Type: Sport, Aid, 800 ft (242 m)
FA: unknown
Page Views: 616 total · 16/month
Shared By: kenr on Dec 7, 2017
Admins: Euan Cameron, Luc-514

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Access Issue: Summer closures Details


Make a visit to the Extreme Bec du Sormiou, starting with a traverse along the NorthEast side of the cape ...
. * varied climbing situations on mostly sound rock
. * 5.5 with Aid of etrier / aid-ladder (or perhaps couple of cleverly-linked slings?) hung from bolt.
. . . (If climbed Free, at least 5.7 likely harder).
. * equipped with bolts for protection
. * close above the deep blue water, but ...
. * the best climb-traverse section is for well-experienced climbers only - (with an interesting-enough alternative).
. * often linked with the route "Arête de l'extrême Bec"
. * or with a spectacular return hike+scramble as alternative.

wind + waves? Dangerous with wind and waves, especially wind from the East. Might require getting shoes wet if tide is very high.

extend? Could be linked with lots more climbing and/or hiking by continuing with the "Aretes Col to Col" route.

other sources:
Best topo diagram for this route is on page 245 in the print guidebook Escalade Plaisir Alpes du Sud, Provence, by Hervé Galley (Editions Olizane, 2007).

Much of the words on this route page are the same as on another website: the English-language version of the route "Traversée et Arête de l'Extrême Bec" on CampToCamp.org (c2c). That's because the author of this page on MP previously also wrote all the English-language text for c2c under the user ID "kenr" on CampToCamp.org -- (though perhaps other c2c users have since modified it).


the Extreme Bec is the SouthEast tip of the Cap Sormiou peninsula (N43.2036 E5.4273). Climbing starts from a "view platform" (N43.2058 E5.4256) about 250 meters NW back from the Extreme Bec.

Parking (N43.2113 E5.4183) for trailhead is about 200 meters NW from the beach of the village of Sormiou. Payment required (not more than 5 Euros as of 2017).

driving: The final 2 km are on narrow asphalt with some very steep curvy sections. And just to
reach that final section requires tricky navigation through several km of busy streets of the city of Marseille -- pretty difficult without guidance from a GPS or phone with good map or app.
... but likely more important is ...

closure: The narrow road to parking near the trailhead is often closed to vehicles without special permits on weekends + holidays, and closed every day during summer and shoulder seasons. In which case need to park around (N43.2226 E5.4053) NW from the steep pass of the Col de Sormiou (N43.2164 E5.4087) and walk in over and down the pass roughly SE on road and/or trail - (so then consider the "Aretes Col to Col" route for returning).


hiking: From the Parking by the bottom end of the road near Sormiou beach village, walk SE on street gentle down through gate. Just before reaching the beach, find the bottom start of the official hiking trail (N43.2100 E5.4198). Turn Right and follow the trail with solid-Black-line markings SSW up the steep hill with gravel about 50 meters. Turn Left and traverse roughly horizontal SE about 300 meters (along the way is a short section going straight up a narrow gravel gully, exiting L onto rising trail) to meet a second narrow gully of gravel (GPS lat long approx N43.2070 E5.4224). The trail splits, with the R-hand trail (Black-triple-dots) going S up steep gravel toward the Col – but instead take the L-hand trail (solid-Black-line marking) toward the Bec, at first up a little then generally horizontal about 270 meters SE, at first up a little then generally horizontal, then downward toward Cap Redon (a smaller side-peninsula out left to the East).

There are three high rock platforms out east from the main peninsula toward Cap Redon, but you cannot see the lowest farthest on the approach. The one which leads into this Traversee route is the highest most Westerly platform. So ...
About where the solid-Black-line marked trail turns left to go down its final section toward Cap Redon and the water, leave the trail and head off Right and go gentle S about 15-20 meters through some bushes to a view platform (N43.2058 E5.4256) with view overlooking Cap Redon.
. . (about 20-30 minutes from the Sormiou beach village).

Route out to the Bec

to the Capelan cave: From the "view platform" above Cap Redon walk about ten meters SE, then turn sharp Right and go SW down (4th class) to the edge of the sea on a slanting slab with a bolt near its top, next down reddish dirt into a zone of big blocks at the edge of (or in) the water. Then scramble up about five meters onto a platform below a white slab.

The obvious steep white slab above has more than one bolted line: left one (5.6, 4 bolts). Easiest is up right side wide crack (5.2).
Climb up to a wide ledge above (pitch less than 25m, 2-bolt anchor). Follow the ledge Left (becomes narrow and exposed, with some bolts), across a corner, down to the reddish flat beside the water at the entrance to the Grotte Capelan cave - (interesting to make a short exploration inside the often-wet-slippery cave, perhaps find pool of seawater far down in).

. . Variation 1 – Instead of traversing outside left, go through the Grotte Capelan cave. Before reaching the pool of water, climb up around its Left side to a window of daylight (4+/5 with bolts - often with wet-slippery non-positive move to reach second bolt). A short down-climb, then a shelf (5m, difficulty 3) and traverse to rejoin Variation 2 and the rappel anchor.

from cave to SE rappel anchor:
Scramble up left about 15 meters to the base of steep white rock with two bolted lines.

For the most sustained interesting climbing, next traverse Left below and around the corner with single bolt – but this traverse down close by the water is only for well-experienced climbers who can easily handle the difficulty and the sustained exposure (see "Bord de la Mer" below under Protection). If in doubt take the Variation next below instead.

