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European Sport Climbing Extravaganza
12:23:49 AM
Hi all,

Well the real business of climbing has begun. We've seen "Action Direct". The approach to bolt one is a layback crack. Marty had a go in his thongs and got two thirds of the way to bolt one. Lee was similar. Neil bouldered all the way to bolt one and got a bit of a shock when he realised how high up he was. By the way, there is a resident pack of Marlboros stuffed in the crack, presumably for the enjoyment of the hardcore takers.

Neil acquired such savage blisters during his efforts on Mt Blanc that he was having issues walking. As such it was pointless going directly to Ceuse as originally planned. As such, we headed for Orpierre, France. It is France's answer to Natimuk? with a bakery, pizza shop, climbing store and not much else. We stayed at a campground which had a separate section for climbers!

News of significance from Orpierre includes:

The walkins are short, so we are very happy.

Neil and Lee went on a very successful simul climbing mission.

Sam broke a new grade barrier, onsighting three 6a's (apparently 18... but one of them was hard. I also climbed it and came close to fall off several times)

Lee and Jac both got through "Destruction"... a very steep route, at 7b+ (26). Very reachy. I had a couple of goes at a 27. Ran out of time to finish it, but it was long and pumpy and as such provided some good training.

The routes are very well bolted. Yay!

Neil's frostbite on his nose seems to have cleared up. He is very disappointed, claiming that he was hoping his nose would fall off.

We've moved camp, and are now based at the bottom of some pile of choss called Ceuse. We'll have a bit of a climb on it tomorrow and report back to you whether it is worth all the hype it has generated.

Mike - in mid October we'll be somewhere in Italy. Not in the north by then... my guess is mid or Southern Italy, or maybe somewhere near Rome such as Sperlonga. Hard to say at this point. If you will be in the area and would like to hook up, enquire again about a week and a half prior. You can sms me also. I'll email u my number.

JohnK - maybe... depends on availability of the items you require at the end of the trip (ie in Rome) and space limitations on the flight. Email me the details and I'll try....

I hear Chris Abernethy is climbing strong as hell back home. GO CHRIS GO !!!!!!!

I'll report back soon!


2:51:12 AM
I'll be climbing on the Costa Blanca coast of Spain from Nov 19th - 24th if you're still there?

9:37:31 AM
Hi Jac,

Great thread, Iíve been following with interest for a while now.

I was hoping that you would be able to give us aspiring jetsetters an idea of the costs involved in a trip like yours. Iím saving to go to Europe this time next year but Iím stuck on costs of accommodation, travel and food.

Any help would be great.

Good luck and have fun with the rest of the trip :)
10:48:22 PM
Not going to Spain, sorry!

Costs... um... things are quite expensive in Europe now. A flight booked - months in advance will set you back minimum AUS$2100. Camping is around 4 Euros per person per night. In some places you need to pay 50 Euro cents per 5 mins for the shower. Food and petrol costs almost double what it does in Australia. We are no longer looking at pricetags... we just buy things because we need the nutrition of leafy greens etc. Crossing the Swiss border costs 30 Euros (almost AUS$60). I bought an icypole the other day... 2 Euros. ie $4. Youch.

Anyway, we have survived the walkin to Ceuse (if u go there, do the walkin that starts at the Les Guerins campground. It is much flatter than the evil walkin from the carpark that supposedly reduces the walkin.) I managed the walkin on two consecutive days b4 feeling so crippled I was forced to take a rest day. Neil, Lee and I all did 3Super Mickey3 at gr25. Sam led at Ceuse. Woo hoo! Lee also did a 26 there, featuring runouts that made me whimper in terror when attempting it. The temperature was so cold on Day 1 during the walkout that all I could think about was how important it was that I get back to my tent, don all my clothes and get into my sleeping bag. I even lost the movement in my thumbs for a while there. Anyone would think I'd been on Everest!!!!! But seriously, the climbing is spectacular, and better again if you're fit enough to do the walkin AND some climbing!!!!! The scene here is weird. U can be surrounded by climbers and not understand a word they are saying. The standard encouragement call is ALLEZ (think of that crap Ricky Martin song... Here We Go, Allez Allez Allez!) However this encouragement call is not delivered with the same enthusiasm as the Australian equivalent of "Come on!" Allez is said in a quiet and almost uninterested tone. We are quite out of place with our yelling and screaming here!

