Orgon, France
September 2014.   Report by: Kirsten Besemer


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Shortly before our eagerly anticipated trip to Orgon, in the French Provence region, we got some alarming news about what was supposed to be the worst Air France strike in history. (Yes, even for the French!) Thankfully we were able to get as far as Paris, and the unplanned 8 hour ride to the Gite gave us lots of time to start planning the climbs.

The gite, chosen by Bryan, turned out to be lovely and comfortable, with a good sized sitting room for spreading out gear and relaxing in the evenings. It was near a charming village, Menerbes, which was a nice uphill walk away, and looked quaintly and charmingly French. I would go back just to sit in the pretty little central square, sipping a glass of house wine...

The only place that was open after our long drive advertised itself as a "snack bar" but actually offered lovely home-made pizza and delicious salads. As we were to discover later, the village had several more excellent restaurants which offered delicious good value menus with truly delicious dishes. Two local bakeries and a corner shop meant we were never short of baguettes, and a nearby large out of town supermarket supplied everything else. We were undoubtedly lucky with the weather. It was mostly sunny but not too hot, at about 24 degrees, which made for ideal climbing conditions. There was only one rainy day.

The climbing near Orgon is ideal in that it offers a huge variety of climbs and a good choice of really good easier sport climbing routes. In la vallee heureuse, where most of the climbs are located, there are large sectors of 4 and 5's which meant that I could quickly progress from what was my first ever outdoor lead to be become increasingly confident. Bolts were usually quite close together, and I was quite pleased at how easily I began to feel much more confident about leading. However, there was also a good choice of more difficult routes, so all of us were able to climb at our own level. Most sections were single pitch.

Some routes were a little slippery. When the guidebook proudly claimed the route was first climbed in the 1940's, it was easy to see the gradual smoothening of rock against generations of hands and feet. Although I quite liked imagining those climbers who came before me with their tweeds and nylon ropes, it meant some routes had become quite a lot harder than they were graded. However, on the whole the climbing was very good, and nice views across the valley at the end of each climb were a real reward. Not to mention the ever-present smell of Provencal herbs growing all around the crags. They tasted fabulous in the meals Nils and James cooked on some very nice evenings in the Gite.

Although the climbing near Orgon was excellent, we decided to drive over to the Calanques one day to do a multi-pitch climb. Bryan and I went up 'Le Marchand de Sable' a three star 6a climb. The 90m climb had amazing views right out to the sea, and it was truly stunning. Nils and James climbed up Le Grand Diedre Jaune, another 3 stars climb, undoubtedly partly because of the same amazing views down into the valley.

I had a really lovely holiday, and would very much recommend both the region and the Gite near Menerbes to anyone looking for a good choice and variety of single pitch sport climbs, as well as great food in beautiful surroundings.