. . Variation 2 – Instead of traversing left, climb up one of the two bolted lines (left is thoughtful 5.8 with 4 bolts, right is said to be 5.6) up the steep white rock to a 2-bolt belay anchor. Next an easier pitch up to a big ledge under a detached pillar called “la Momie”. Diagonal down gully/ramp on weak rock toward the sea, gets narrow (difficulty low 5th class, several bolts) to rejoin the more sustained route at the 1-bolt rappel anchor.

From the outside corner with a single bolt (to the left of the bottom of the two bolted lines), first go down about four meters. Traverse Left a few meters above the water (French "bord de la mer"), horizontally about seventy meters, staying mostly above the sea (difficulty up to 5.5) to a bolt belay (quickdraws and perhaps slings useful for protecting the climbers following).

Next downward along ledge to a belay just a couple of meters above the water. Down left from here to the very edge of the sea, and traverse a couple of meters on dark rock. Climb up diagonal-toward-left crack (5.7+ free, or 5.5 obligatory with Aid of etrier or several slings hung from the first bolt) - (protection at least five bolts) - to a belay near the top flat (pitch less than 35m).

Next a descending traverse on a wide slanting ramp of white rock, then up a little, then scramble down to a deep gap (mini-fjord) connecting up from the sea. Step across the gap at its narrowest point, then climb up on good holds (4a with bolts) to reach the rappel anchor (1-bolt as of 2017).

from SE rappel anchor to the Bec:
Directly down (trending slightly left) almost to the water (many good holds at difficulty 5.5, with bolts) – or make a rappel of 15 meters. Then traverse horizontally for about a hundred meters on a sloping ledge (difficulty 2) a few meters above the sea to reach the Extreme Bec (GPS latitude longitude approx (N43.2036 E5.4273) - with a wide area at the east side of the bottom of the arete.

Return from the Bec

. . Variation: From here on the East side of the Bec, could instead climb up the route "Arête de l'extrême Bec" and continue NW along the crest of the Cap Sormiou peninsula to the Col Lui d'Ai pass to rejoin this Traversee route.

across the Extreme Bec:
First climb up the lowest five meters of the Arete, then left around outside corner and traverse horizontally West for at least ten meters (very exposed, maximum 8 bolts) – most people attach a couple of quickdraws to the bolts and grab onto them for Aid -- (Without using aid the difficulty is at least 5.7). Finish down to wide gentle area.
. . . (as of 2017 there is a possible anchor point in the middle, to make it easier for the leader to stay in communication with following climbers),

return along SW side to Col Lui d'Ai:
Hike a ways NW well above the water below steep cliffs. Next scramble up easily to higher wide ledge. A bit further becomes exposed narrow for about ten meters with cable or rope for a hand-rail. Next some scrambling zig-zag, generally straight up. Finally a long ramp diagonal left up to the Col Lui d'Ai pass (N43.2061 E5.4234).

At the Col Lui d'Ai cross over to the NE side of the peninsula and follow black-dot-marked trail down left (NW) to a steep gravel gully, then down the gully (N) a short ways to meet the black-line-marked trail. Follow that trail left to another steep gravel gully. Down that a short ways, then exit left and go roughly horizontal on the black-line-marked trail with some ups and downs. Stay high and wait until directly above the beach before going down on steep gravel reach the street of Sormiou village.

Variation Finish: Instead of finishing down to Sormiou village (and especially if have a vehicle parked on the NW side of the Col de Sormiou, or a bicycle stashed near the Col) ...
A more interesting way to go to Col de Sormiou is by continuing NW from Col Lui d'Ai staying on the ridge:
- - > See the route "Arêtes de Sormiou de Col à Col".
This "Aretes Col to Col" route stays as much as possible exactly on the crest of the ridge of Cap Sormiou, climbing over many rocks and gendarmes and a few larger summits. Some short sections "on the razor". Or
if don't want so much climbing, could take the "indirect" Aretes route.
Sustained views out over the Sea on both sides.


hardware: About as many bolts as might be expected for an easy/moderate route outdoors. As of 2017, many are recent stainless-steel glue-ins, but many are not. Except for the main "Bord de la Mer" horizontal traverse, quickdraws (not more than eight) should be sufficient for protecting Variation 2 and the other climbing sections of the main route.

Rope length of 30 meters is sufficient for Variation 2 and main route outside of the Bord de la Mer traverse.

Bord de la Mer: The long traverse section of the main (non-Variation) route between the Capelan Cave and the SE rappel anchor -- which stays lower down closer to the water ("bord de la mer"), is reasonably well-protected for lead and following climbers who are "solid" at the difficulty grade. But if a climber fell, they would end up below section with the good holds, and so might be unable to climb back up to get back on the route.

Anyway a following climber could fall two or three meters or more even if on a good belay from the leader, and so might hit some protrusion or ledge or sharp rock and get seriously hurt – because it's a horizontal traverse section. And this traversing section is very sustained, so if a climber gets very scared in the middle somewhere, there is no simple escape: going back might be just as scary and difficult as going forward.

In adddition to some quickdraws, need at least one long sling for at least one of the belay anchors, likely more slings for protecting following climbers. Probably can do better protecting if bring a few pieces of Trad gear - (note that normal stoppers tend not to set well in this limestone. Consider offset stoppers or Tricams (and expect your follower to have difficulty removing them), or perhaps better to bring some modern camming units.

Rope for Bord de la Mer: Not sure what length is needed.


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