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France 2018 scrambles + via ferrata


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kenr · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 15,356
VF Cascade de la Pisse 
. . . in the Alps along the main highway between Grenoble and Briancon.
. . . GPS latitude longitude approx (N45.0414 E6.1868).
. . . Strenuous interesting climb next to giant vertical-plunging waterfall.

I had enjoyed this one myself last year, so today I came back with Sharon.
Three things I noticed this time . . .
Sharon enjoyed it too, the challenge of big reachy moves mainly grabbing the steel rungs. Two interesting things are some diagonal sequences and short overhangs, but more that they frequently "skip" a move or two in the sequence of rungs. so need to place your feet (or hand) directly on the rock. Also, anyone much less tall than 5ft4inch with normal reach is going to need to find higher footholds on rock just to reach the deadpoint ot the next rung handhold.

Second is that it worked well to do the finish of her going horizontal west from the Refuge Des Clots hut to parking (GPS lat long approx N45.0494 E6.1557) by Les Aymes near Mizoen, while I descended to the.psrking by the bottom, then drove around to meet her. This included a section on a single-lane dirt-gravel road and some single-lane sections asphalt sections (not a place to meet another car coming the other way on a crowded day). About 2 miles / 3.5 km of gentle walking on good trail west from the hut to the parking. Sharon really dislikes downhill hiking/scrambling, and (like some other VFs especially in the Dolomites) this descent route is rather un-fun.
. . . The shuttle could also be done by leaving a bicycle (or several) near Les Aymes.
. . . Les Aymes is also rather near this famous road-cycling hill loop: Bourg d'Oisans - Alpe d'Huez - (optional side trip to Col du Poutran + Lac Besson with sport-climbing crags) - Col de Sarenne - Mizoen - Bourg d'Oisans.

Third is that by going up slower following Sharon, I discovered this time that there was lots of interesting climbing to be done "free" with hands and feet directly on the rock (avoiding the steel rungs and using the cable for protection only, not aid). I'd say at least one-third. Of course it's usually not safe to actually fall while using a normal Via Ferrata kit (and I did not have my special Skylotec Skyrider self-belay kit with me today), so I would frequently clip one of my lehes to an intermediate rung -- so when a handhold broke off, I fell less than an inch. Otherwise anytime there was any question about a move, I would just grab one of the steel rungs.

So Sharon says she'll gladly do it again (with the horizontal car-shuttle finish to Les Aymes), and so will I.

info:
* difficulty as Via Ferrata - French grade: D+ (on a scale of F PD AD D TD ED).
. . . (assumes climbing fully utilizing Aid of steel cable + rungs + other hardware).

* uphill +350 vertical meters, including +280 meters vertical in VF
* length of via ferrata on cable about 500 meters
* South-facing

key waypoints:
* Parking : (N45.0392 E6.1886)
* bottom of Via Ferrata cable : (N45.0414 E6.1868)
* top of Via Ferrata cable : (N45.0425 E6.1863)
* Refuge Des Clots hut : (N45.0436 E6.1829)
* junction for top of descent route : (N45.0436 E6.1784)
kenr · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 15,356
VF Freissinières 
. . . in SE Ecrins mountains between Briancon + Embrun.
. . . GPS latitude longitude approx (N44.7577 E6.5445)
. . . lots of interesting traverse moves, oldest via ferrata in France

We only did the first half of this route, after starting late and getting some sprinkles. The best ledge-traverse climbing (with lots of moves "free" with hands and feet directly on the rock) I've ever done (whether on or off via ferrata). Quiet pretty setting. We took the "escape" in the middle -- if you take this, do keep your VF kit on until sure you've reached the main hiking trail.
Look forward to getting back to do the second half.

Note that GPS numbers for one website (? and phone app ?) were way off for this route.

info:
* difficulty as Via Ferrata - French grade: AD+ for first part, D for second part - (out of scale F PD AD D TD ED).
. . . (assumes climbing fully utilizing Aid of steel cable + rungs + other hardware).

* uphill total vertical 300 meters (perhaps with some addiitional ups + downs?)
* length of via ferrata sections approx 1500 meters.
* South-facing

useful waypoints:  
* Parking : (N44.7577 E6.5384) - N up from village of Freissinières.
* bottom o f first VF part : (N44.7577 E6.5445)
* end of first VF part, start of second VF part : (N44.7575 E6.5470)
* top of second VF part : (??)
* junction of escape route (between first + second parts) with main hiking trail : (N44.7567 E6.5470)
kenr · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 15,356
VF La Clapière
. . . in the Queyras mountains near the Italy frontier SE from Briancon
. . . GPS latitude longitude approx (N44.6735 E6.7637).
. . . lots of interesting free climbing 5.5-5.9 on high-friction unpolished limestone

First stage mostly blank vertical, so I was making all my moves climbing ladder-like steel rungs. A litte traverse left, and then the next steep section turned out to have holds -- all of them diagonal downward left -- so lots of practice with a specific style of footwork - (good thing the holds were not polished). Next some less steep stuff, mixed with steeper interesting sections.

