The weather had been epically bad in the UK. Rain, rain, how about a bit more rain? Going to the South of France to catch some rays and get in some climbing seemed just the thing to do!
After arriving at Nice and being whacked over the head with the heat of the Mediterranean it seemed that a rethink was in order… over an ice-cream.
The aim was to go to Saint Jeannet, a small town west of Nice nestled at the foot of an impressive cliff, the Baou, offering a good mix of single and multi pitch sport climbing on limestone. A scouting mission without gear to check out the area was mounted. It soon became obvious, this was going to be hot. Very hot.
The Main Face
The two main areas aimed at were La Source (mostly single pitch) and the Main Face (multi pitch), with the south-east side of the cliff in the sun most of the day and the Main Face in the sun from about 12:30pm. An hour or so hike to the top of the Baou Cliff gave plenty of time to consider hauling one’s butt up a near vertical cliff in the direct sun. Good view at the top mind! At the foot of the Baou lies La Source, now this seemed far more promising with the area shaded by trees and massive rocks (best not to dwell on how they got there).
This called for a bit more of a think (and more ice-cream).
After a couple of days of cooling off in the sea and swimming with the fishies a trip to La Source was called for. Here there is a nice range of grades, ranging from 3 up. On some of the more popular routes the rock is quite polished, mmm soapy. Lots of different styles of climbing too, including some nice fingery slabs (polish not helping!).
(A couple of sea, sun, and ice-cream days later)
On the Main Face there was a tempting 200m 9 pitch climb. All the grades were with in reach, the main issue seemed to be that we would only have about 4 hours till the route would be in full force of the sun. The plan: to give the first couple of pitches a go, and see how it goes, otherwise abseil down if there are any problems. The earliest we could reaching St. Jeannet was 7:45 in the morning, and setting off I thought we were making good time. Wrong. Just the approach to the first pitch covered some tricky scrambles and took longer than expected. In retrospect, should probably have treated them more as climbs since several bolts for protection were passed on the way up. Finally, the first pitch was found!
Booted and ready to go! Since I was seconding, I carried the day pack, including about 4 liters of water, lunch, guide book and other essentials (not to mention a bit of ‘just in case’ kit). I have never carried a pack while climbing before and it threw my balance right out of the window. Although the fist pitch was not hard, it was soapy and not very well protected. Some trad gear came in handy here.
After watching the second pitch being lead over a balancey traverse it became apparent that doubles would have been good. Also, if I had issues on the first pitch carrying the pack (I blame the baguette), the second would be very hard. Time, was also not on our side, and neither of us wanted to be half way up the cliff at the hottest part of the day. Some hard choices would have to be made.
After a quick discussion it was decided not to continue and abseil down. It was the right (if unsatisfactory) choice. It is not easy to back off a climb, but easier to do it early on rather than halfway up in the midday sun. Some fun abseiling followed (through some very prickly local plants). Then after reversing the approach (this time with a rope) we went to La Source, to enjoy some more of the excellent single pitch climbs in the shade. Followed by beer and ice-cream… of course!
The plan now is to return at a cooler time of the year with doubles and a better way to distribute load.