Verdon 2.0- last spring

Posted on 18.12.16


After Scotland it was time to go to a warm place, like the South of France! And what could be better for a sunny climbing holiday than the Gorges du Verdon?

Last year, Jacopo and I went there on my first visit to Verdon. For me it is one of the most beautiful places for multi-pitch climbing in the world. All those deep gorges with tons of old classics established by legends of the scene and endless potential for
 new routes … just what makes every climber’s heart leap for joy.

 

And it’s not only about climbing—it’s also the simple life in the van in the warm climate, hanging out on rest days at the cyan lake, going for a kayak ride, and tasting all the delicious food like goat cheese, wines and pastries. It really makes you feel like you’re living in paradise.

When we arrived at Verdon this year, we surprisingly met some good friends. Toby and Christoph had been there for two weeks and had two more days left before their return back home. They told us about a new-ish multi-pitch route called Golden Shower (8b+), first climbed by the legendary Stefan Glowacz in 2012. Stefan climbed every single pitch free (7a+, 8b+, 8b+, 7c+/8a) up the impressive steep golden pillar over some days and it turned out to be one of the hardest routes in the Gorge.

After hearing all the great stories from our friends, we were excited to have a look at this route, even more so, because it remains in the shade at least half of the day. In June this is your only option if you want to try something hard.

Toby did the first one-day ascent of Golden Shower one week before we arrived and Christoph was still trying it. Therefore it was easier for us to climb on Golden Shower as everything was chalked and the sequences looked obvious. On the first day we spent most of our time on the first hard pitch. There’s a really hard undercling boulder problem in the middle, which asked for everything I had and turned out to be a big challenge!

 

After this session I was more than worked and too tired to go for the next pitch at which Jacopo had a look later. The third pitch is the hardest. It also features a really hard boulder problem in the middle of the pitch, which seemed to be much harder than any of the sequences on the pitches before.

After this day both of us needed a rest and it was Christoph’s very last chance to get paid off for all the work he had invested into two trips to the Verdon for this route. Christoph’s destroyed fingers looked like they would have still needed a week‘s rest, but somehow he managed to give their trip a golden end by sending the route a few hours before they had to drive back.

With some beers and great stories we celebrated their achievement at the campground.

After a second day on the wall Jacopo looked strong on all the pitches and found good solutions for all the hard parts. For me it turned out to be a big battle. I couldn’t find a way to climb the crux and after hours I gave up! Jacopo sent the route on the third day. Everything looked really smooth. He sent the first two pitches right away, had one fall on the crux pitch, and onsighted the last technical pitch to the top. What a cool day!

I still couldn’t follow one of the hard pitches or link the crux. My expectations were not really high for the next attempt two days later, but … I felt really good that day! The temps were a bit lower compared to the previous days—still warm with 25 degrees in the shade but a bit windier. Therefore I didn’t have to climb with a tomato-red face and my heart wasn’t beating like in a marathon anymore.

It took a long day on the wall with seven hours to complete all four pitches. I was surprised, destroyed, and more than happy to finally have climbed this route. Compared to most of the other climbs in Verdon, Golden Shower is really steep except for the last pitch and quite untypical for Verdon: less technical, less slabby.

After this project it was definitely time for some classics and easier fun climbing on routes like Dame Cookie (seven pitches up to 8a+) the day after, or Halix (11 pitches up to 7b+), one of the most beautiful and varied routes I have ever climbed, where you can find big tufas, grey slabby limestone, incredible pockets and also steep parts—every pitch a different style and 12 pitches of pure fun!

The last really hot days we spent sport climbing in the La Ramirole sector.

Our trip finally came to a bitter end when some guys broke into our car and stole all the camera equipment, cash, and our phones. This was the second incident—three weeks earlier we got robbed in Arco/ Italy. Shit! It’s not a reason to be scared and stay at home, but it definitely sucks!

Nevertheless I can’t wait to get back to this magical place.

All pictures from Paolo Sartori 

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