A good but unfortunately very-very popular route on the north facing Duc. The route goes up on north-west-facing side of the big cleft on the right side of the north face proper, thus the sun hit the upper pitches around 2-3 in the afternoon. Good route for the summer if you can be up before the sun hit it, which, given its popularity might be a problem, if you're not also a morning person.
|A climber on the penultimate pitch of Série Limitée|
The route is not as good as Alix, punk de Vergons (7b) on the same wall, but almost nothing is. However, it offer some of the same style of climbing in a easier setting. The climbing differ quite a lot from the classical routes on l'Escales, with much more user-friendly climbing for the modern sport climber: densely bolted, fairly steep climbing on good holds. The first four pitches all have mediocre climbing – but the top is steep and varied, without being too airy or exposed.
Approach from the Samson parking lot by walking to the first tunnel on the path downstream along the river, then walk down an across the river on a Tyrolian. Hike up to the crag. Total 15-20 min.
|Tyrolian across the Verdon river|
P1. 6b. Easy slab climbing. Good warm up. The best of the first four pitches.
P2. 6b+. More slabclimbing up the corner. A few tricky moves at the end. Apparently quite reachy.
P3. 6a+. Easy climbing, a bit awkward to reach a bolt above a ledge on the top.
P4. 6a+. Cross the big dihedral. Nothing special.
P5. 6c. Nice tufa-climbing. Short but sweet (the tufa part)
P6. 6c. A short tricky overhanging bulge close to the belay, then easier climbing to the top. Another good pitch.
P7. 6c+ going on 7a. Off balance dihedral leads to a good overhanging corner with some blind moves. A bit engaged after the final small roof (and before as well if the long sling [chasse d'eau] is not in place). This part is the 6b+ obligatory. Hang in there: you'll be fine. Consider hauling the backpack on this pitch.
|Another shot of the second to last pitch of Série Limitée|
Decent. Follow the path to the rappel on the other side of the big cleft. The first rap is either down to a cave (40 m) or down to a sloping ledge with slings around a tree (55m down to the ledge). From the tree you either do a 20 m rap to some chains or a 60 m rap down to a single bolt 3 m above the next chain (the 3rd belay on Série Limitée), clip in and wait for your second to rescue you... A short 25 rap to the next belay, and then either one more rap or a 60 m rap followed by some down climbing.
Les Caquous 200 m, 6c A0 (6b+ obligatory)
A forgotten classic. Steep climbing on good holds. No pied-main on this one. If you pass l'Escales and all the classic sectors on the scenic route along the rim, almost all the way to la Malin you get to Grand Eycharme, just across from the new Ramirole sector. The route Les Caquous is on the east face, so it's a great option for some afternoon shade. Great climbing, mostly following crack systems and dihedrals up a very impressive wall.
|Rapping in to the East Face|
Approach. Follow a path and cairns (marked Cac) to a big cairn at the rappels. Apparently it's possible to hike in on skiers left as well. Which I think I'll do if I go there again to do the very classy looking 7b just to the right (Surface), because the raps are freaking scary, even for Verdon! No skimping on the prussik for this rappel... The first rap is either 30-40 m down and slightly climbers left to a big chain – or 55 m straight down where big pendeldums take you down to a tree that you can toe-hook and reach across to two bolts under an overhang. There are no routes coming up here so if you take this option you will need to prussik up 20 m if your swings are not big enough. Luckily some Italian climbers below yelled up to me, advising to do a lot of “ballant”. From the correct chain it is 50 m down to the next chain, from the lower rap I ended up on it's just 30 m maybe. Anyway its freehanging most of the way, and again you need to swing into the rap station. The next rap is 45 m and also mostly freehanging. From this station is possible to get down to the ledge below the big roof with 60 m ropes. Otherwise a 15 m rap leads to another station from which you can rap down to the ledge. If you don't want to climb the pitch through the roof (aid-climbing) you can rap down and diagonally climber's right to a double bolt belay (no chain) above the roof.
|Julia on P2, Les Caquous|
P1. (Second pitch if approaching on foot from below). 5c A0. Loose climbing up to the roof, then a traverse right-wards to a bolt-ladder through the roof up to a crack. Easy to lead without ladders, but seconding can be tricky for shorter climbers. I'm 1.80 and could unclip from the bolts below without any trouble, but shorter climbers would be well advised to double a long sling in the first bolt hanger, lower themselves out and then prussik up the rope to the second bolt in the roof. Poor suckers.
|The leader in green helmet on P2 of Les Caquous. The belayer in yellow on Surface.|
P3. 6a 40 m. The timid might want a small rack on this pitch, as the bolts are 7-8 m apart on 5b/c terrain. The climbing is fairly secure though. I guess grey, purple and green camalot or a set of wires would do? P2 & P3 can be done in one very long pitch.
P4. 6b? Or so they say. I found this to be the hardest pitch with a powerful boulder right of the belay. Take the right branch of the corner then downclimb and traverse to the right (easier down low–very low).
P5 6b+. Scramble up and to the right and up the corner. Leave the corner and go up and to the left on a really nice face. The bolts straight up the corner are on another route (Surface).
P6. 6c. Up and get into a committing layback. Definitely not 6a as in the topo in Grimper...
|Julia on top of P6.|
|Julia starting up P7|
P8 6b. Some powerpulls around an overlap. Really cool steep climbing on jugs on this pitch. Topping out where the rappels starts.
Démon, 160m 7a+ (7a obligatory)
Well of course not, either 7a+ or 7a obligatory is wrong.
Classic Verdon style. A clean onsight of this route was beyond me and I'm well impressed by climbers who manage that. Quite polished on the first pitches, both hands and feet. The climbing is very demanding on the fingers, and often steep. Definitely haul the bag on most if not all pitches. Count on taking a small break on some of the belays (if you don't have a lot of power to waste at this grade on l'Escales).
Approach. Very mellow approach down the Dalle Gris rappels, then a short hike down the hanging garden to the start. Gets into the shade around 2-3 which should give you enough time both winter and summer.
P1. "6a". 25m. Start to the left of the big corner system. Belay on a sloping lede.
P2. 7a+ 25m. Wall climbing on pockets. Very sustained on the fingers up the overhang.
|It's basically over. Julia on top of P2.|
P3. 6b+ 25m. Another good pitch.
|Yey, that's me on P3! Another great pitch|
P4. "7a". 35m. Another very good pitch. Really hard for the grade, even for the area. The second half in particular has some really out there climbing. Excellent. Did I mention that I found this hard? Oh well, ignore me, I'm probably just full of crap.
|Not a happy customer on P4|
P5. 6b+ 40 m. Jikes! This is airy! Traverse up right in a superb position, then up a crack to a belay just below a hanging nose. No polish on this one.
P6 6a+ 50m. Around the corner to the right. Steep. Unrelenting. Major.