... but definitely not settling down!(A little reminder before you start reading: if you want to embiggen the images, right click them.)
Okay, we've been in our apartment for just over a week now, and are starting to find our way around the neighbourhood. We've climbed in a few different areas on four different kinds of rock, been invited out to dinner once and had some friends around to our apartment for a meal and are looking forward to extended visits from others. We are almost starting to feel at home, except when, after rehearsing a question in French, the recipient happily responds at a million miles per hour and we feel all at sea!
The day after my last post Di and I had a pretty quiet day, mostly in-house: reading, doing the washing, catching up on email. I spent a lot of time in the small sitting room reading The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt, which won this year's Pulitzer Prize. Every once in a while I'd glance out the window at the view ...
|The view from our sitting room|
And so have we. It's pretty much been climbing and a bit of sightseeing since we finished our hike of the GR54. The balance will shift a bit towards sightseeing over the next little while when our friends Mary and Tim arrive. We've saved visiting the old fortified town of Briançon for their arrival. A couple of quick facts: Briançon is the highest city in the European Union, and the old fortifications are World Heritage listed. The old town is quite extensive and we're eagerly anticipating having a look around.
There are signs all over the place that refer to "Les Alpes du Sud", so I thought I'd find out exactly what that moniker means. It turns out that it refers to quite a large geographical area, and we are pretty much in the northern part of the southern Alps - if that makes sense - and now just south of the Haute Alpes. For folks who like visiting mountains for their holidays, this place is a magnet. Briançon and the valley to the north is known as Serre Chevalier, and it looks like it pretty much fills up with skiers in the winter. Right now though, there are lots of cyclists on the roads, hikers in the mountains and climbers on the cliffs. We have also seen whitewater rafts being towed behind minibuses and stacks of kayaks on top of cars. As we were driving home from Ailefroide this afternoon we noticed the canoe slalom course set out in the Rivière Durance down by l'Argentière-la-Bessée. Activity has just eased off a bit this week as we've entered September and school holidays are over.
Yesterday, we investigated a little crag called "Basilic Instinct" at Rocher Maubert, a little ways north of here. The guide says "great rock and nice sector" and the guidebook made it look like there would be lots of climbs about the right grade for us. It sounded great. It wasn't! I wondered if the guidebook author had actually visited this sector and, if so, what he was smoking at the time. The place reminded me of Waterworks Quarry in Hobart - where the rock is known for its transient nature. When we walked up to have a look, I was pretty much happy to go elsewhere: after all, we have Waterworks Quarry at home, we don't need to visit a similar crag while we are in France. Di thought she might as well have a look at a climb. She did, then promptly backed off after cutting her hands on the sharp holds. Here she is examining them (the climb she got on is directly behind her) ...
|Bah! Just a cut or three ...|
|Holding things together|
|View from Basilic Instinct|
Some of the rest of Roche Maubert looked pretty good, despite the overall impression created by these extensive barriers to prevent rocks from tumbling down onto the road below (for a sense of scale, the poles holding the steel mesh up are about 3.5 metres high) ...
|Just in case ...|
|That must be strong mesh!|
|A sample of the quartzite at Pantalon|
It seems that pretty much every crag in this area must have at least a reasonable view. Here's what we were looking at across the Rivière Durance while we were at Pantalon ...
|The view from Pantalon|
|Un nouveau toit sur un bâtiment ancienne|
This morning Di and I headed up to Ailefroide to do one of the classics from our Plaisir guidebook. Palavar les Flots is an easy route, but at 12 pitches, 400 metres in length and with a series of rappels to descend we wanted to have lots of time up our sleeves so we made a fairly early start. There's a half-hour uphill approach to the start of the climb which gets you warmed up nicely.
|Palavar-Les-Flots pitch 4|
|About pitch 6 on Palavar-Les-Flots|
|Ailefroide camping area|
Back to our climb, and here is a photo towards the end of the route looking back towards Di and a German climber who has just arrived at the belay for the pitch below the one we are on ...
|Nearing the top of Palavar-Les-Flots|
Unfortunately, due to a couple of mix-ups the descent didn't go quite so smoothly. One of those mix-ups was our lack of clarity over which of two anchors we should be heading for at the end of the first rappel. Our topo seemed to suggest we should be further right than the anchor I'd gone to, so on the next rappel we tried to adjust by heading further right, which was the wrong thing to do. If we'd had the topo above, we probably would have been right. Unfortunately we didn't, and more unfortunately there are a myriad of different rappel anchors on that part of the crag. Realising our error, Di directed the Germans who were coming down behind us to the correct series of rappels. While we faffed about recovering our position, the Germans sailed past. Score: Australia 1, Germany 1.
There were some words exchanged over our less than efficient finish to the climb (as no doubt those of you who know us well can imagine) but we managed to recover ourselves. After the last rappel there is a bit of a scramble and down-climb along some fixed lines in a gully before traversing back to pick up the gear we left at the start of the climb. We finished the outdoor part of the day with a bit of wood-stacking, then made it home just after four p.m. Di's gone to bed and I'm about to join her. Tomorrow we'll have a relaxing day, including a visit to Briançon's wonderful weekly market in the city centre. The next day we'll probably have a walk, perhaps to check out the approach to another of the long routes we want to do while we're here. In the evening we'll welcome our friends Tim and Mary, whom we haven't seen for a couple of years. More fun times ahead!
And now ...