May 2008.   Report by: Bryan Rynne


Click on a photo to see a bigger version; click again for an even bigger version.

The May to France this year turned into a logistical feat on a par with invading a small country. Fortunately, Ruth managed to organise it rather better than some recent examples of invasions of small countries. Some of us went out for a full two weeks, while other people devised various other combinations of time out there, which made accommodation and catering a nightmare. The catering was managed magnificently by Christine, with assistance from others, in particular Ruth and Patrick. I performed my usual role of buying more expensive wine than the others felt was really necessary, while charging it to the communal account, then standing around opening and pontificating about it while the others cooked. Still, someone had to do it.

We went to the Ariege area, in the foothills of the Pyrenees, south of Toulouse (we flew to Toulouse). There is a large amount of climbing in this area, mainly on limestone, but also a fair amount of granite. The climbing ranged from the usual single pitch sports stuff, to 150m bolted, multi pitch climbs at Calame, and up to 700m climbs using modern, high-technology protection equipment, on the Dent d'Orlu. Some of us expected to spend most of our time on the latter routes. Unfortunately, the weather was not ideal, perhaps due to being in the Pyreneean foothills. Most days there was a certain amount of grey, drizzly cloud drifting around. Although this usually did not cause any problems (in fact, I climbed every day, except on the middle Saturday when I had no-one to climb with), it did not encourage you to head off high up the flank of a serious mountain. Despite this, everyone had a good time.

I climbed with Ruth Love the first week and Patrick (and Terry some days) in the second week. Even after 12 days climbing there were plenty of things left that I would like to have done, if there had been more time ... The best short(ish) route that I did was Pilier des Cathares 6a+ (6 pitches, 130m) at Calames, with Ruth, and this was probably the best overall crag we visited, at least in terms of the sheer amount of climbing there. Ruth and I, and the others, did several other multi-pitch routes here, most of which were good. It was also fairly accessible from the road - 20 minutes walk in along a good track.

Patrick, Terry and I did one long route on the Dent d'Orlu, I cal Ana, 5c, (6 pitches, 200m, 2 hours walk in). This was good, with some spectacular scenery, but not really good enough for the time and effort involved.

Lots of other crags were also explored by various parties - I had 4 guides, together with a web-page topo for Calame, so there was plenty to go for!