Text and pictures © 2007-2013 Guillaume Dargaud
Last updated on 2013/03/17
"We decided to finish the route so we would never be tempted to come back." — Brad Brandewie before a big fall.
Left: A view on the main cliff of Presles.
Right: Jenny up on Topomaniak, one of the most classic route.
Although there's rock around the entire plateau for hundreds of kms, not much of it gets climbed regularly for the usual reasons: long approaches and plenty of poor rock. But fear not, there's room for some gems like Presles which has long been considered the 2nd best cliff in France for long routes after the Verdon.
Left: Routefinding on Topomaniak.
Left: Coming up on Topomaniak.
Right: Vertical panorama of 'Le temps des Guenilles' done in HDR.
When I first came to Presles about 20 years ago I heard that there were access problems. Well there still is and it tends to worsen. There are many site which describe the issues but they are in french. I'll describe here the 2008 situation as I understand it for foreign climbers who want to come to Presles for a climbing vacation:
Left: This video shows the steep exit to a no less steep pitch, still on 'Le temps des Guenilles'.
So what does it all mean for climbers ? You can park on top of the cliff and use the GR for the approach. But then it's not clear whether you can climb or not. On any given WE you will find 30 parties who do, so that pretty much sums up the issue for us. Access from the Chorange cave or from the top is fine AFAIK. And don't let 3 inbreds ruin your vacation if you ever meet them.
Left: Summit of the route. You can either rappel down or take the trail along the clifftop back to the car.
Right: Sunset on some of the cliffs of Presles.
Right: Panoramic view from halfway up one of the climbing routes of Presles, with the Choranche lake and the other side of the valley across the cliff. . The famous Choranche cave is hidden at the base of the left wall. The highest ridge of the Vercors is visible in the background.
Left: Steep face climbing on 'Les cons qui s'adorent' (the self-loving assholes !)
Right: Flower covered ledge on 'Les cons qui s'adorent', Presles.
Right: Another italian team on the classic Topomaniak, parallel to our own route.
Left: Jenny on the hard 6c crux of Bamboustine Scatophage, a kind of edgy slab similar to what you can find in the Dolomites.
Right: Agostino on the 7a crux of Topomaniak.
Shortly after this picture I would take my longest fall ever, and on the easiest pitch of the route too. Featuring a 6a after several pitches of 6c and stiff 6b so I'm running up as it's the next to last pitch and I want out. Suddenly as I move my right hand up, the large hold in my left hand explodes into sand and I'm airborne. My last piece is a good 5m below and it's just a pathetic old weather-worn sling around a rock stuck in the crack. I barely have time for a brief piggy squeal, I bounce off the rock, keep going for seconds and stop. Jenny has moved several meters from her previously comfortable resting spot on the large ledge and I'm 15 meters below my last position, barely 5 meters off the deck. The sling has doubled in length and is completely flailed, with only a few threads remaining. My previous flight was 4 years ago in Yosemite, let's hope it won't turn into a habit...
Left: Winter climbing at Presles. Yes, in T-shirt.
Right: Interesting route in Presles where a section goes in a cave, this way two routes overlap each others without sharing a single bolt !
Left: Agostino on some wicked crux in Presles.
As it happens, the next week I would take another whipper just as long in Devoluy, but this time at least it would be on a good bolt.
Right: I'm very glad to see Antonella back on the rocks after her terrible accident and months of hospital...
Left: As it goes she'd climb with me one of the classic routes of Presles while friends would bailed after two pitches with the lame excuse: 'it's too hard'.
Right: Diagonal traverse at Presles, with the cliff extending towards the Vercors plateau.
Left: She's now made of as much metal as the average Terminator...
Right: A happy Antonella at the top of the route.
Left: Wide angle-shot inside the cave of Bel Interlude (6b). This is a route on the far right of the cliff, accessible from the bottom.
Right: On the traverse of Bel Interlude.
Left: High up on Bel Interlude, facing the Bournillon waterfall. Yes, it's been ice-climbed, but it freezes only about as often as hell itself.
Right: Climbing on 'Même pas peur' in Presles.
Left: Jenny in full dulfer action.
Left: Under the big roof.
Right: Steep dihedral on the route.
Left: Another colder day at Presles. It's usually possible to climb in winter if it's a sunny day, but if not you freeze your butt off.
Right: Profile view of the Choranche pillar, an old classic route.
Left: So classic indeed that while on the 1st pitch I remember having climbed it over 20 years ago. It wasn't easy then and it's not now.
Left: Heavily overhanging section on smooth crack and old pitons.
Right: The delicate 6b traverse higher up.
Right: Upper part of the route.
Left: ...while the base jumpers jump in our backs in waves.
Left: Last pitch before the short day finishes.
Right: Meta at Tina Dalle.
There are several single-pitch satellite cliffs near Presles. One of the most famous is Tina Dalle, right above the road. But there's also Pierrot Beach underneath the main cliff, Balme Etrange, Daladom, Dalarom and the slightly farther Goulandière.
Left: The cliff of La Gouladière in autumn, looking towards St Julien and the notch in the cliff of Arbois where a waterfall rarely freezes (except in 2012).
Right: On the left side of Tina Dalle are several medium length routes, including this one 'Fait d'hiver' which we indeed climbed on New Year's day. It finishes with a violent overhang on the last move of the route.
Right: Meta high up on Tina Dalle.