I began my search of climbing in Southern France by joining a couple of different climbing facebook pages and did a couple of basic searches for climbing near the areas we would be. I ended up getting in touch with a Frenchie, Hadrien, who ended up being an ICU nurse. Sort of a coincidence being an operating room nurse myself. We planned a pickup time and a place for him to pick me up and I had to make sure I was there on time because I didn’t have cell service unless I had wifi (pronounced “wee fee” in France). We did it old school, pre cellphone style with me telling him what I would be wearing and him telling me to look for a guy with a beard and a rope. I arrived at our rendez-vous point, he pulled up, saw me, yelled my name, and caught my attention. It ended up being a good thing he knew what I would be wearing because I was expecting him to be on foot, so I wasn’t paying too much attention to the cars.
We drove to Les Calanques, which is an amazing spot on the coast. Unfortunately, the weather hadn’t been great the couple of days before we climbed so there were some pretty wet spots. The actual route I wanted to do had a long wet streak through 2 of the pitches so we decided to do a different route. The route Hadrien and I ended up doing was a 4 pitch route called La Paroi Noire. It was rated 5a which equates to about 5.7 in the YDS. It was definitely an easy route, but climbing is always fun no matter if you’re just cruising or climbing hard and many of the more difficult routes had large streaks of water on them. We got to the base of the climb and because there were 2 groups of 3 above us we had some time to take in the views. The Calanques are all of the different water inlets, similar to Fjords, that penetrate the white cliffs. On the coast below where we climbed was a small fishing village where people still live. Les Calanques is now a National Park, but because they lived there before it was they are able to stay there.
Once we got to the top of the climb, we sat down and took in more of the views, only a little bit higher up, and chatted for a bit. Once we set off to the base, we were considering doing some cragging until it started raining. At that point we decided to turn around, head to the car and go to the climbing gym that was close by. I hadn’t experienced a climbing gym like this before as it was one wall inside of a basketball gymnasium. What was very interesting to me was that unlike here in the states where you have to take a lead climbing/belay test and sign a waiver, in this particular gym didn’t require either of those. We paid for a day pass, used their ropes, and climbed for a bit. Once it was time to meet back up with the wifey, Hadrien drove me back to the same place we met up earlier in the day and while waiting for Kelli to arrive, in true fashion I got myself a coffee and a nutella and banana crepe. I’m a sucker for crepes.
Hadrien and I at the summit of La Paroi Noire