Text and pictures © 2010-2014 Guillaume Dargaud
Last updated on 2012/12/07
"Confusion will be my epitaph
As I crawl a cracked and broken path..." — King Crimson.
Left: 'La Chambre du Roi' (the king's room), the reference point of the upper area.
Need your fix of crack while in France ? Meet Annot where the aspiring trad climber can get his fix of sandy limestone and unbolted cracks.
If you are an american, you already know the difference in ethics between climbing in the US and in Europe. The executive summary is that the US is granite or sandstone unbolted trad climbing while Europe is bolted limestone sport climbing. Sure there are exceptions, but they are even rarer than one might expect for something as big as an entire continent. For instance, besides some long granite routes in Chamonix, I did not know of a single place to trad climb on sandstone in France. Well, such a place exists and it's above the village of Annot in the south-west.
Right: Base of 'Hand training' (6a), hidden deep inside a cave.
Left: Jenny rapping off 'Hand training' (6a), our warm up climb on the left side of the tunnel.
Right: Another nice hand-jam warm-up route, this time out in the sun: 'Jo part a Cetamol' (6a).
Don't expect to find Indian Creek there, but the selection of route is enough to keep you busy for a week, keeping in mind that there aren't any easy routes. Annot actually folds 4 different spots in one: there's the trad climbing area, a bolted area, a bolted area on chipped holds and a famous bouldering area. They are all slightly separate and the guidebooks are different. BTW, you can find the guidebook at the bars of the village.
Left: Right inside the King's Room, Cecile on a mean 7a finger-crack which is an example of war between bolters and trad climbers. Currently free of bolts.
After 2 routes we have the surprise of meeting 2 friends there. We'll climb with them for the next 3 days and we won't see another climber.
Thanks go to Lionel, a local guide, for having given us an advanced copy of the future guidebook, and for having developed the area (with others), trying with some difficulty to enforce an alien ethics to the place.
Right: Cecile wrestling with the crux of 'Les voillage faurmes la jenaice' (7a).
Left: Inside la Chambre du Roi: shady, windy and quite a bit humid after a few days of rain.
Access is easy: park at the train station, take the trail that starts in the tunnel (signs), follow through the sport climbing area and go until you reach the King's Room (a natural tunnel through 50m high blocks). A goof half hour.
Right: They manage to convince me, who's hardly climbed anything in the past 6 months, to trad-lead quite a few 6c. Here on 'Marc a sein', pure sandstone-style dihedral but not quite as clean as Indian Creek.
Left: 'L'Arche', a classic layback, 6c for continuity but not bad at all if you have enough large pieces.
Access to the middle ledge is the same as for the King's Room, but 5 minutes before the end of the trail, when it goes between 2 large boulder, there's a small cairn on the right and a climber's trail, quite exposed in parts.
Right: Upper part of 'L'arche', after 30m of laybacks.
Left: Loic belaying Cecile near the end of 'Marc a sein' (6c).
Right: Loic on layback instead of jamming.
Left: Cecile on a 6c testpiece finger crack, the right Mongol.
Right: Trying to use the numerous pockets in addition to the Mongol crack.
Left: Loic doing his best not to use the crack, with success.
Right: Loic onsighting the crack, placing all the pro.
The left variation of the Mongol is a thin dihedral with a stiff start.
Left: Very continuous finger crack, with a wicked hard last move to reach the anchor.
Right: That'd be me on the same crack, before falling 1m from the end after the onsight on pre-placed pro.
Left: Cecile stretched out on the same Mongol crack.
Right: The tree at the start of 'Tempus Fugit et Fuck' (yes, that is the name of the route).
Left: Entrance to the tunnel of the 2nd pitch.
On the 3rd day we want to relax on something easier. We do a 3 pitch trad route that hardly contains any climbing at all. It starts on a tree, the walks on a ledge, then crosses a chasm, then walks on thick leaves, then trough a long tunnel then up a sloping ramp. Not as good as the ramp in Ceuse.
Right: End of the 2nd pitch.
Left: Sloping ramp on the 3rd pitch.
The guidebook is a bit optimistic, saying to take a rack up to #3, but I only place a small blue DMM on the 1st pitch and the same DMM on the 3rd pitch. The only required equipment is a headlamp !
Right: On the summit, hidden spot of the route setters.
Left: Looking down at the routes from the summit of Annot. 3 routes come out right there.
Right: The village of Annot from the summit.