Nestled in the heart of France is the great Vercors range, a beautiful red and grey limestone high plateau whose smooth rhythm is interspersed with steep to overhanging cliffs, sometimes reaching 500m in height.
I had visited this place only once on my way to the Verdon – another world class climber’s destination – further south of France and swore then that I would be back for more, but I also wondered why I hadn’t been there before; Presles is only 3 hours away from my home in Chamonix and I had heard so much about it through my parents who had climbed there a lot back in the ’70s. In fact, they had met there when my mom worked on a farm and owned a cow with a friend. My dad had suffered a climbing injury and went there to rest and swooped my mom off her feet. He took her climbing on the beautiful cliffs of Presles and she was instantly sold, both on climbing and on my Dad.
With beautiful yet cool weather in Presles mid-may, I headed down there with Geoff Unger, a fellow guide who also lives in Chamonix. We started the trip with a lovely meal with my friend Philippe Brass and his wife Claire in the little town of Pont En Royan, where house hang high above the river. I wanted to thank him for all the beta he had given me for our trip to Jordan back in February. Philippe is also a guide and the author of the guidebook for Presles. We were in luck since every night we were able to tell him what type of route we were looking for and he gave us a selection of the best routes matching our criteria.
We spent three days there climbing some amazingly steep and features limestone, offering anything from cracks to “goutte d’eau” (read water drops, which are tiny tip size holes formed by water dropplets), to slabs to overhangs, etc. We climbed two sport multipitch routes: Doigts de Passion (5.11d) and TopoManiak (5.11a) and a trad climb: Les Cons qui s’adorent (5.12a).
At the end of the three days, our skin was raw, our feet hurt so badly that it was painful to even stand on footholds and it was time for us to head back to Chamonix, where work was awaiting both of us. As always on trips, I was grateful for the simplicity of our lifestyle during this little climbing holiday: waking up, deciding on a route, having breakfast, getting to the climb, climbing a beautiful and memorable route, going back to our friends for delicious home cooked meals and great conversations around a nice bottle of wine… Ah, the life!
See pictures here: