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 yourself.

    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 or visited):

    • Golots a gogo
    A golot is the name for a type of bolt drilled into the rock for safety.
    • Dalles du capeps
    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). You can 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 small holds.
    • Thorgal
    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.
    • Face de Rat
    • Berlin
    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.
    • Biographie
    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.
    • Demi-lune
    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.
    • Un point sur l'nifinty
    • Les maitres du monde
    • Grande face
    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.
    • Nithsapa
    • Natilik