The main areas include Ceuse (to the north of Verdon) which boasts a great sports climbing crag, Verdon which has a massive variety of single & multi-pitch sports routes, Avignon with over 50 different crags to choose from, Buoux (north of Aix) which offers technical limetone & sandstone climbing, and Les Calanques on the coast to the east of Marseille, famed for its long multi-pitch routes, slabs and caves - there are over 2500 bolted routes and around 1000 trad routes available.
Gorges du Verdon, one of the best rock-climbing sites in Europe is to be found at the spectacular Gorges du Verdon. Attracting beginners to world-class climbers, the walls of this flooded canyon with its startling sapphire waters is an exceptional place to climb, with 1500 routes on excellent quality limestone, including the famous Falaise de l’Escales route, which rises over 300 vertical metres. The Le Verdon hills surrounding the gorge are full of climbing adventures- with 933 classified routes, including the limestone routes at Quinson, Moustieres Sainte Marie, Castellane and the sandstone rocks of Annot. A whole climbing guide could be written on Le Verdon alone!
Les Calanques, down near Marseilles you’ll find the famous Calanques - towering limestone cliffs that plunge into the clear blue Mediterranean, creating majestic fording promontories and secluded bays. The Calanques are riddled with climbing routes- there are more than 2500 bolted routes and around 1000 traditional routes, and because the cliffs are all different in orientation you can find good climbing conditions in almost any weather. However, access to the Calanques is restricted during the summer months due to high fire danger so you will often have to go in by boat.
Callanque d’en Vau, this is probably one of the most beautiful climbing venues in the world - with cliffs rising up around a small gorge-like bay of startling pale blue. Unsurprisingly, this venue gets a lot of traffic- and has done for the best part of a century- meaning the rock is often quite smooth in places and it’s also only partially bolted. This is a pretty special place to climb, with a superb setting and a good variety of routes – just avoid weekends if you possibly can, where climbers hang from the rocks as far as the eye can see…
Le Goudes, close to the pretty fishing village of Callelongue, is the westernmost Calanque and offers over 300 routes and over 100 sports routes. The variety here is brilliant and has something to please everyone, with shady, sunny, multi and single pitch courses- and because the orientation of the cliffs are all different in the Calanques there’s always shelter from the wind to be found. Be aware that because this site is so wonderfully picturesque, you will be sharing the climbs with hordes of others on weekends- come here during the week if possible.
Paroi du Toits, again in the magnificent Calanques, you’ll find the Paroi du Toits venue, with nearly 100 sports routes and a great sheltered setting which makes it particularly good for winter climbing when the Mistral wind can tear through this region. There’s an excellent range of climbs here. Again, its proximity to Marseilles and the sheer beauty of this region can make it rather busy!
Sainte Victoire, heading deep into the Var west of Aix en Provence, you’ll find the impressive mountain of Saint Victoire, which is absolutely criss-crossed with more than a thousand routes and is known as ‘Cezanne’s mountain’ after the painter who captured it in his work. This huge mountain with its sheer limestone faces and huge stretch of white rock has a 7km plateau which resembles a long ridge, with a peak of 1011 metres at Pic des mouches. The best climbing is found on the south face, with most of the climbing taking place on the long stretch of cliff near the base of the mountain. Much of the climbing is challenging, requiring delicate footwork and strong nerves- particularly the 7c legendary route ‘Le Medius’. Some of the fixed gear on the older routes is a bit shabby, however, despite the mountain’s popularity for climbers, the rock is still quite sticky. Be aware that in summer you have the double inconvenience of extreme heat on the cliff-face and extreme fire danger causing mountain closures- spring and autumn offer the best climbing months.
If it is a Climbing guide you are after then there are plenty of Adventure companies who will take you out on the rocks and teach you the ropes.
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