Chambéry to Sicily!

We made it. To Siciy at least. The trip passed by really fast, but we were busy all the time really, treating climbing like a full time job, yet without any of the labour. The last part of our trip turned caused us to produce constant noises of satisfaction and wonderment as we drove from Chambéry to Pelvoux through the Alps. The LDV graciously following the contours and sweeps of the roads through the alps, purring in appreciation of the views. We were fortunate to have clear weather and the mind to set off early to enjoy the drive from Chambéry. The Alps are awesome, in the true meaning of the word.  Our destination was Pelvoux, about 1,200 m high, not far from Briançon to stay with the lovely Dylan and Louise. We met them at a Mount Dauphin to get in a quick climb before the sun set. We jumped on a 40m 6b straight away.  The rock was conglomerate and really fun to climb on. Quickly following sunset the temperature plummets and hunger rockets. We drove jauntily home up to Pelvoux, picking up some carnard and escargot for din dins, cooked so kindly by our hosts. We were getting  a bit paranoid on the drive up to Pelvoux, we had the bikes on the top of the van and kept seeing high limit signs approaching, no problems thus far though!

The next morning we woke up and went up the Pelvoux valley; to go see the Glacier and the marvellous sights to behold. Angus went pretty psyched for the snow and ice. As we drove up to the glacier we passed relentless crags, multipitches, boulders and places for endless fun. What a place it is, Ailefriode was just a couple of minutes away. Outrageous. After being satisfactorily humbled by the views and mountains we went down to a granite crag and got on a really fun 7a+ which between us we finally managed to complete. Super nice rock to climb on, the friction of gritstone but with many more features and edges.

That evening we indulged ourselves in Dylans soup. We got up early and packed because the next evening we were taking the ferry from Genova. So we packed up and got onto a lovely south facing limestone crag. After the days climbing before, having climbed on four different rock types in 4 days and climbed several days in a row, the skin on our hands was somewhat lacking and we didn’t climb much, besides we wanted to scoot off to resume a leisurely stress free leg to Genova. We stopped in Briançon for a wander and found a really amazing bakery, probably one of the best of my life.  Breads galore. We carried on over the pass to Italy where we finally found snow, proper. The weather for the whole trip has been so good, sun everyday, it  has been remarkable and remarked upon. We arrived at the ferry in Genova with plenty of time, nice and relaxed. As we arrived at the ferry we could feel that we had entered another country and there was a definite change in approach and organisation, you basically had to guess what to do at the port in Genova. But that was fine, we are both versed in the ways of Italian style.

On the ferry we were fortunate to meet a very nice couple who’d been at a circus workshop in France for the summer, and we arranged to chare a cabin with them – nice one Chiara and Juan! The majority of the time on the boat was spent on deck with Angus, reading, because he really didn’t want to be in the section for dogs, so we hung out on the deck, it was super sunny and nice to be out anyways.  We arrived late in the evening in Palermo and parted to go directly to the crag at Valdesi – which is, as we found out also a hot spot for prostitute. We arrived to a very mild climate and the next day full sun, it must be over 20 degrees in the sun. Anyway, we were a bit ambitious climbing the next day because I still had non skin and Arthur certainly didn’t after he tried another 7a+ which was basically a nice climb except for something like a 7b boulder problem thrown in the middle.  After a couple of days at the crag there and Angus going nuts on the beach we met up with friends in the city (thanks to the lovely Barbara and her family for hosting us!!!). Arthur parted for Commiso to meet Raheela and I remained in Palermo.

It was a super trip down to Sicily and we have been slightly overwhelmed by the kindness of everyone we have encountered and had the fortune of staying with. The climbing has been amazing, and also a constant battering of emotions, confidence and feelings. We have also encountered a lot of young professionals also struggling to find work throughout France,  something that reflects the current employment situation in the UK.

Halt at Chambéry

Picking up from last post, we are leaving Lyon. Hard decision, we were so pampered there, Mama Jennifer and Papa Olivier were taking such good care of us, why did we have to leave their loving care? Obligations of a road trip, I suppose! Other lovely friends to visit, other crags and other rocks to crank on, and of course Sicily waiting for us!

And so we had to go, so we left. Onwards to Chambéry in the Savoie region, where my old friend (we met 15 years ago!) Taos was waiting for us.

As Taos was working until 18:30, we have a lot of time to kill, so we park the van and go into Chambéry town centre. First compulsory stop at a bakery, with beautiful breads galore, confirms our good feeling of the town. Delicious forest bread sampled and purchased. Next stop occurs as we walk passed the knife-filled vitrine of a shop. The shop is an outlet for the famous local knife maker Opinel. Luckily, they also sell books, and lo and behold, they’ve got the guidebook for the crags we want to climb. In the bag! We then met up with Taos in the evening, get to her place and go out for some beers and a little gig (lunar rock) in a bar with some of her friends. One of them, Jean-Michel, a climber, confirms Cessens’ quality climbing, psych goes up another notch.

Next day, we’re off to the crag. It’s a beautiful drive along the Bourget lake, nestled in between high mountains covered with crags. We get to the place where to park the van, up a steep mountain side (first mountain road test for the van passed), and off we go. The guide’s approach description is not exactly precise, so we find ourselves 150 meters below the crag down a super steep hill side. Angus is loving it, he’s running up and down, chasing squirrels, we’re mildly lost, sweating and we’re looking at a nice hard walk up a steep hill, and we still haven’t found the crag. Eventually, we get back up the hill, we find a crag with new bolts, it’s not in the guidebook, but we’re getting warmer! Another wander through the woods and imaginary paths (“is this a path? Are these wild boar tracks?”), and we finally find the crag! It’s now been well over 3 hours of search, it’s getting dark and cold. Luckily, we were expecting all this, so we hadn’t brought our gear, and we ready to go back home and to have a full day the next day. On the way home we go to Vertilac, the local climbing wall. Very nice place with a high lead wall, and we experience how different it is to climb routes indoors after 7 days outside on real rock.

