Ken Roberts - - Climbing
later this year
Hexenstein Südkante / Sass di Stria Spigolo Sud
Fun route on a spectacular peak with straightforward access and walk-off descent. Chimney sections turned out to require very little specific chimney technique. Gi + I climbed it on a sunny Sunday. We had to wait in line for about half an hour at the base, but after that no delays.
Main lesson was that the route topo in the latest German language guidebook by Mauro Bernardi was much better than the one from the English translation of an older German guidebook. Also the description in the English-language Ron James (BMC) guidebook was pretty helpful.
memories on the route:
This is a great via ferrata for those who want to do a long route with a wide variety of mountain situations and many many opportunities to climb with hands + feet directly on the rock (much it of good quality). Often said to be the biggest VF route in the Dolomites. The installed equipment was well-designed and currently in excellent condition. Non-cable-protected sections well-marked with orange paint dots.
Unexpected that I got to do it together with my long-time backcountry skiing partner Gi. He had warned about all the new snow he saw on Saturday while driving down from Germany over the Brenner pass. From looking at webcams, I was optimistic about at least the south faces, so I insisted that we drive up out of the low Adige river valley to get a good luck at the eastern Dolomites -- and we were surprised how little snow we could see -- even though there were large expanses of white plainly visible even on the south faces of the mountains up north along the Austria-Italy frontier. Gi's suggestion is that the ground surface is much warmer (? especially this year ?) farther south, so the new snow melts quickly.
The parking for VF Costantini is at Passo Duran (latitude/longitude approx: N46.3240 E12.0956). northeast from Agordo (which is to the southeast of most of the mountain VF routes in the Dolomites.) The climb and hut are roughly to the north side of the road.
observations + reflections:
These two nice routes are not in the Dolomites, nor in the "usual" Lake Garda area, rather off on the south-west side of the Lago di Garda, near the town of Salo (in the province of Lombardia). Both routes allow opportunities lots of fun interesting moves with hands + feet directly on the rock which is mostly good. Both are near a hut (Rifugio Pirlo) with a nice view.
The only defect I noticed with either route is that I wish they were longer. Anyway the approach is a pleasant shaded hike mostly along a creek -- so perhaps best to consider it as an overall package of pleasant snack on a terrace with a view, pleasant uphill hike, and some nice climbing moves.
VF Ernesto Franco is much harder, but shorter. I was surprised how much I could do with hands directly on the rock (interesting + thoughtful), but many of the rock holds are pretty small, so I actually wore by technical rock-climbing shoes for that one.
Driving: I found it a bit tricky to drive to ... the turn-off on the northeast end of the town of Salo is not so well-marked, and the traffic pattern for the sharp turn is not easy. The other end of the scenic loop road is farther east along the lake, likely between Barbarano + Toscalano Moderno (but I didn't get to check that out because a section toward that end was closed for construction). Also there's a "false" road out of Barbarano which some GPS road navigators attempt to put you on, but it doesn't go through to anywhere the VF and gets frighteningly narrow. The loop road is nice asphalt, and the asphalt continues after the turn-off north from high village of San Michele toward Colomber. But then after less than 1 km the road surface turns to dirt. Most people parked by the end of the asphalt and hiked from there, about 2.25 km until the narrow dirt road ends, turns into just a hiking trail.
GPS latitude/longitude (approximate):
[ map of Parking ]
Lots of fun moves with hands + feet directly on rock, some was nice schist(?).
By the village of Caprie in valley of Susa / Torino, with a set of sport climbing routes below it.
GPS - approx latitude/longitude:
Overall: Good outing on a peak with a dramatic look. Not the very best limestone climbing, but interesting enough, and mostly on sound rock, with a remarkable grassy summit.plateau. Descent goes better than I expected (but due to some loose rock, I would avoid doing it when crowded).
Mont Aiguille was the first technical mountain climb in history. Looks like a peak from the Dolomites got dropped into the side of a wide French valley.
Access: We started from the south side because we were meeting people who drove up from Marseille -- which worked fine. (otherwise I don't know any advantage of parking south versus north). On south side, some people park near the end of the asphalt road, others drive higher on the dirt road to parking higher up. The trail starts on the dirt forest road from the higher parking, but then very soon turns right off the forest road. Well-designed up to the pass, then east and around the north side.
Better to stay on the (unmarked) trail all the way to the start of the climb, not take shortcuts. So continue traversing east past the bottom of the (not very prominent) tower (:"tour") of Gemeaux, until reach a definite small rib with some trees on it. Follow the unmarked trail up the rib. Then the way to normal route goes left and the trail to Tour des Gemeaux goes right (south west), then behind a flake. The climb starts on top of the flake. (Descent route used if have double-ropes will come out very close to here).
Pitch 1: Intimidating start: Step across the gap onto the main face, not many holds visible. Difficulty of the lower section is very height+reach dependent ("morpho"). If body height is much less than 169 cm / 66.5 inches, then there are two moves which are much harder than the normally quoted grade.
Pitch 4: The 5c+ section is intimidating to get into, footholds are polished. You keep reaching up thinking there must be a positive handhold somewhere, but there isn't -- just have to pull thru on slopy holds -- or grab a quickdraw for aid. The hard part is straight up and well-protected, then the traverse is much easier.
Pitch 5: Thoughtful climbing with a lack of positive holds, and less protection opporutunities than I would have wished (good thing Yan-Eric was leading it).
Further toward the summit we did a lot of simul-climbing (with some loose rock), trying to stay more on ridge sections (which were interesting). Almost to the top, Yan-Eric tried a "direct" finish up a crack, which looked intimidating (and not well protected) but turned out to go at not more than 5b.
