Leave your rack at home?

Beauty in the woods
Beauty in the woods, I mean the trees…

Before I leave for Europe, I’ve got numerous advices from climbing pals and friends on where to stay, what to do and basically how to travel Europe like a climber. One interesting advice was to leave my Rack at home and bring 30 quick draws with me as there isn’t trad climbing in Europe and we will only be clipping bolts.

Things that I did not left behind in Singapore
Things that I did not leave behind in Singapore

I wasn’t sold on that idea. We wanted to climb in Dolomites and that require some gear although most of the time the crux is to find the right pitons to clip. Climbing in Verdon require a fair bit of gears (mega classic 13 pitch ULA is now bolt less) unless you are willing to run it out between bolts on sometimes fairly committing moves. But it was in Verdon that we meet Lionel (guidebook author of Escalade traditionnelle @ Annot) and he told us more about the premium trad climbing spot in Europe just 1.5 hrs drive away, Annot.

The south face
The south face
Houses under the rocks
Houses under the rocks

Annot was first developed as a bouldering area, well known for houses built under huge blocs (boulders). Along with bouldering there are numerous blocs there were too high to be enjoyed by general public like you and me unless you enjoy soloing and highballing depending on your tolerance for death or broken bones, these blocs will be bolted and sometimes chipped in order to be climbed. Most of the time they will be about 10-12m high with about 4-6 bolts of climbing. Sounds like our indoor gyms in Singapore? Yes, I prefer to call them roped bouldering. =D

Forgotten area
Forgotten area features beautiful bolted lines up to 8c
Shiver fest warm ups
Shiver fest warm ups

However, what Kelly and I was interested in is the newly developed trad lines in Annot, mainly concentrated in the south face of Les Gres D’Annot. However there are many more lines that sprung up all over the other faces of Annot and you can find out more from tradannot.over-blog.com (if you read french, or google translate it)

L'ange En Decomposition
L’ange En Decomposition

We left Verdon after climbing a mega classic, L’ange En Decomposition which took my heart away but I know we have to leave and explore the splitter lines up north. When we arrive in Annot, it doesn’t have the big walls of Verdon nor the climbers infested feeling to the place. Instead, Annot is a little french village in the mountains and Les Gres D’Annot is a backdrop to the village which local tourist will visit over the weekend to visit the famous Chambre Du Roi or the Oubliette (forgotten area). Both of these areas are pleasant to the eyes of hiking tourist and also important climbing areas in  Annot.

Top of the Yellow hiking trail
Top of the Yellow hiking trail

First day, Kelly and I decided to buy the guidebook and hike the recommended tourist hiking route and visit most of the climbing areas. The 5-6 hours yellow hiking route which starts from Annot train station, will take a huge loop to the Les Portettes and back down to the middle of the village at the main car park in front of Cafe Du Commerce.

Train!!
Train!!
Annot train station
Annot train station

Arriving at Chambre Du Roi, we met 2 very important climbing figures in Europe, Arnaud Petit and Stephanie Bodet. (google them if you haven’t heard about them). We found them in the dark corridor of Chambre Du Roi with their trad climbing students on Hand Training (6a/5.10b) I had to do the climbing idol thing and ask them for a photo shamelessly.

Kelly and Steph Bodet
Kelly and Stephanie Bodet
My shameless request for a photo with the legend
My shameless request for a photo with the legend
In the corridors of Hand Training
In the corridors of Hand Training
Hand training 6a with head lamps
Hand training 6a with head lamps

We have 2 weeks in Annot and with the days of November getting shorter as we move into the winter months, the temperature also became lower. However the days are warm with south facing crags and single pitch climbs means you are less exposed to the wind and other elements compared to hanging off the walls on a multi pitch. That feels like a good break after 1.5 months of climbing on the big walls of Verdon and Dolomites.

6a Roof
6a Roof

The trad climbing in Annot on large occasion are splitter cracks, with large sizes ranging from C4 #2-#6 and usually a few of the same large pieces. Like a 6a warmup on the La Vire Inter most of the time requires 2-4 pieces of BD #5-#6 which of course we did not have since we are flying a strip down rack around. Most of the time we will run out the climbs with 1 #5 and 1#4. So if you are planning a trip around in Annot, take at least 2 #4-#6 each in order for a great time with little restrictions on what you climb.

Lake Placid 6b
Lake Placid 6b with a roof exit
Working out the moves on 7B roof crack
Working out the moves on 7B roof crack

The climbing here sometimes features some pockets next to the cracks which usually requires good jamming skills and foot work on vertical or gently overhang faces and some roofs if you look around. This is the place where I have learned new jamming stills like fist stacks & butterfly jams and extensively used chicken wings and arm bars even on 5+ – 6a warmups.

Kelly's proud send on Mongol crack 6c
Kelly’s proud send on Mongol crack 6c

The best line kelly and I agreed on is the Mongol crack graded at 6c/5.11b which Kelly sent after 3 tries. It is a left leaning finger to tight hands crack to a steep face layback and a balls shivering top out to the chains. I did the extension of the route 7a which spit me off with its off width climbing and run outs with out a #6.

I’m really glad to have pushed my trad climbing standards here in Annot with some test pieces,

-Les Portettes Face 6b (hard for its grade and have loads of tape on your hand)

Les Portettes taught me a lesson
Les Portettes taught me a lesson

-Krusty Et Le Demi Boudin 6b (hard to get off the ground)

Ass kicking start
Ass kicking start

-L’arche 6c

L'arche the 30m onsight with 5 pieces of gears
L’arche the 30m onsight with 5 pieces of gears

-Mongol crack 6c extension 7a

-Spitalgie 6c (Boulder start follows a roof entrance to huge run outs before placing slings in cheese look alike wall)

The Cheese climb
The Cheese climb

– Fumble with the Jungle 6c

Fumble with the jungle 6c
Fumble with the jungle 6c

– Les Villages Faurmes La Jenice 7a+ (overhanging crack that gets harder and harder towards the top)

The hardest trad route I have tried ground up insight attempt. Yes I know you cannot see shit, but from how much my ass was sticking out shows the steepness of the climb. =)
The hardest trad route I have tried ground up onsight attempt. Yes I know you cannot see shit, but from how much my ass was sticking out shows the steepness of the climb. =)

If you are in Europe and you need a fix for your crack addiction without clipping bolts on a retrobolted crack, Annot is your answer. Just bring loads of tape and grow more skin!

Remember your tape gloves
Remember your tape gloves
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4 thoughts on “Leave your rack at home?

  1. SUPER Awesome write up!! Will inspire climbers to seek out new places and explore new routes!! :))

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