Dec 27, 2017

Roc de la Bissone

  Saint Guilhem le Désert, a much old and pittoresk village on the French countryside, far away from what you can call suburbs! In summer a very busy place full of tourist but in late fall and winter more or less the opposite, so a good time to go. And specially for the climbing and other adventures to be found there

I packed my Ford for a roundtrip in south of France / northern parts of Spain for a Road Trip combo parachuting/rock climbing seek and find.
On this very useful Internet I made some pre-searching for good places to visit but left most of it "for the road"

After a week of great parachuting in Empuria Brava it was time to start saving some money and head for the climbing part. Empuria doesn't have much of that part, but a most scenic ocean and beautiful town like a small Venedig.

My first destination on my detour via France towards Haute Savoie was Mont Pellier and then Puéchabon. A super nice part of France with a lot of small farmings and vineyards, many of the most famous wines are produced here.

But also a lot of good limestone, very steep limestone faces!
In Saint Guilheim there is a trail that takes you right out of the village entering a narrow valley surrounded by these limestone walls. One of the classic ones was to be Roc de la Bissone and the route Carmina Burana. A 180meter route, always overhanging and maximum 6b. If you stay on the right route that is...

With a few pictures in my phone I was able to navigate up to the base of the cliff, some 20min walking on a good track and then jungle terrain for 5minutes.
The start was quite obvious, and after rigging the gear up I could take on with the first pitch, a 5c warm up. The rock always looked a bit loose but despite from some smaller moving things it was much better then on first sight. Arriving at the first belay I find it best though to bring out the rope and continue rope soloing for the next ones.
The climbing is all the time really steep and super cool, mostly good holds but hard to see exactly where to go cause of the steep terrain.
But all the time good bolts and good belays.

Somewhere high up on Roc de la Bissone 
As always after a number of pitches a start to loose the counting of them. They are mostly quite short like 30 maximum 40 meters. And arriving on the upper parts the written topo gives me a bit hard time cause it says I should go right but the bolts heads left...I decide to stay with the bolts.
The climbing, very airy and and as it says in the topo "muscle et gazeux" well they can't be more right about that at least.
But the steep rock makes it almost harder to rappel back down to clean each pitch when going back up again. At least a fall will end up in the air!
Perfect hauling terrain!
Finally after a bunch of good climbing I arrive at a big cave, just some 20 meters below the top and the exit. A short leftward travers and then a small runout straight up, I can leave the north facing part and get some summit sun at top. But unfortunately the wind has picked up so there is jut one alternative to get back this time, by rappelling.
A few moments in the afternoon breeze and I head of to find the track down to the rappel anchors.
Saint Guilhem le Désert - departement Hérault
Closest bigger town
Saint Guilhem le Désert
Equipment for Roc de la Bissone
2x40m rope minimum if you use the 2 rappels to get down
8-10 QD´s

Head up to the top of the pillar and then find a faint trail heading westwards, scramble down for some 100 meters and the you arrive to a fixe rope. Follow this to a bolt station.
And take care not to slide away rocks on the way...

Topo for la Carmina
After here the trips continue towards Milleu...

Dec 5, 2017

Plan Your Climb & Go Light

Going light on a climb vastly increases the enjoyment factor and usually results in faster and more successful climbs

There is a pack somewhere behind all this...crap!!
  Very often I see parties heading off into the mountains with their huge back packs, carrying way too much gear. A good rule of thumb is if you think you need something, you much likely don’t. If you know you need something, you much likely will. 
If you bring all that just in case equipment and in your head gear up for a night out. Well, it's already then almost already set up for that. 
Because you will be to heavy to start with.

The first and best way is just to keep the back pack small in liters. 
Your light 18l pack will probably be way to small. But the thing is, it's a big chance it's the same situation with your 30l. 
It is easy to get the "good to have" mood and we humans tend to like stuff and widgets.
Since " I have the space for this" 
And maybe it's not a big deal, a pair of extra gloves and a few more bars with that rescue blanket and some spare...well soon your in the trap and then a duvet goes in there as well. We like to collect things! 

