This is a climbing location in the south of France
. I had the great
fortune of climbing there at the end of this summer and now I am going
to tell all you lucky people about it. Before getting on to all of the
details, I have to tell you the following, I have to tell you why you
should care about Ceuse, why you should want to go there and why I
became so excited by the place. It has some of the best climbing in the
world, thats why. I'm talking about technical rock climbing
here. The rock is perfect and
there is just so damn much of it. most of it is steep, overhanging by at least 30
degrees in places, and the routes just keep going, on out over the
hillside in a vertical subextension of reality for a solid hard
unforgiving 30, 35, sometimes 40 meters. The hardest route in the
world is here, and boy does it look hard. The hill looks out over the
whole region, you see for miles, a hump-backed green and prodigious
landscape, hearty, not yet eaten by the cold teeth of the high mountains
and at the same time remaining aloof from the villages nestled between
the ridges. Insects the size of your hand scurry in and round the path
on the walk to the crag, occasionally i met a contemplative preying
mantis, ants like bullets, the trees just sitting there, still.
How To Get There
The crag is on the south facing side of the Massive de Ceuse in the
region of France known as the h'autes Alps. The nearest big town is Gap.
You can get a train to Gap from anywhere in France. Draw a line between
Geneva and Marseilles and Gap is approximately between the two.
you go north about 15 km to a small town called Sigoyer
(a taxi from Gap costs about 30 euro), from the
direction of Gap take the first left after the bakery, follow the hill
upwards and take the signs to the Guerin campsite. For quite a part of this
journey the crag will be visible (assuming that you are traveling in
daylight on a day when the clouds are higher than the mountain). The
campsite contains the track that leads up to the crag. It is about a
hour walk uphill. the campsite is at an elevation of approximately
1300m, the crag at 2000m. I'm from Ireland and the campsite is higher
than any point in Ireland, that was a constant source of amusement for me.
Why You Should Care
It's the best crag in the world,,
no really, it is. These things are subjective, but it weighs in on so
many levels. The rock is clean, the climbs are continuous. Instead of a
route being a one move wonder every single move on every single route
that I tried in the two weeks could have been the highlight of many
other places that i have been to. There are angles to suit everyone,
from slabs (though not too many of them) to crazy overhangs, and tons of
steep and slightly overhanging climbs. It gets the sun, theres shade,
the people you meet at the campsite are open, friendly, super motivated,
and great to climb with. I did not see a single person who was climbing
with an ego that was too big to say hello or give encouragement to
people pushing their limits out an the easier grades.
What Is The Rock?
It's a limestone crag, its bolted and the bolting is good, no suicide
runouts, some nice big, but safe falls. The limestone is compact, I saw
maybe one loose hold in my entire time there. The handholds run from
small crimps to huge jugs. I originally thought that it was as if
someone had attacked the cliff with a variety of sizes of ice cream
scoop. Some of the scoops were really deep giving big holds and pockets.
other times the scoops were quite shallow, and all you had to hold on to
were the ridges between two shallow scoop marks. Some of the pockets are
quite deep and get wider on the inside, you can fit your entire leg into
some of the to give yourself a no hands rest. I began to think today
that the a better way to describe the formation would be to imagine a foam bath.
Then you froze the
bubbles in place a pop all of the bubbles on the surface leaving only
concave features. Some of the features are shallow and sometimes only a
small bit of a bubbles face was showing before you pooped it and
these are the ones that give the deep pockets, some of the bubbles were
micro bubbles and those were the ones that gave one and two finger
pockets. Well, its a crazy idea but go there and see what you think
So the Climbing is Really Good Is it?
There are 14 sectors at the moment, there is room for many climbs to be
added, the sectors, from left to right from the perspective of facing the crag are
(I've added a little description for the areas that I either climbed at
A golot is the name for a type of bolt drilled into the
rock for safety.
This was the first area that i went to, some nice slabs
to get you a feel for the rock
To the right of where the main waterfall comes down (hence the name).
drink the water from the waterfall and people leave
containers at the bottom to collect water. The climbing
here is mindblowingly steep on what seem to be very
There are a collection of mid grade climbs here. Ok,
I'll be honest, by the standards of Ceuse they are
pretty easy but they were about as difficult as I could
manage while I was climbing there. There is one little
route there though that I should warn you about. It is
called 'Les yeux de Tantaloc' and is graded as a 5+. In
French grades this is pretty easy but this route is a
lot harder than this. Its probably at least 6a. Its one
of the biggest sandbags that I have ever seen.
This is jewel in the crown, 29 routes, 20 of them are
in difficulty or harder!. The first 6 routes go as
follows: 7c, 8a, 7b+, 8a+, 8a, 8a. This sector probably
has the highest concentration of hard climbing in the
world. It is named after a climb called Berlin.
This sector is as wide as Berlin but only has 14 routes.
Thats because its too hard. The line for the route Biography was
originally bolted by Arnold Pettit and it is 35 m long.
He realised that he could not climb this and so he
installed chains at at 22 m. He did this shortened
version at a difficulty of France 8a. Chris Sharma tried
the complete line on and off for 3 years. He succeeded
in the summer of 2001. For him it was the hardest thing
he had ever climbed. It now has a rating of 9a+. Sharma
didn't give the route a grade as he doesn't like to do
this. Since he climbed it many of the strongest climbers
in the world have tried and failed. While I was climbing
there a local climber, Sylvain Millet, got past the hardest section of
the complete route and fell off at the last, easier
part. This climber will probably be the second person to
complete the route. Apparently he climbs at no
other location apart from Ceuse.
I spent most of my time climbing here. The two route
that stand out most in my mind are the two routes that I
failed to climb. They sit at the edge of my mind and
they tease me. They are my lure and they are the reason
I so desperately want to go back. The routes are
Mary lou and Harly Davidson.
I didn't go past this point and cannot say too much about the
rest of the place.
This area has the longest climbs at the crag. Some of
the route here are 4 pitches with an easiest pitch of
7a. Its peanuts compared to Verdon, but its still quite
impressive in its own right.