Cotes du Rhone Villages
30 April-7 May 2005.   Report by: Bryan Rynne


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This year's JMCS spring "wine-tasting with some climbing thrown in" holiday was to the Cotes du Rhone Villages area. We stayed in a gite in St Roman de Malegarde, about 20 miles NE of Orange, in the middle of the Villages area, surrounded by a sea of vineyards.

There are two major climbing areas near here, Dentelles de Montmirail and Buis les Baronnies, each about 20 miles away from where we stayed. Buis les Baronnies is long thin ridge, about 100 metres high, with a large number of high-quality 4-pitch routes. It is also south facing, so protected from the northerly mistral wind when it blows. Dentelles de Montmirail contains several ridges, but we only went to one, Chaine de Gigondas, which is quite similar to Buis, but north facing, so good when it is too hot for Buis. The routes here are shorter, generally 1 or 2-pitch.

Due to a cool northerly wind most of the week, we mainly climbed at Buis. There is some tremendous climbing here, at French grade 5-6. Interesting climbing on good rock, well-bolted and with excellent abseil anchors, set up to get back down in two 50m abseils off most routes (no fiddling around going back down the route you just came up, on top of other people coming up).

Climb of the week was probably La Grotte:
  • pitch 1 through a hole into a cave;
  • pitch 2 a long corner crack;
  • pitch 3 a tricky traverse;
  • pitch 4 a long slab leading to the summit of the ridge (see photos), with glorious views all round.
This was so good Patrick and I did it twice! (with different partners each time).

Local wine was also excellent, in particular from the two local villages with their own appellation: Gigondas and Vacqueyras (these are just at the base of the Dentelles). I didn't pick the destination solely because of this, but it certainly was an incentive.