Just leading with or without a pack makes difference. Every small gram just weights and every small gram adds to a bigger heavier kilo in the end. Therefore, the small pack is a good start. 

And to get there a good practice is to always think minimalistic. On every trip and every day out, skiing, hiking or climbing. Keep it small. think of it as a separate sport to always get along with the lightest pack and fewest pieces of equipment. Without taking steps that start making it dangerous!

Basic equipment

A single 8.9 or 9mm 50 or 60 meter rope makes a good base. I also keep a 6mm static tag line if the route is reversed via rappel or if I would need to haul my bag. I have found 60 meter ropes are rarely worth the extra weight. If the climb is easy I just use one single twin rope, with the option to use it as a double if needed...
the perfect minimalistic alpine back pack, Dragonfly 18
  A small pack, meaning; the smallest pack I can get that I wear while leading. I have found the Blue Ice Mono bag or the Dragon fly 18 as a super sound bag and aperfect partner for this purpose.
Depending on season and type of climb I of course bring different thinks. But the base is mostly the same, a warm jacket as a Crux Turbo Top or/and a windbreaker. 

  Together with 0.5-1.5l water bottle or a thermos.  For food fruit or nuts. I hardly ever bring modern Bars since they often are low on energy, demand a lot of water to be efficient and tend to freeze up during winer ascents. As well as expensive! And I'm just tired of finding the waste paper that people tend to "loose" once it's eaten!
I also make sure that I hydrate before the climb. Which means that for shorter climbs I can just leave the hydration pack behind.
Not so much fun really, but sometimes you just need to lead of in that bigger pack!
Minimalistic thinking, helmet and food
No real food since I rarely eat while climbing. If you are the sting kind, better then to make sure to get a really substantial breakfast. More sense carry most food and water in your stomach rather than on your back.

Shoes, boots and clothes

If I need to take my approach shoes on the climb I wear my Five Ten Tennies or even Five Fingers. In the former I can even climb up to a quite high grade. On a more moderate route. I then don’t even need any other shoes.

I prefer a lightweight weather resistant pullover that stuffs in it’s own pocket and easy to rack. 
And hardly ever brings a full on shell jacket on day tours. But a hood on the jacket is always nice. 
the Crux Turbo Top

Light cams like BD Ultralight Cams and light wires together makes a huge difference. But even more if you actually plan and schedule how many and what sizes that is useful. 
Keeping the amount of pro to a minimum. Specially if the rack includes bigger cams like #4 or #5´s

I use light spectra sewn alpine draws but always bringing several untied slings that I can use for replacing old slings and wrapping around chockstones etc.

Here is a source to save a lot of weight. Only using modern lightweight biners as Camp Nano or DMM saves a lot of weight.
Just make sure that they still stay easy to clip into your lead rope. Specially if I climb with gloves the type of gate, opening and how wide it is, might change the whole experience. I bring only a couple of lightweight locking biner's, mostly D and 1 or 2 HMS. 


Here is an other one. Obviously I use different harnesses depending on season and goal. My alpine skiing harness demands a bit less than my sport cragging one. 
But it makes no sense to bring my super comfy harness for a relatively easy ice route. And fact is, many of the modern lightweight boudriers are just as nice to hang in as an older regular one. 

Light is right, right? Sure still might be...but better is - Just think positive!