Then reached the fork where the "escape" route goes up right, while the "sporty" route goes down left followed by lots of traversing. Lots more climbing, say about half traversing (much of it plenty interesting). Final eighty feet or so to the top were sustained thoughtful face climbing, with a 5.9+ crux about ten feet below the top.

Would not have tried all those free moves with hands and feet directly on the rock, if I had not been using a special Skylotec Skyrider (something like a top-rope solo self-belay device for 10mm steel cable).
Glad I brought my rock shoes, but my toes sure did hurt before the top from all the stepping on holds at funny angles.

info:
* difficulty as Via Ferrata - French grade: AD for first part, D for second part - (out of scale F PD AD D TD ED).
. . . (assumes climbing fully utilizing Aid of steel cable + rungs + other hardware).

* uphill +278 vertical meters / +912 ft, including +160 meters vertical / +525 ft in VF
* length of via ferrata sections approx 315 meters / 1030 ft.
. . . with well over half "free" with hands+feet directly on rock.
* SouthEast- and South-facing

useful waypoints:
* Parking : (N44.6718 E6.7632)
. . . When driving East up to the village of Ceillac, before reaching the village,
. . . . turn left at GPS lat long (N44.6691 E6.7612) and go North on dirt/gravel
. . . . road about 800 ft / 250 meters to main parking on right.
* bottom of first VF part : (N44.6735 E6.7637)
* end of first VF part, start of second VF part : (N44.6740 E6.7636)
* top of second VF part : (N44.6745 E6.7616)
kenr · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 15,356
VF Les Mines du Grand Clôt
. . . in department of Hautes-Alpes along highway between Briancon + Grenoble,
. . . . . about 3.5 km west from La Grave.
. . . GPS latitude longitude approx (N45.0424 E6.2606)
. . . great "free" climbing with hands+feet directly on the rock, but then a long long hike above that.
. . . mostly S + SW facing
. . . rock is schist or gneiss, fun interesting with abundant positive holds
. . . several sport crags nearby
. . . difficulty as Via Ferrata - French grade: D (difficile) - (on a scale of F PD AD D TD ED)
. . . . . (assumes climbing fully utilizing Aid of steel cable + rungs + other hardware).

I'd say 700 feet long of climbing in the 5.5 - 5.9+ range, on rock somewhat like at Rumney NH (most popular sport climbing area in NorthEast USA), but more more fun than most of Rumney's climbing in that less-difficult range. I climbed all that "free" except for one two-move sequence. I'd say three sequences around 5.9 in that first main stage. 700 ft is longer than the climbing sections of lots of famous multi-pitch routes in USA.

Key point: Though the free climbing in that low main part is brilliant, once reach an obvious wide ledge which trends gentle upward left, it's almost all over. A short ways to one more short (vegetated) 5.9+ sequence, and most of the rest of it is a long long hike with navigation assisted by a steel cable - (Somebody must have been very generous in supplying steel cable, for them to use up that much of it in that way).

After the +200 vertical meters of fun climbing, there's a mostly-unrewarded additional +500 vertical meters of uphill and 4.5 km distance to the bike/car-shuttle parking at the village of Chazelet (yet 4 km more distance if do not spot a bike or car at Chazelet).
So unless you enjoy lots of steep hiking / easy scrambling with a steel cable as a navigational aid
. . . then . . .
Figure out a way to stop when you reach that first big ledge, after 99% of the fun free climbing, and all the underground mine exploration, are done with.

Oddly it seems that the designers and installers were not looking to add much more climbing above the first main stage. Like there is a very impressive steep 300 m / 1000 ft long SE-facing wall around (N45.0455 E6.2581). This would double the amount of climbing with roughly the same total climbing+hiking vertical.

Views: Other than the interior of the ancient lead mine, the main view of the lower stages is of some sort of factory or gravel quarry a bit east from the Parking. Higher up some nice views of the peaks and glaciers of the Meije (but no better than what you see driving up to Chazelet to set up the car/bike shuttle).

Statistics:
* vertical uphill of significant climbing segments = +250m / +820 ft
* length of climbing = 305 m / 1000 ft
. . . (at least half of that is steeper climbing mainly in the 5.5-5.9 range).
. . . (the length of cable is much longer than that, because much is used for navigation/handrail for long hiking sections above the main climbing section).