Off to Boex today (not sure of the spelling). More news soon!!!!!!!!!

mikl law
11:13:15 PM
I only managed one day at ceusse, between days of crap weather (it was late septmeber, the end of "the season") and there wrere about 50 people at les Geurins when a big storm hit. Next day there were 4 people, and loads of ripped tents, sleeping mats, half full pots of jam, mayonaisse, wine. Brokemn stoves, fold out picnic tables, chairs, wet pillows. Nost of which we took.

Lower is warmer, and the grades are much softer. At Orpierre there are some 7C softies. Buoux was horrible (sharp and polished pockets) set in a fabulous area around Apt, but check out Gorge du Tarn and Chateauvert if it stays cold.

It's just monopoly money, and you don't feel like stinting in case you miss out.

8:16:11 AM
The walk in then the cold sounds like a killer... I understand the need to curl up in your sleeping bag! Great read Jac, good on you guys!
8:13:21 PM
Hi again everyone!

OK so today is our last day in the Verdon Gorge area in France. I can confirm the rumours: the gorge is massive. You could easily spend an entire day racing your way through a monster multi pitch. Points of interest abouth the Verdon include:

* The guide does not refer to pitch lengths. Accordingly it is anyone's guess whether you're rope(s) will reach the next rap station, or whether it is wise to string pitches together.

* Most people wear helmets. This is because there is heaps of loose stuff at Verdon, and people are constantly dislodging it without the courteousy warning call.

* As I said, the thing is massive. So you often don't hear the call of 'rope below' ("Attention! La Corde!) As such it is not uncommon to see someone scetching 5m above a bolt and watching in horror as a rope cascades on top of them.

* French behaviour is in full swing at Verdon.... first in best dressed. Even if someone is fully kitted up below a route, it isn't theirs till they sep onto the wall. It's fair game. You can literally step in front of someone and quickly claim the route. I was quite uncomfortable about doing this, but more scared of Neil's persistent urging that I hurry up and get on the route immediately!

* Rap-ins feel just fine if you can see a ledge below you. When you have a clear view all the way to the bottom of the Gorge is when you get a tad nervy. You tend to doublecheck your harness about 20 times!

* The Gorge is absolutely spectacular. Esentially one mountain that eroded in the middle, thus creating the two sides of the Gorge, and a beautiful green river running right thru the middle.

* The grades feel tough. We fondly refer to 6c as "nails" and have accordingly remained below 6c... huffing and puffing our way up 6b. For your amusement, I'll advise you that 6c is apparently 21, and 6b is 19!!!!!

So that's the Verdon. Other entertaining points to note are:

* The other day, we were driving thru a largish town towards a tourist attraction called 'Pont du Gard' (massive bridge built with a slight downwards slope for the purpose of ferrying water from one end to the other). A bunch of local lads saw our twin Renault Meganes and fulfilled the French duty of hanging out of their windows to give us the big thumbs down. It seems that our cars have red licence plates which identifies us as having a hire car. Thus tourists. It is for this reason that we live in fear of our cars getting broken into. The red number plates are like a beacon. "Break into me! You'll find good stuff like cameras in here!!!"

* Having arrived in France with nothing more to say for myself than "Bonjour", I can now sympathise with new migrants that arrive in Australia unable to speak English. I am slowly learning some words.. enough to communicate the important things, anyway. Where is the supermarket and when does it close? Is there dairy in this? The toilet paper has run out. It needs restocking.

* Buoux was awesome, albeit demanding. I worked quite hard at onsighting a fairly runout route, which got quite sketchy at the top... only to learn it was a grade 20! Also Neil and I had to return a second day to finish our grade 22 projects. It's a far cry from "The Tyrant's Grasp" at Amnesty Wall back home!!!

* I've now tried frogs legs AND snails. I will admit that I had to drink a heap of red wine before I could do the snails, and that they were so drowned in garlic that I'm not 100 percent sure what they taste like.