Nov 19, 2017

Natilik - Céüse

Céüse, in the Haute-Alpes of France, is said to be one of the best places for sport-climbing in Europe. On solid limestone with long demanding routes. Suited close to Gap and on an altitude of 2016mts, its location makes it possible to climb most of the month of the year. But at least for a Scandinavian it will be to warm in the summertime. The nearby drop zone in Tallard is one of the most weather safe places in Europe to go for skydiving. Its some 10min drive from the main crag and the village of Les Roses
Massif de Céüse 
The area is best known for its sustained sport routes in the higher grades, Some of the hardest routes in Europe is developed here. And with the chances of getting long interesting falls cause of the distanced length between the bolts.
Something I didn't find to bad on the lower graded routes. But as soon as we started on 7a/7a+ and higher, that became a true fact indeed!
Evening cragging at Céüse 

With the sunset followed by the BQ

What is a little less known in the area, at least for me, was that it aslo has a few multi pitch routes. And a couple of them which I would say is great classic´s and something you should´t miss out on a visit here.
One of them is "Natilik"
Voie Natilik - Céüse

Natilik - a Forgotten Trad Climb?!

The start of Natilik 
This 5 pitch trad route is equipped with a few pitons and bolts and all anchors in. But to protected properly you would like to bring a small set of wires and cams up to #4
It is a stunning climb on the highest point of the rock face, far out on the north side, right side facing the cliff.  It works it ways trough the giant roofs giving every single pitch its own character; off-width, chimney, face and stuff you might never explored before!
Summiting up on the high plateau of the ski area of Station de Céüse
First climbed in 1981 it still is a very interesting route with a lot of fun. Never super hard, just airy and might even feel a bit scary. I have seen it graded with everything between 5c to 6b+, guess it just depends on if you are used to placing own gear or not. And have been climbing big cracks.
The crux is getting of the roof ledge up over the roof part, but it is well protected with a #2 camalot.

The Route

To find the start. Hike up towards the rock face but stay low to start with, easier to take the lower trails. And head out north until you finally reach a fence "no passing - interdict" Allow 1.15h for the approach.
Just pass the fence, ignoring the first bolted routes just before the fence. You will see a BIG crack system heading up slightly leftwards blocked by a big "horn". It might also be a cairn at the bottom.
Anna on the second pitch of Natilik 
1st pitch follow the crack / off- width up to the big block, which is passed on the left side, a lot of air, up to a bolted belay. 20mts / 5c

2nd pitch. Continue up the crack which turned into a sort of chimney to the next bolted belay. 20mts / 6a

3rd pitch. Head up the wall passing a small roof, bolt, and then make a airy traverse leftwards. Says "poor protected" but it is possible to get in a few cams on the way. Just remember to place pro for the second 😅 25mts / 6a+                                                                                      
Traversing out on the 3rd pitch
4th. The Roof!! An unforgettable pitch 20-                 25mts / 6a+
5th. Follow great formations, cannelure´s to the top. 30mts / 5b

All pitches are maximum 30meters
Unforgettable Roof Pitch!
For the descent
Follow trails north and around back to the base. Or, if low season, its possible to walk south and take the via- ferrata down. Just walk down to the sign. This is much quicker but will catch a lot of input if its people coming up...
It is also possible to make a rappel on the route to the left, but then you will need 2x50m rope

Exit out over the roof
For "Natilik"
50m rope, 5-6 QD´s (longer ones useful) a few mid size wires, cams from #0,5-4 (BD camalots)
All belays are bolted and it was re-bolted 2015
First ascent 1981 by Philippe Macle et Jean-Christophe Lafaille
Places to stay
Les Roses and Sigoyer
There is a camping close to where the trail starts up to the cliff. And aslo a few AirBnB´s

This is a tricky one. There is no shops in the close area, not even a bakery in low season!
The closest one is at Gap-Tallard.
From Sigoyer, take the D219 down to Gap-Tallard. At the roundabout there is an Intermarche visible towards Gap.
There you also find the Drop Zone area.
Yeah, summit!
Other places close by
The drive to Orpierre is only an hour away. Nice place if you want to change and have really short approaches for a change. It also has a lot of great climbing but also much more crowded!
Stay away during the mid terms holiday in november!!

