Tuesday, 21 November 2006

Ariege - A Flying Visit

1st - 5th November
Return flights from East Midlands to southern France for £30 a pop was too good an offer to miss. Dave Gregory and Colin Binks joined me and Sherri, an early flight (7:15) meant we were in Carcassone before midday and at ClimbAriege - in a steady drizzle - in time for a late lunch. The clouds hung on the hilltops but we decided to have a ride up to the granite crags at Auzat - 'just in case'. Halfway there the roads dried up and at the crag conditions were fine if a little cool, half-a-dozen routes later we staggered down through the gloomy woods, heading back for a late evening meal and a welcome kip.

Morning was cold and clear, the max/min thermometer showed a low of -4 the night before, the grass was covered with hoar frost. A steady climb saw us up at Calames and superb and extensive cliff which was full in the sun. Turns out it was half term week so the place was quite busy. The locals were amused at out attempts to climb as a three on 40m pitches, with a 60m and 30m rope but we managed OK. It was HOT!
Mid afternoon and we were frazzled (November!) so it was time to head to the Supermarche to stock up.

Another superb clear day so it was back to the granite and a visit to the slightly more remote Montcalme area - we didn't see a soul all day. Ten routes later we were homeward bound, Dave and Colin were starting to like the area!

For the final day it was something different, an impressively tall limestone crag with a ruined castle on the top, and with quite an English feel about the place. It was one of the first cliffs in the area to be climbed on, though in those days, bags of pegs were used and the routes went all the way to the top - nowadays it is the lower pitch - (or occasionally two) that is bolted up. Our host , Graham from ClimbAriege turned up and joined in the fun. Eventually after some excellent if occasionally loose and polished (I said it was like the UK) routes I rested my fingers and escorted Sherri up the steep path for a wander round the castle, the views were superb but I bet the postie used hate delivering there! Finally we wandered back to the village and sat on the edge of the fountain feeding the goldfish with the remnants of our butties, sadly tomorrow saw an early start and homeward bound.

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