* Sam is rapidly earning the rep of most gullible person in the group. In Paris, she created a very entertaining way of asking if a dish contained milk which involved her going thru the motions of milking a cow. The waiter was most amused. At a supermarket near Ceuse, she realised that she had one Euro worth of coins, but not a one Euro coin which she needed for a trolley. Conveniently, there was a man sitting on the ground with a dirty hat containing some coins gesturing to her. "Excellent" she thought "A chage man.... how convenient!" and merrily made the relevant coin swap. Her change man was in fact a beggar.

* Tomorrow we are off to Chateauvert, then the day after that a day trip on a boat to somFrance. We leave behind the land where a town can have 4 public phones and an ATM... none of which work and noone cares. We leave behind a land where your restaurant meal may never arrive. We leave behind a land where the shops might open late or not at all. And we cross the border to beautiful ITALY. First stop is Finale... rumoured to be a massive crag on the coast. Woo hoo!!!

I hope everyone at home is well. Talk again soon!!!!!

9:40:09 PM
Sounds great Jac. Finale is pretty good. We climbed on a couple of different cliffs but we had no idea what they were and hung out on the beach and around town during the hot part of the day - that was in July. Should be lovely at this time of year. We ate in the old part of town - lovely pizza and cheap jugs of red beside the church with the wall with bullet marks at chest-height.
You'll have to watch out for the Italian pastries - they're like the French ones except they all seem to have custard in them - not good if you're lactose intolerant. Have fun.
mikl law
1:16:22 AM
Have fun at Chateauvert, small but one good wall. i had an epic in 35C heat trying "Magician de Oz" and getting stuck on a sweaty layback section and kept having sweat run off my elbow onto the crucial slopy foothold on the last moves, downclimbing and chalking up my elbow etc. Up and down 4 times till I got the onsight. Probabaly only 21 but it was an epic.

Tell me what you find, but I think people drive purposefully and neatly in France , but in Italy it's "Every-a-body they-a gett-a in-a Fiat. An-a now-a we kill-a every-a-body ina Fiat, like-a this" All very stressful. Good luck.

How's the weather over there now? You can see everything in Rome in a single 21 km day's walk, with 9 gelati stops and slightly less toilets. If you legs are missing Ceusse, climb to the top of the dome in the Vatican. Enormous for something that was built by hand.

1:24:55 AM
Nice run down Jaq, can't wait to get there!

I've personally stopped trying to convert the grades as they seem to be horribly overlapped, some 7Bs feel like 22s, while some 6Bs feel like 25s...

I think I speak for everyone here when I say "online photo diary please!"



2:52:30 AM
Very limited pics due to our pic "issues" =)

3:06:21 AM
As Lee mentions above, please use the link to take a look at the piccies that he has managed to get online.

Chateauvert was ABSOLUTELY SENSATIONAL. An absolute must do if you are in France. The walkins are around 15seconds. Also there is a lot of routes you can do in the shade when the sun gets a bit much. Lots of great routes. And a really funky little town at the base of it too. (It is also worth noting that the phone at the campground was the first one in France that allowed us to call reverse charges WITHOUT buying a phonecard to activate the phone in the first place!)

Big news on the climbing front is that even though I am still getting spat off 6c+ and sometimes stuff the onsight of 7a, at Chateauvert, an onsight of 7b finally relented. Apparently this is gr25, and as I have never onsighted anything of this grade before, I was one very pleased little vegemite. Yay!!!!!! Quite a sketchy move of a yukky undercling thingy with polished footers made me hesitate and think... no... no can do. Neil yelled at me and I thought well, may as well try! I will be real angry if I mess this one up. Anyway, got through it. Woo hoo!

We have now crossed the border into Italy and are based at Finale Ligure. A big storm came through promising 5 days of crap weather and it definitely rained us out yesterday. However, during our huddle in the cave waiting for a break in the rain, I figured I might as well put my Italian-speaking-skills to good use and get talking to the locals. Got some really good beta for a crag to visit. We went there today. We went to sector 14.4 of Monte Cucco. It promises shelter from rain, and not one single crap route as far as we can tell. Some steep ones, but among them is a collection of 5s with massive jugs. Something for everyone. Also it is worth noting that a large number of climbers camp around the carparking area of this crag, even though there are no "No camping" signs. There are a couple of toilets and access to water. Darn it. Free camping. Wish we had known this when we arrived. Oh well.

We are staying at a place up the hill called "Camping San Martino". It has the best showers we have seen in Europe yet (temperature control, hot water, and no evil push buttons that cut out the water every 30 seconds). Also there is a large covered area (supposed to be an outdoor pizzeria in the peak season) we can sit in and cook thus escaping rain. We have also been befriended by the campground kitten, whose name is apparently "Giovanni". Who calls a cat "Giovanni"? It is one of the things I love about this country. It makes no sense. Giovanni is difficult to shorten into a nickname. Giovanni himself makes no sense. Even if he is treated badly by someone, you can be sure that he will still crawl under the vestibule of their tent, and cuddle up against their head, separated only by the fabric of the tent. And he will stay there. The whole night. Giovanni likes to eat fish and also chicken, and will leave the vegetables behind if he is feeling a little bit full.

Among the other things that make no sense are the road signs, and the chaos that is known as driving. Yet I love it all. I also love how unbelievably amazed the Italians are when they find out you have travelled all the way from Australia to be in their country. Each and every one of them ask if you got here by plane. !!!

We figure we will climb here at least one more day before venturing across to Arco. Being in the region of the Italian Alps at Arco, we may be subject to some dodgy weather. We'll see...

More soon

8:03:48 AM
On 7/10/2004 climbingjac wrote:

> Her change man was in fact a beggar.

Ha, Ha!! They'll all soon know where Australia is with behaviour like that!! Even the beggars...

7:14:04 AM
Hello hello

Now, where did I get up to?

Well we experienced some very unfortunate weather in Finale Ligure. It is right on the coastline of the Ligurian Sea, and we were there just as a big weather front came through. Very windy. Very windy.

As such, we headed inland to Arco, which is truly spectacular. Based on a lake called Lago di Garda, there are big spectacular mountains that rise up from the lake all the way around it, and the lake is so big you mistake it for an inlet from the ocean. A very regal looking place. Arco is THE place to buy climbing gear. It is very cheap. Neil has found his paradiso in a land where fixed hangers cost only 90 Euro cents (less than AUS$1.80). We did lots of really great climbs in Arco, and I am proud to report that I got a bit brave and executed some very insecure moves during onsights. Normally I would shy away from this for fear of falling off. The boys were most pleased :-)

Neil and I became the first ones in the group responsible for damaging one of the cars. We took a wrong turn when searching for a crag and as such had to turn around. Neil attempted a very dodgy maneuvre... taking a right hand turn which was pretty much a u-turn, with a road that dropped into a ditch on the left, and a religious statue thing on the right. We suddenly collided with the statue. Relaying the story to the others, Neil said "We have a new scratch on the car. We collided with a catholic structure with some sort of Jesus character staring down upon us!"

Luckily the others didn't seem to mind much.

I have run out of internet credit for today. I have more stories, but they will have to wait!


9:25:17 AM
I can relate to that, I dinged up a hire Peugeot 206 in Italy a couple of years back on the way to Dolomite, was a really zippy little thing too (hence the ding). Also was passenger in a bingle in a hire Subaru in NZ in 2001, but that was because of a faulty tyre - hire car companies in NZ get their cars really cheap directly imported from Asia (much smaller car import duties in NZ) with really crap, cheap tyres designed for city driving in say Japan and they go straight onto the road. Then take that on a romp around NZ ski fields with the fellas and tyres will start popping at inopportune moments (ie at 110 km/h going round a corner).

When this sort of thing happens you need to be aware of your rights and what was in the contract you signed when you took the car, and not to get conned by the hire car dealer - especially being foreigners they will try to take you for everything. Perhaps Less likely in your instance because there are a lot of you.

