Autumn sport climbing – St. Montan, Ardèche

It can safely be said that the heatwave has broken and autumn is here now in the south of France. I have seen cloud for the first time in weeks – strangely comforting after years of British weather – and the Mistral is starting to cut through the clothing.

Not bad for cragging in October

However, a bit of cloud and wind can hardly stop an Englishman from venturing into the great outdoors, so Matt and I travelled down the road to La Sainte Beaume, a small, quite crag on the outskirts of the sleepy village of St. Montan.

Local ethics leave something to be desired...

Bizarrely, the limestone, with its quirky pockets and niches, was strongly reminiscent of Boiler Slab on the Gower. Clearly, I must be missing Wales and the liquid sunshine…

Good, compact limestone, although you can't see all the bolts glinting in the sun...

Anyway, the southerly aspect and with the Mistral flushing the cloud down the Rhône valley meant cragging in the sun – gotta love it! As I’d not climbed for a while, I thought it would be best to take it easy, so used the opportunity to work on footwork and state of mind.

Matt at work

I had a go at a 6b, but the crux move got the better of me, so I escaped right. As has been noted of Brits abroad on, I climbed like a trad climber on a sport route – scared to death of falling. Need to get back on that one sometime. Otherwise, I lead a 5c clean, so for me, not too bad a start. We didn’t have the guidebook with us, and as most of the routes were in low grades, you could pick any line and have a go.

More bolt clipping to follow.


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