Descent route - (double ropes required): A long ways down a gully, with some climbing moves, some loose rock, often can avoid the worst rockfall danger by going a little on one side or the other. Then a nice 30-meter rappel down the gully. Down a little farther, then up out of gully to right with short traverse to rappel anchor. If have two 60-meter ropes, can aim the rappel rope more toward the right (east), and if the first person down uses some care in getting the rope past some "steps" in the lower gully, saves time on getting down the bottom gully, which comes out just a short ways from start of climb.
traverse of Aretes du Gerbier
12sep - [ map ]
photos : [ AltitudeRando ]
Fun climbing along the top of a spectacular narrow ridge.
Georges and I parked on the west side near Villard-de-Lans and did the traverse north-to-south, starting up the gully toward the Double Breche, finishing at the normal point which is well north of the end of the ridge at Pas de l'Oeille.
The Obiou is the highest peak in the Devoluy group, pretty complicated terrain with an interesting look.
Not a great climb, but has some interesting sections, and it's surely a more interesting than the normal hiking route as a.way to get to the summit or one of the climbing routes on the upper mountain.
HIking approach to the cave below the route fairly straightforward. Steep scramble up to base of route not as hard as it looked. Yan-Eric and I started climbing a bit to left side of gully - likely would have been better to go higher start more toward right side. Higher up there were times when maybe the climbing would have been more interesting if we had stayed more on the arete.
At the top of the second pillar it would have been possible to escape by traversing left (south) roughly horizontally to meet the normal route. But we down-climbed into the (loose) gully for more climbing. The next pitch (with short worthwhile climbing) goes up the right side of the gully, then a gentle section with much loose rock, then another short worthwhile climbing section, then another gentler section to what seemed like top of gully. Weather seemed threatening, so we escaped to the normal route (which we descended without going to the summit).
There was one more pitch of climbing above which we did not do, but rumor is that it was not very sound rock anyway - (? though perhaps it might have been a shorter way to reach the Chatieres route to the summit ?)
Descent by normal route was not so much fun -- very steep hiking trail on sloping rock surface. Not a place to be the rock were wet. So we thought it was a good thing that we had abandoned going to the summit given any threat of rain.
crag Roche Corbière / Rochetaillée / Pilat
Parc naturel régional du Pilat, near St-Emilion SW from Lyon
We used the new guidebook (? 2008 ?) for Parc Pilat, helpful photos.
We climbed only single-pitch routes on the Gendarme, but multi-pitch routes are available on the main rock. Lots of fun moves on schist with good holds. [ CampToCamp description ]
(near Via Ferrata du Planfoy, which we did not visit)
crag Petit Desert near Grenoble
Easy access hiking, close driving east up from Grenoble.
We climbed the section closest to the parking - limestone was somewhat polished, many handholds were embedded flint (silex) which tended to be sharp + slippery. Interesting moves.
Nice quiet atmosphere (but can be crowded on weekends). West-facing.
GPS - latitude-longitude approx:
VF Crolles : Cascade de l'Oule
12sep : photos + story by David
I climbed two routes near Grenoble, both accessed from the same cog railway / funicular. I'm generally not in favor of via ferrata the "French" style (lots of metal rungs + bars, not much direct contact with rock), I liked these routes well enough -- rather impressed with the harder one.
Key thing I liked a lot the Crolles site is ... No walking down ... (unless you like that sort of thing). Instead go down on the cog railway. Also use the cog railway to greatly shorten the approach hike to the bottom of the VF. They sell a special ticket for VF climbers.
"Cascade de l'Oule" is what the cliff area is called: in its midst is a waterfall. The Difficult route goes next to its bottom and later to a pool at its top. The super-difficult route requires a short side-trip to visit the waterfall.
Another notable feature shared by both routes is a very long horizontal ledge which can be walked on (with cable for security) with a big view over the Isere river valley and to the wild Belledonne mountains. The area is also popular for parapente flying -- the main launch site is near the top of the VF routes.
La Vire des Lavandieres is the non-super-difficult route. It has several overhanging moves, so it deserves its rating of D = Difficile, and it requires athletic arm strength - (though since it's a "French" style VF route, the hands grab usually-well-positioned metal rungs or bars, not hauling on the cable like "Italian" style)
Le Grand Diedre (Great Dihedral or "open book") is the super-difficult route, rated ED = Extreme Difficile. The overhanging moves are more overhanging, and come in sustained overhanging sequences in the Great Dihedral -- which is a remarkable rock feature for climbing -- starts overhanging and continues roughly vertical for a long ways -- so I was looking straight down a long ways thru open air.
Usually thought to be one of the two hardest VF routes in France (the other is VF Grotte Carret, an hour's drive to the north). Because the sequences of hard moves on the Grand Diedre are so long + sustained, definitely bring special equipment resting on a VF route without any weight supported by your hands - (for me that's a 50cm leash / longe / cow's tail with a large carabiner attached to my harness belay loop.
I'd say it should only be attempted by people with extensive experience with overhanging rock-climbing routes. Seemed like many of the moves on the Grand Diedre are roughly as hard as moves on overhanging climbing routes rated 5b (or perhaps 5c?) at the nearby Espace Vertical indoor climbing gyms in Grenoble. But falling with a via ferrata kit tends to have more impact on your body (and the kit) than falling in rock climbing with a rope. And if you do not have the strength to continue climbing on the Grand Diedre, getting "stuck" in the middle of a vertical cliff outdoors could be a big problem.
So it's best to be solid climbing at least 5c -- and to have lots of endurance climbing 5b/5c (like be able to multiple laps on strenuous indoor overhanging routes with no rest in between).
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escalade escalades steig steigen
via ferrata: klettersteig cable-protected