External links
Link to Camp2Camp here
Link to Climbaway here

the falaise de Céüse seen from Sigoyer
// the house never wins when Mother Nature is the dealer

Nov 5, 2017

Tours d´Areu - la vie de Garcon - Vallée l´Arve

the Climbing on Tours d´Areu in le Vallée l´Arve - Chamonix, is one of the best spots to be found if you are looking for solid high quality limestone. Luckily the approach is far away from every true sport climber, calculate at least 2h of walking, which keeps this place out of reach from most of the lazy bolt clipping craggers!

the approach towards Ref. Doran
The approach is best done from Burzier up to refuge de Doran. Hopefully it is open, because they serve the most delicious blueberry cake that you can imagine!
The climbing it self is pretty obvious, the five towers are well announced above the refuge.

Just follow the trail leading up towards col de Forclaz, almost up to the base of the first tower and then join the track heading out north under the towers. Aloud an other hour for this depending on the weather conditions. It can be very warm during the summer months!
la vie de Garcon 6c
Well at the base there is a number of great escapes as long as you are happy with 6b and upwards. A new bolted classic is the "la Vie de Garcon" 6c. A five pitch route on the forth tower which goes like;

And since it is Haute Savoie grading there is no "charm offensive" for the tourists 😁
The good thing is that it now at least has new bolts (2013) and not to far appart either. Which makes this route a most challenging but perfectly safe day on a brilliant rockwall with the most beautiful surroundings, Massif du Mont Blanc.

Equipment la Vie de Garcon
Ouverte en 1989 par Petiole (Thierry Perillat) et Pascal Strappazon.
Rééquipée en 2013 par les mêmes.
Rope 2x50m
QD´s : 10-12

Rappel the route

Route description
Via Camp2Camp

Le bellevue

// Je vu le peurs...a perte au pire. Il efface me pas..

Oct 23, 2017

Ropes - the importance of your life line Part ll

This is to refer to a couple of often used techniques to join 2 ropes together.
Mainly discussed is the Flat overhand knot, Reversed figure of eight and the last Flat figure of eight.

Thoughts about Knots!!!
 After summiting a climb, I always prefer to walk of the route. Rather taking a somewhat longer hike than rappelling the whole thing. Specially if it a new route so it would mean that I have to leave a bunch of stuff. Depending on how difficult the return by foot is of course.
Rappelling also involves the chance of getting a rope stuck, specially on a low angel route as well as more damage on the ropes. So in total: a higher risk.
For me it aslo take some of the good feeling of the accomplishment to summiting. But thats more personal...

With that in mind it´s always a good thing to calculate plus and minus / red and green, which return is best. But sometimes its not possible to avoid, it just has to be reversed by rappelling!
Sometimes, there are no alternative but the use of ropes...
 With that said, most of the accidents tend to happen on the descent, for many different reasons.
Most of us that has put in load of rope lengths has probably had some kinds of incidents, if not I´m just there to congratulate!
In my case I have been close to have ripped anchors, a couple of times missed to clip in both ropes in my rappel device, discovered just before putting weight on the ropes: bouff😅!
Roped stuck both above and actually below me, with a rope jammed in a crack.
Stones and rock falling of with the rope when pulling it down...well the list can be long. But, I can only say that so far I have been lucky many times but most of the times just taken good care. Still, things can go wrong.

One thing that will improve your life line is how you tie the ropes together. Since that is something that just would suck, the day that the rappel comes into a free fall just because the ropes open up.
With no discussion the best thing is to use 1 single rope, so there is no need for a knot.
Easier to pull, less chance of getting stuck and no risk to open. And many times there is enough with just one single 60 or 70m rope to get away with the rappels with out joining two ropes at all. So don't just go by instinct, instead figure it out if its needed to tie ropes together at all.
Definitely the best way of rappelling, one clean and single rope
But if there is a need for say 2x50!
In my case I tend to use two different variations of knots or bends they also can referred as. Which one I use is only depending on the ropes and diameter.
1/Rule number one is that always generate some force on the knot to make it tight.
2/Rule number two is to leave enough rope after the knot, some 30cm or two fists of spare rope.
With that said, don't make them way to long because then there will be other problems.
Make that spare rope proper but not to long

