Going with the flow in France

Last spring was the first time in 15 season’s I hadn’t been up to Alaska for some form of work, guiding or assignments. Turned out spring is really neat too.

So I skipped AK again this season. And planned a trip to Europe with my wife. Our drive for the trip had been to go alpine climbing in Slovenia. We flew into Geneva seeing a few friends in Chamonix - we had hoped that the alpine conditions would stay in good condition but a wk or so before we arrived it had snowed about a meter + making the big north faces quite a bit more difficult. So we skied!  Breche Pissoux and the NE face of Les Courtes both provided fun skiing and inspiring views, in particular, the North face of the Grand Jorasse. Two days of “trying” to alpine climb, one day was spent totally wallowing up about 1/3 of the Frendo Spur on the N face of the Aiguille du midi - we bailed early. We had no desire to sleep in the bathrooms at the top of the midi. Another day we spent with Colin Haley - while he was out on a training day - wanting to climb more technical terrain. We went on a sightseeing tour to the direct start of the Super Coulior on the East Face of Mont blanc du Tacul. Nearly zero ice on the direct start which isn’t uncommon but this season when we were there things were really dry. The not so cool part of the day was when We missed the last train, after running up the stairs, down to the Chamonix valley - forcing us to make the walk downhill. Rookie. 

Hearing that conditions in Slovenia weren’t ideal for climbing around Osp (hot) and dirty and warm weather in the Julien Alps for alpine climbing along with the sad news of friends involved in accidents in Canada without much motivation for climbing in the mountains. Out of the blue Nico Favresse, texted Anne Gilbert offering his van for us to use, if we wanted! 

Nico’s van is famous - it seemed to us. We had so many people waving emphatically at us, running down a street chasing us thinking Nico was driving - only to be surprised when two Americans rolled the window down! So fun meeting so many climbers. 

We made plans to connect with Caro North whom we had gone to India with in 2015 on an expedition - this time we were headed to Ceuse to go sport climbing. We met at Nico’s house in Briancon, he and Jan Novack were really fun and welcoming us for a couple of days. After a week of climbing in Ceuse Anne GIlbert and I decided it was time to continue the road trip. Rainy days gave us a chance to be tourists which is very rare for us - we drove to the coast of southern France to Cassis. A beautiful coastal town. A quick morning weather window did allow us to climb the “Siren” in En Vou - a tiny shallow harbor surrounded with limestone towers. Amazing. The weather cleared and we drove back north to the Verdon Gorge. Within 20 minutes of arriving in town we were walking down the street to run into friends, Eric Bissell and Jane Jackson - enjoying mid-day Negroni’s. They had been nearing the end of a two month climbing trip in Europe. We all rallied for two days of climbing in the amazing Verdon.