix, but overall much more strenuous. And P'tchi is much more strenuous than the AD section of les Bettieres or the AD climb by Champagny-en-Vanoise.
The start is NNE from St Jean d'Arvey by way of Lovettaz (N45.5969 E5.9698) - or roughly west from Col de la Doria, with higher parking (N45.6115 E5.9937) reached from Les Deserts. I started by hiking south from the second parking to Col de la Doria (N45.6067 E5.9892), then down west, then up roughly north with some zig-zagging to the bottom of the VF climb around roughly (N45.6095 E5.9794).
A way to do it with less down-walking would be to spot a bicycle at the higher parking, then drive down to Lovettaz and hike up to the climb from parking there, then ride bike back down after the climb.
Plan du Bouc at Champagny-en-Vanoise
10aug - [ map ]
Both routes are very artificial (lots of steel rungs + foot "pedals" + hand-rails). Both have somewhat dirty rock (from grassy sections above and between the rock sections. On both routes I was able to find interesting climbing on rock by skipping the artificial holds. Main complaint is that I wish there was more of the serious climbing, and less of the steep hiking.
Don't do either route soon after a rain: get lots of mud on soles of shoes.
Falaise traverse PD route doesn't have much real climbing: after a long steep approach hike, there's a little climbing, then a little more, than a long long traverse under intimidating cliffs, then a little climb to the junction. But what little climbing it has is somewhat interesting if skip most of the artificial holds. Better to use it as a descent route (but make sure you know how to find its upper end -- see below).
Arete AD route has an interesting section on a narrow arete. Some vertical sections with rung steps. Interesting climbing on rock if skip many of the artificial holds. I was able to take some of the near-vertical sections "Italian" style: grabbing the cable and laybacking against it to press my feet against the rock for better friction (and mostly avoid using the artificial footholds). Too bad the interesting climbing couldn't have gone on longer.
option I like is to climb up the Arete route and go down the Falaise traverse route (skip the shared section above) -- approach trail is a steep descent: consider bringing hiking poles.
What I actually did was climb up the Arete route, then (missed finding the top of the Falaise-traverse route) up some of the shared section to a hiking trail, took that down toward the village, then at a junction took an unmarked trail more directly down (steep descent: consider bringing hiking poles.) to a village closer to the Parking.
tricky point is that junction of the two VF routes is not marked, nor does the guidebook say how to identify it. If climbing up the falaise PD route, the tree is very obvious because the trail goes right over one of its routes. If climbing up the arete AD route, the junction is at a big tree to the side of an angled turn in the trail. The tree has a steel cable looped around it. If you reach a ladder, you've gone little too high (but you're close, since ladder can be seen from the route junction).
Seemed like two mistakes in the descriptive sign by the parking area as of August 2010. So let me say that, no matter what the sign seems to say, the Arete difficulty AD is on the left looking up from the parking lot, and the Falaise-traverse difficulty PD is to the right looking up. Also no matter what the sign says, the Arete VF climb has difficulty AD. Maybe somebody could argue that it's not as hard as some of the other AD climbs (e.g. les Bettieres), but there is no option to do the Arete and keep the difficulty as low as PD or PD+.
GPS Parking approx latitude/longitude = (N45.4590 E6.7213)
I was noticing on all the climbs in France, that they tend to use more length of cable between each pair of adjacent anchor points. On steep terrain this seems safer in a fall, because the impact comes more on the cable (hanging below the anchor peg) than on the anchor peg itself -- therefore a little softer, and more what the self-belay carabiners are designer for: less likely to break the carabiner.
But on a horizontal traverse the problem with more cable length is that if you do fall, you fall farther below the route than if the cable were tigher between each pair of anchors. And there isn't much impact on the anchors on horizontal traverse anyway. I was noticing the problem of falling below the route on the Champagny ferrata because there's lots of traversing, including some "airy" sections were the fall is vertical or even a bit overhanging. I imagine if I fell I could somehow pull myself back up to the route, but it was not so obvious that a less-strong climber near their limit at difficulty PD, if they fell to hanging partly in the air below the route, could pull themselves back up.
Also generally with longer cable it's a bit more difficult to climb "Italian" style, holding onto the cable instead of the hand-holds and foot-holds. But of course that's why in France they provide artificial holds like rungs and foot "pedals" and hand rails -- so there's no need to pull on the cable. But one advantage of the "Italian" style (other than being more interesting climbing) is that it's a little faster because the hand holding on the cable also controls the two carabiners on the cable, so it's quicker to re-clip them when reach the next anchor, and less bother with them getting tangled with feet if hanging below.
Cascade de la Fraiche at Pralognan-la-Vanoise
10aug - [ map ]
Exciting, intimidating/exposed, next to a noisy waterfall. Very artificial, with few opportunities to use "natural" holds (because they're weren't many such). Some overhanging sections (holds reasonably close together, so the arm-strenuous part was clipping the protection). I crossed the monkey bridge, and finished on the regular route. Climbing about as interesting as it could be given the artificiality (and fortunate lack of desire more the holds farther apart).
Climb starts a few switchbacks up the trail, above a little above a wooden bridge. Its top is also near wooden bridge -- after crossing bridge, descend wide hiking trail.
GPS Parking: various near (N45.3786 E6.7230)
les Bettieres at Peisey-Nancroix
10aug - [ map ]
Variety of interesting climbing situations, pleasant pretty setting with views of nearby peaks with snow remaining. Very artificial, but on the lower PD section I found opportunities to move on rock by skipping holds. Rock sometimes a bit dirty, but that didn't interfere with actually doing the climb.
AD section was pretty near vertical, and kind of sustained. Also just after the monkey bridge there was an short overhanging section going diagonally downward. Seemed a bit harder than some other AD, perhaps call it AD+.
Final D section has an intimidating but short overhang (holds reasonably close together, so the arm-strenuous part was clipping the protection) -- then the shortest descent started with substantial section steep, steel-cable-protected + dirty, leading to a steep hiking trail down much longer the rest of the way. (I guess that cable-protected descent section could have been avoided by instead hiking up higher to reach the hiking trail coming down from the Refuge Mont Pourri, but that would have been much longer.) -- Steep descent: consider bringing hiking poles.
GPS Parking = (N45.5189 E6.8027)
Col du Chat - NNE from Chambéry
Haven't tried either of these -- saw a sign for them while on a
bicycling tour over the Col du Chat.
Perhaps these routes are new.
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