The flat overhand knot / flat overhand bend

Flat overhand knot
The favorite which most climbers seems to use it the flat overhand knot / flat overhand bend.
And there is a number of reasons why and here are some of them listed, pros and cons.
+ Easy to tie and easy to open
+ Safe and very strong
+ Low profile
+ Slides easily over object and less chance of getting jammed

- Has to be put under some force and tightened properly
- Needs rope with similar diameter. UIAA recommends within 3mm
- Can slide. So major important to leave some 30cm extra rope.

It is a possibility to tie another overhand knot to prevent sliding, but then the whole idea of being easy to tie and less risk of getting stucked is gone. So in my opinion that is just a way of getting one good thing to bad.

The reversed figure of eight

the Reversed Figure of Eight. This one should have more stress on it to be 100%
Personally I use this variation when I have two ropes with different diameter or with very slippery ropes, like a brand new one that has a very hard sheet.
As I often climb with a tagline, this is the technique I often use. With my 9mm lead rope and a 6mm tag line the knot produced by a Reversed Figure of Eight becomes quite small.
To tie this I leave less spare rope on each side in about 15cm / one big fist.
+ Strong and secure
+ Safe with two different diameters
+ Easy to pull
+ Flat profile

- Takes more time to tie
- More difficult to open, specially with used ropes that has become a bit "angora cattish"
- Bigger chance og getting jammed

As with the flat overhand, it´s possible to add a extra back up when tie this. But once again, it only comes with disadvantage since it becomes more awkward to tie and more likely to jam. Leave some 15-20cm, one big fist, on each side and put in some stress on it. Same thinking as when tie in the harness!


There are a few other ways of joining two ropes together. One is the Fisherman's knot. 
Which can be considered as very safe, as long as again there is left enough spare rope on the ends, but very hard to open and slow to tie.
An other is the reversed water knot which should be mainly used on slings, not for rappel ropes!
And then the last one here to mentioned is the flat figure of eight.

Flat figure of eight

Flat figure of eight - stay away
Since the figure of eight is used by most climbers when they tie in to their harness, many people tends to think that this would be a safe thing for joining to ropes together as well.
The problem with this knot is that it looks safe but produce the opposite. In fact it has been the cause for a number of people getting killed because it has opened when rappelling.
Accident rapport from Zion 2002
The biggest problem with threading ropes together like this is that the Flat figure of eight tends to easily roll over it self. So even with long spare rope it can roll and collapse and actually open.
Since it also takes away any of the advantages the Flat overhand has with its low shape and easy to to pull and the advantages with the Reversed figure of eight, which is super strong. There is just no reason to use the Flat figure of eight!
And the worst thing you can is using this knot to tie slings together!!


Figure of eight secured with a half Fisherman - Over use!!
In my opinion, since there is non and any pros for this knot the result is just stop using it and learn everyone the two more proper ways of joining ropes.
The reaction on showing students or novice climbers to the Flat overhand is that the reaction is often
-is that all!?
And as a consequence they use a Flat figure of eight instead, which might look safer. But test showed that it rolls easier with less force.
An other reason can also be that when climbers are teached to tie in their harness they often are told to add some extra spare rope which then are locked with an fisherman knot.
Which actually makes people think that the strength in the knot is the last locking knot!
Instead a more proper way is to learn new climbers to use just enough rope for the tie in. Something I also  think can improve the way of thinking regarding other knots and bends.

Figure of eight tie in a harness, this one with perfect length 

So, you have joined the two ropes good together, made the rappel and guess what, the ropes get jammed in a crack!!
What to do?
Reach out for the next upcoming article on this site...

//Sometimes leaving is just a consequence when nothing is there to hold back