Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Three Churches at Vergons

Notre Dame de l' Assomption
Vergons is a small village at the foot of the Pic de Chamatte. According to Wikipedia, its population is around 125 today and had a high of 500 in the middle of the 19th century and a low of 72 in 1975. Its only commerce is a rather nice restaurant but it has all of three churches, two of which date from the 12th century. Today was Sunday and my fiancee and I had lunch in the resto before visiting the churches - all of which are wonderfully maintained. 

Pics here.


Monday, August 11, 2014

Windy Hike

Lac d'Allos from
Montagne de l'Avalanche
I had a nice, long hike in the Mercantour today and there were two notable things. 

The first was the wind - at 2300m it was quite strong (maybe 20kph gusting to 40kph) but just 300m higher it was scary (I'd put the gusts at around 100k). The soundings predicted a high wind day, but nothing like as strong as it turned out. 

Big crocodile climbing
Col de la Petite Cayolle
The second thing was the number of hikers. You normally don't see that many hikers in the Southern Alps but there were lots today. I passed some big crocodiles and said lots of 'bonjours'.  

Friday, August 8, 2014

Sport Climbing

Murray about to descend,
after leading a route
I rock climbed a lot until 1980 and back then it was all 'trad' climbing, meaning you had to find and place protection yourself. In trad climbing, the technical difficulty (how hard it is to get up) and the seriousness (how dangerous is it to fall) are independent attributes. It's an adventure sport, where a cool head is as important as talent.

Since then sport climbing has come along, and there all the protection is pre-placed. The risks are hugely reduced and it's a purely technical sport - more like outdoor gymnastics. It's also much more accessible and family friendly. Trad climbing is still a mostly male activity, it can take all day and involve a lot of hiking. You can do a few sport climbs in a couple of hours and lot's of kids and ladies climb. It's much more social, relaxed and scenic. 

Me struggling up...
Most rock climbing in Britain is still trad climbing, whereas almost all in France is sport climbing. I actually did my first sport climbs when I spent a couple of days with Murray Hamilton. I climbed with Murray a lot when we were younger and he's now a mountain guide at Briancon (in the highest mountains of the Southern Alps). Unlike Murray, I can't say much of my prowess remains from 1980, but I enjoyed the new experience and understand why it is so popular here.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Mount Pelat

Final scramble to the top
Mount Pelat is just over 3000m and is the highest mountain in my 'departement' (les Alpes de Haute Provence). It's a nice hike, with some easy scrambling near the top to arrive on compact (cozy when busy) summit. It's in the national park of the Mercantour and the climb is shorter in the summer months because a high altitude car park is open then. I had a relatively early start and was on the summit well before noon, before a more leisurely descent. 

A few more pics.