* vertical uphill total from bottom Parking to Chazelet village = +855m / +2800ft
* horizontal distance from bottom Parking to Chazelet village = 5.1 km / 3.2 Miles
* horizontal distance of full loop up + down = 9.1 km / 5.6 Miles

GPS useful waypoints:
* Parking = (N45.0416 E6.2615)
* alternate Parking = (N45.0443 E6.2847)
. . . (only if doing the full loop hiking back down from Chazelet).
* village of Chazelet (for setting up bike/car shuttle) = (N45.0548 E6.2840)
* bottom start of VF cable = (N45.0424 E6.2606)
* small cross above top of VF route = (N45.0481 E6.2591)
* high point where trail GR 50 - GR 54 starts downhill east to Chazelet = (N45.0532 E6.2663)
kenr · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 15,356
VF des Cretes de Combe de Roche
. . . in Queyras mountains NW from village of Arvieux
. . . . . which is SE from city of Briancon and near Italy frontier.
. . . GPS latitude longitude approx (N44.7997 E6.7074).
. . . brilliant varied "free" rock climbing on unpolished limestone,
. . . . . following a (sometimes intimidating) line with several different rock situations.
. . . . . Fairly sustained in 5.5-5.9, with a few harder moves (done with Aid).

map on MP: https://www.mountainproject.com/approach-trail/115178710 

info:
* NorthEast facing
* sport climbing nearby
* straightforward approach + descent
. . . but descent not designed to handle wet.

* difficulty as Via Ferrata - French grade: D (difficile) - (on a scale of F PD AD D TD ED)
. . . (assumes climbing fully utilizing Aid of steel cable + rungs + other hardware).
 
Statistics:
* climbing uphill vertical : +265m = +870 ft
* climbing length : 320m = 1050 ft
. . . of which over 99% could be climbed "free" at 5.9+ or less
. . . a rather high percentage in the 5.5-5.9 difficulty range.

* approach vertical : +55m = +180 ft
* approach distance : 0.8 km = 0.5 Mile

* uphill vertical hiking+climbing total : +330m = +1080 ft
* distance horizontal loop total : 2.7 km = 1.7 Mile

GPS useful waypoints
* Parking main : latitude longitude ~ (N44.8056 E6.7069) : elevation ~ 1975m
* Parking alt lower : (N44.8030 E6.7092) : elev ~ 1920m
. . . exactly where to park at or between these locations is not important,
. . . . since the descent forms a loop which goes near both.

* shortcut down from main Parking meets forest road : (N44.8036 E6.7071)
* approach trail leaves forest road : (N44.8015 E6.7080) : elev ~ 1900m

* bottom start of VF cable : (N44.7997 E6.7074) : elev ~ 1955m
* top - start of descent route : (N44.7984 E6.7059) : elev ~ 2230m
kenr · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 15,356
VF Tournoux
. . . SE above the ski station of Puy-Saint-Vincent in the eastern Ecrins / Pelvoux mountains,
. . . . . in the department of Hautes-Alpes, SW from the city of Briancon.
. . . . . not far from the famous summer climbing / camping area of Ailefroide.
. . . GPS latitude longitude approx (N44.8092 E6.5080)

Key point is that it's possible to get lost on the driving . . . because some smartphone maps (including Google Maps) do not really know hardly anything about the little roads out in the hills around there, and because a key road sign is difficult to see. My experience was that I wasted so much time with wrong driving that once I finally hiked to the base of the Via Ferrata cable, I decided I did not have time to climb it (because I had another commitment that day).
So I recommed follow the GPS track on the MountainProject climber's map,
or follow these directions . . .

Driving:
First drive to the ski station of Puy-Saint-Vincent (which although almost no Americans have heard of it, is large enough to have multiple base centers with complicated roads). Find the neighborhood of "Les Alberts" (N44.8276 E6.4955) along the D4 main road in Puy-Saint-Vincent. Here turn East then SouthEast for about 0.5 km to reach the neighborhood of "Les Pres" (N44.8248 E6.5007). Continue straight through it and follow the signs for "Col de la Posterle" for 3.2 km, first S, then soons curves N, then S, with many other turns and curves (sharp Right at N44.8199 E6.5047) to reach the end of the asphalt at (N44.8123 E6.5116). Park here if do not want to drive your car on dirt -- but likely with careful driving a normal non-high-clearance 2WD passenger car can make it to the high parking. Continue onto dirt/gravel for about 1.2 km to just below North from the Col de la Posterle pass with a small kiosk and grass parking (N44.8090 E6.5140).

Hiking:
After a tiny NorthWest start to reach the edge of Parking, aim West, with a choice of trail or road. The trail on the left is more efficient than the dirt road on the right, but they both get to the same place. Take the trail starting uphill. Soon encounter a fork with another trail -- stay right and continue roughly West, about 400 meters to meet the dirt road. Turn Left onto this wide dirt road and almost immediately reach the high point of the road. Go gentle downhill West from the high point for 100 meters to (N44.8097 E6.5083). Turn Left off the dirt road onto a trail marked with light-blue paint dots. Going straight leads soon into some polished very slippery stuff, so likely better to immediately make a sharp left and go around the left side of the big rock, then head SSW up hill for about 50 meters to find the bottom start of the Via Ferrata cable -- GPS lat long roughly (N44.8092 E6.5080).
FrankPS · · Atascadero, CA · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 275

Why are you the only person posting in this (your) thread? It appears there is no interest in it, besides you.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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