Getting to the Calanques under 25

Original Post
Todd Anderson · · Seattle, WA · Joined Jun 2011 · Points: 145

I'm going to France next week and hoping to climb in the Calanques, but I'm 24 and looking at very high underage car rental fees. Anyone have good ideas for traveling between Lyon and the Calanque/Marseille that I can afford on a grad student budget?


kenr · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 10,116

There are buses from the city of Marseille to several of the key trailheads of the Calanques. (I bet Luminy gets frequent bus service, because of the university).

So if you find cheap accommodation near a major bus station in the city of Marseille, you could access most of the spectacular climbs / hikes / trail runs of the Calanques national Park. Or perhaps could rent a bicycle to reach trailheads from the City. Much of the western Calanques are just an extension of the city.

I've put English descriptions of some of the long low-5th-class seaside traverse routes up on -- which are really great, and unique to the Calanques. Just thinking of them makes me wonder why I'm not there now.

Otherwise there are lots of French descriptions of harder routes on c2c and in print guidebooks.

Note that some of the best climbing is farther east on Cap Canaille between La Ciotat and Cassis (not so easy to reach from Marseille). For low-5th-class, it's hard to beat the link-up of Traveree Parpeles with the W ridge of the Bec de l'Aigle. Lots of harder DWS nearby, see the La Ciotat print guidebook.

But using Cassis as a base would be expensive. Note that famous Calanque d'En Vau is perhaps more easily reached from the N from Col de la Gardiole (near Col de la Gineste on the main road between Marseille/Luminy and Cassis). You don't need to do one of the (high-polished) climbs there in order to enjoy it fully.

If you don't bring a rope or gear, just the hiking / trail-running along the seaside rock is amazing. (I've used a road-bike to shuttle between trailheads for one-way hike trail-run traverses).


Todd Anderson · · Seattle, WA · Joined Jun 2011 · Points: 145

Thanks Ken! We have accommodation in the Mazargues area; still looking at bus schedules and thinking about getting a car anyway. We were planning on checking out a few of those traverse routes (can't remember the names), should be pretty interesting!

kenr · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 10,116

If you decide to get a car, then you should surely visit Cap Canaille, and drive the Route des Cretes between Cassis + La Ciotat (even if you don't do any of the climbs or crags accessable from that road.

And with a car you can reach other crags inland and around Toulon - some of which have better rock than the Calanques (though not the views). For maximum variety of climbing options for easiest driving access, Sharon and I have come to prefer making our base close to the major interstate / autoroute exits around Aubagne, or north of there to the east of Aix-en-Provence.

One advantage of not having a car is that you don't have to worry about strategies to reduce the probabilities of break-ins at parking areas. Anyway operating a car in Europe is expensive even without the age-25 penalty.

Mazargues should give you close non-car access to enough terrain to keep you busy for a week or so. The popular easy seaside traverse near there is the Extrem Bec de Sormiou (several variations).
If you need more difficulty, the link-up of the traverses Bora Bora and Marie-Jacqueline is classic (couple short sections 5.11a?). Also worth considered is the Commune traverse (not more than 5.10?).

Then there's a whole other set of classic seaside traverses farther east (toward Cassis) around the Castelvieil peninsula. And another set on the southeast corner of the Cap Canaille peninsula.
. (with great non-traverse multi-pitch routes interspersed).

Another thing to consider around Castelvieil and Cassis is kayaking (into sea caves).


Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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