Hot Rock 7 – 14 April 2015, Roquebrun, Languedoc

Present: David Bateman, John Belbin, Andy Causer, Berenice Causer, John Gresty, Martina(G), Lynn Moss, Dave Pettifar, John Ward.

Berenice, Lynn and JB were there for the walking, Andy and David for the climbing, while Dave with JW in one party and John Gresty with Martina in another combined touring with climbing.

 Location: The mountainous National Park of Le Carroux lies NW of Beziers in the Languedoc, southern France; and Roquebrun, where the party stayed, is a picturesque medieval village on the river Orb. The climbing, the walking, the accommodation and the weather were spot on.

What they did there:

Andy and David found plenty of long ‘trad’ routes on beautiful gneiss rock in the Gorge d’ Heric itself; and there were a few lightly equipped crags too, one such being La Tete du Brachewhere on different days they climbed 2 routes. The easy Arête (AD 4) offered half a dozen pitch lengths of lovely moves and finished on the dog’s head summit. L’Horologe (D5) involved a more demanding scramble approach and then three long steep pitches to gain the same dog’s head finish. Andy did the hard leads.DB unroping

DB unroping on La Tete du Brache         Photo AC

Approaches in the gorge could be lengthy, adventurous or both. By the time the duo had trekked and then fought their way to the probable start to the SE Arête on Le Minaret, there was insufficient time to complete a long, unequipped route followed by a lengthy gully descent; so the day became an aggravated walk exploring the magnificent gorge and spying out other routes.

That plan bore fruit. The Arete des Charbonniers (D4)was spotted and sacks stashed ready for the approach next morning.The guidebook gave no idea of the length of the route which sported only one bolt 6 feet above the start and no belays. In fact route-finding was easy as it stuck close to the sheer right wall of the ravine, and the pair made a dozen 30m (ave.) pitches on perfect rock. Just after the summit a second lunch was taken in the ‘salle a manger’ in the welcome shade of trees. Thedescent by the ravine involved some serious thought and an abseil through trees.

By contrast the route on the crag Rocher Georges Vergues started directly from the main track along the gorge and gave superb steep direct line on rock as near to the Gritstone experience as you’ll get (‘rash’ included).

The route was varied too: a huge boulder (La Classique), followed by a steep Fissure Fraissinet (D5 ) and a couple of towers. Late lunch on the summit’s rock sofa with views down the gorge – well, you can imagine!.

The spectacular scenery coupled with 8 days of sunshine made this one of the best “Hot Rock” holidays for the walkers. They opened with a short walk from the house getting fine views of the highest local mountain of Carroux (1091m) and knew that this had to be their destination for much of the rest of the week.

Carroux houses at least two gorges – d’ Heric, the main attraction and des Colombieres – and the next day the trio walked up the Gorges d’Heric to the caff at the top and then used the GR7 to return. Even finding a dozen teenagers searching for Easter eggs didn’t spoil the day.

The next day they intended to do the local hard walk and soon reached the first high point to find that the guide book instructions were somewhat inaccurate. So they followed an ancient waymark leading in the right direction and eventually picked up a route leading to the intended village. By then it was too late to do the second half of the walk so they walked down the road to finish at a pub.

The Colombieres Gorge was their next trip.

Paths run up either side of it giving tantalising views of the river below and enough rock spires to tempt any climber away from Gorge dHeric.

An old pony trail takes you steeply up to a Refuge where some younger people were swimming in the river, but our trio pressed on round the top of the Gorge to return down the east side passing numerous well signed escalades and along some of the longest zig-zags JB had ever been on to finish down one of the steepest and longest flights of steps he’d encountered since descending from the roof of Notre Dame!  A magnificent day.

After a “rest” day exploring villages, their bridges and castles the final day was to be the classic walk of the Gorge d’Heric.

Andy joined them, and after crossing Le Pont des Soupirs (Bridge of Sighs), the foursome steadily ascended on an unlikely path through the huge rock outcrops with great views whenever they turned a corner, until finally they reached a rescue hut on the Carroux plateau. A kilometre or so on the flat brought them to their lunch stop, and then it was all downhill; first to the village of Douch, then on what seemed like a never-ending descent through trees to the caff inthe village of Heric, a brief refreshment stop and back down the main Gorge for ice cream at the seemingly never-closing car park café.

John and Martina, who had driven out from home, reported that they’d “played on some rocks, done some easy walking, explored the area by car, and had a good holiday”.

Dave and JW climbed on a crag near Roquebrun and then in the Gorge d’Heric where they did a few sport routes and also got most of the way up the arête on Tete du Brache before abbing into the ravine to allow time for the descent. Their appetite for touring took them to Navascelles (a grand site de France) and the general area the rest of us had visited in 2013.

David Bateman

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