Cheers, D
1:55:29 AM
Thanks Damietta :-)

Luckily we are returning the cars the Peugot office in Rome and I speak Italian so fingers crossed all will be OK

mikl law
11:32:48 PM
2 out of three trips have resulted in car dmaage for me (all reversing around madonna's etc) (not surprising as i only got a car licence when i hit 40). A little bit of jex pad and the appropriate colour nail polish meant I haven't ever been charged for them. One was about a meter long along the base of 2 doors, and one was a 15 cm bumper scratch. A light dusting of dirt over the top provides perfect camo too. No panel beating was required however.

phil box
2:36:59 PM
Ahahaha, Mikl ya crack me up. Heh, Lee took our hire 4wd for a scrub bash when he turned right instead of left down at Coles Bay at Chrissy time. We took it through the carwash hoping that all the lantana scratches would buff out......They didn`t. We were relieved when weeks later we hadn`t heard anything after dropping the rental back, whew.
5:05:31 AM
Hello from Rome!

OK where was I?

Ended badly with a walkout in the dark involving me rolling my already buggered ankle. This has continued to plague me and will have to be dealt with when I get home :-(

Cost us 10 Euros per night (around AUS$20) each to camp in tents :-( It is however really close to lots of great climbing. The lady that runs the place is a bit of a nazi, and we can see how Simon and Monique could easily have had a run in with them, as they reported before we left Australia.

We took a day trip from Arco to the Dolomites, to indulge in the novelty of dry rock climbing, with snow on the ground to make for good piccies. It was very cold and as such Lee, being a Queenslander, suffered. He is not used to climbing in these temperatures! Marty wanted to take some piccies of Neil climbing, though Neil had not dressed in photo approved colours. So he asked to borrow Marty's shorts, which happened to be a nice shade of red. Marty obliged, and then merrily bounced around in his undies, warm jacket and mountaineer's beanie, taking piccies. I have pics of Marty doing this. Most entertaining. Neil was horrified to find a non-chipped hold high up on a climb. (This place had plastic holds attached to the rock and everything.) Neil is thinking of writing a letter. "Dear Italian Mountaineering Club. I recently visited one of your crags in the Dolomites. Whilst climbing a route called 'Dirti Dinging', I was shocked to encounter a hold that was not 'chipped and drilled to perfection', as promised in the guide........"

(I'm just going to hit OK so I don't somehow lose everything I have already written.)
5:15:10 AM
OK I'm back.

Kathy was due to fly out of Europe earlier than the rest of us, and wanted to see Venice b4 she left. So a mad dash across Italy was in order. I had seen Venice in a previous trip to Europe, so I headed off to see nearby Padova and Vicenza. Meanwhile, Team Venice got stung with a hefty dinner bill. A heated conversation arose over who had ordered something called 'Bibite'... as it had cost 36 Euros. Before long, Team Venice realised that 'Bibite' means 'Drinks' and that they had been charged 6 Euros (approx AUS$12) for each glass of Coke! Ouch! Neil has been too scared to eat out ever since.

After a huge rap from Simon and Monique about 'Ceredo', we decided a visit was in order. First stop upon arriving in town was the crag... where we ran into Sydneysiders Olivia Hsu, Rohan (in his trademark stripy thermals) and Will. They too were staying at the Pizzeria that we were headed for. We checked into some rooms in the downstairs section of the Pizzeria, fondly referred to by Lee as 'the dungeon'. It is quite cold down there, and we couldn't work out how to use the heater, so I headed up to enquire. The conversation went like this (in Italian): Jac "The heaters in the rooms... are they automatic, or do we need to do something to start them?" Pizzeria guy "NO" Jac "They don't work?" Pizzeria guy "NO" Jac "OK no problem". Jac scurries back to suggest everyone rug up. I then headed back upstairs to ask where I could do my washing. I kid you not, the guy suggested the local fountain!!!!!!!!!!! This town is SMALL. We were also foolish enough to ask where we could cook our dinner on our trangias. Outside. Darn it. Should have kept quiet and cooked in our rooms. Olivia and friends did. We saw them guiltily smuggling a large gas bottle out of their room on checkout day. Anyhow, about the climbing. Ceredo was home to another 7b+ (26) effort for both Lee and myself. We tackled separate climbs, both getting them second shot. Yay!

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