Gorge du Tarn, in the South of France is one of the most idyllic sport climbing areas in Europe. The gorge has a very relaxed atmosphere and it’s always possible to find shade in amongst the pine trees to escape the mid-day heat. The quantity of big, pocketed limestone walls and towers in the Gorge du Tarn and neighbouring Gorge du Jonte is impressive to say the least and the available rock isn’t grid bolted and polished like many other popular sport climbing areas. Friends had recommended this area to me several times before but I’d always previously opted for trips to northern Spain due to the convenience of flights and car hire. In retrospect I wish I’d done a little bit more research because flights to Rodez airport are cheap and it’s a relatively short journey from there to reach the Gorge du Tarn.
The holiday was a bit of a last minute one following an invitation to join the Neill family (Tim, Lou and Esme) but with seven free days I couldn’t resist a bit of guaranteed sunshine! On our first day we visited the awesome Tennessee sector and started to get used to the long stamina routes, quickly learning that climbing in the mid-day sun was a bad idea. This was a fantastic discovery as it allowed for us to have very lazy mornings worthy of a proper holiday!
The following day we visited the Gorge du Jonte, which is the neighbouring valley, for a multi pitch route I’d spotted in the guidebook. The route’s called ‘Histoire Deux Fous’ and looked like a fantastic proposition taking in the awe inspiring right arête of a big cliff with a crux pitch of 8a. Following a couple of interesting warm up pitches we were left with the main event. I’d heard that the bolts were a little spaced on this pitch but hadn’t thought much of it at the time. When I was up there with plenty of exposure to boot, my legs turned to jelly and climbing on these run out sections felt utterly gripping. I had to hang off a couple of bolts just to muster up the necessary will power for upward progress and finally got to the belay – a little bit hot and bothered! Although the climbing was pretty straightforward I wasn’t that psyched for red-pointing which is a shame as in retrospect I’d have loved to have finished the job off. It’s a great route though and well worth the attention of anyone visiting the area and in search of something a little more adventurous. There are great views of Vultures up on those cliffs too.
For the rest of the trip we started heading out later and later, trying to allow as much time for our arms to recover as possible. By the seventh day on my arms weren’t much good for anything other than picking up pain au chocolat and a cola! We visited plenty of great crags climbing sport routes as long as 50m in length which was fun and quite unusual. There’s a huge amount of variety in the climbing too, from short and fingery routes to long overhanging pocketed walls. I’ll definitely be returning to this area in the not too distant future. Thanks for a great trip Tim and Lou!