Next day, we go for our first day of climbing on Alpine rock in Cessens!


Cessens is a beautiful crag, no one there but us, Angus and serious limestone overlooking the lac du Bourget. The Climbing there is great, the rock has great friction but isn’t sharp, there are some loose bits for adrenaline rushes, and the bolts have great wide spacing, which spice things up too ! Still, we spend 3 days there, coming back every evening to Chambéry to hang  out with Taos, her partner, and one of their friends  Arnaud. We’re once again made to feel right at home and very warmly welcomed and cared for.

On our last day in Chambéry, we take our hosts and friends to another crag, Saint Léger, to give them a first experience of climbing on real rock!  Saint Léger’s a large rock outcrop of gneiss encased in a small valley, and it looks a lot like slate!



The St Léger crag


Arnaud on a bold crux (and Rob too)


The crag supervisor ever watchful


Taos trying a very hard route, strong show of determination there.


Finally, as our ferry deadline looms closer and closer, we once again leave a lovely place, with old friends welcoming us into their homes and making us feel all fuzzy inside!


Paris to Lyon

We decided to take our time down to Lyon and split the journey in two to visit Mr Benoit Sabo’ grandparents near to Montbard, we wanted to avoid the toll roads, so we took our sweat time and planned to see a bit of the French countryside, luck had it that day that there was an immense fog, so visibility was reduced to about 20 m most of the time…hoho. We arrived at Benoit’s grandparents for a slightly late lunch, prepared to kindly for us by his grandmother. It was a really nice place to stop off, his grandparents live in an old 16th century abbey, that was once huge but parts have fallen into degradation, a good portion of it is still in good condition and rather grand. The abbey had once hosted soldiers from Napoleonic times and there were drawings on the walls from them, pretty amazing. Lunch was amazing and we are completely grateful to Benoit and his grandparents for feeding us! We tried Epoisse, a local delicious cheese too. Mega.


The Van at the abbey, full loaded, thanks again for the lunch!

After a walk around the village there we set off to Lyon where we arrived late about 10pm, that was ok because there rest of the Paris crew that were converging down on Paris were also arriving late. We were staying with the lovely Olivier and Jennifer in the centre of Lyon. In the evening we relaxed and drunk some good local beer and had a nice dinner together. The next day we took a trip to the local market, ate croissants and then took the crew climbing at a rather large, high indoor wall in Lyon. French climbing walls seem much better kitted out than the UK ones, not necessarily the routes but they all tend to have a sauna and a bar and serve good healthy food too. Pretty smart. That night we had Raclette together – awesome – pouring melted cheese on potatoes, it’s a bit of a winter tradition in France, but well nice and really heavy. Lyon is famed for food so it was important we indulge. After the Raclette we got the decks and vinyl out and dj’ed a mini party. The next day was subsequently a rather relaxed one, we did venture into the countryside nearby for a gentle hike.

The next four days we spent climbing at Crept, at the start of the Jura Mountains, near a little village of Montagnieu. Lots of the routes here were about 25-35 m long. Amazing, on limestone, some of it really nice rock and some a bit crumbly, so we wore helmets most of the time there…sensible. It took a couple of days getting used to the climbing there and getting into the swing of it, trying to understanding the grading, some 6a’s seriously spanked us. We had amazing weather the whole week; Friday was a bit of a wet day so we took a day off from Crept and went indoor bouldering. Then we spent the weekend at Crept again.

At Crept the guys at Hot Roc ( had worked hard to bolt loads of routes, there must have been around 150 routes! We took Olivier with us the first day, he loved it, we loved it, Angus loved it. We returned to Lyon on the evening because it was close by and we wanted to indulge a bit in the local food and see a bit of the town. We went to a Bouchon one night for an outrageous meal. Really tasty. We happened upon a dub party in the city which was well nice, in a little bar/club and had ourselves a compulsory boogie.


At the Bouchon

We had our first guest in the van too, Olivier came and stayed in the van with us at the crag on the weekend, after climbing on the Saturday we cruised down into Montagnieu to visit the local vinyard. The proprietor kindly let us in to try his wines. The wines were very nice, one of the grapes, Mondeuse, that they grow there is primitive version of the Syrah grape, that wine was pretty serious, but amazing, it made me sweat. We had some wine that evening and a delicious meal and read our books in the van until bed time. We had a leisurely morning and got on the crag nice and early still, Jennifer joined us in the afternoon and we got a lot of climbing done that day. Sunday evening we returned to Lyon and had a bit of a walk around day around Lyon on the Monday  with Jennifer. We had an amazing lunch, we bought a selection of cheeses, a good bottle of wine and a couple of delicious baguettes and went and lounged down by the river in the sun.

We finally departed Tuesday after staying in Lyon for 9 days! A lot longer than we expected to, I guess this was down to how welcomed we were by our hosts, thanks so much for looking after us Olivier and Jennifer, we really appreciate how welcome you made us!! The climbing was also amazing, along with the weather, the food and the fun. We climbed 7 out of the 9 days in Lyon – after having a pretty bad summer in Wales, regarding weather and outdoor climbing opportunities, it was amazing to have relentless good weather and to be outdoors on the crag all day, seeing the sunset every evening from the crag, the sun setting over the Rhone valley turning the limestone a warm pink before dipping behind the horizon. YEP!

What a great leg, on the Tuesday we set off to Chambéry!