BLOG: Orpierre – 15 Years Later

Back in 1998 I was lucky enough to visit the limestone paradise of Orpierre in France on a college trip. I was studying Outdoor Education and we took a sport climbing week to the polished slabs of the region as part of our course. It was my first ‘Euro Sport’ trip.

All I remember from the trip was being really impressed that one of our tutors (Rob Gale – an all round fantastic bloke) could speak French. And I also remember redpointing a 7b called Toutes les Chances plus UneI was climbing with my good friend Aide, and I went up first and gave Aide the beta for a flash attempt. I’m pretty sure he fell off on the flash, but either way I recall that just before the crux there was an option to rest on the right on a good handhold, but it was quite steep there.

On arrival at the ‘resting’ hold, Aide shouted that I had sandbagged him, as it was too steep to rest, and he moved to the left to rest in a wet manky hole – a much worse handhold, but less steep, and an option I hadn’t even considered.

With this memory in mind I set off up the route last week, after some young climbers from Southampton University had redpointed it in a few goes. They reminded me of Aide and I back in the 90’s.

When I reached the aforementioned resting area I was pleasantly surprised to find that I could rest in either position, so despite not being a technically brilliant climber back then, I hadn’t been too far off the mark. I will hand it to you though Aide – your rest was marginally better! 😉

Looking down from Aide's rest on the Orpierre 7b - Toutes les Chances plus Une
Looking down from Aide’s rest on the Orpierre 7b – Toutes les Chances plus Une last week – 15 years older, 15 years wiser than the first time. If I knew then what I know now I think my climbing tick-list would be a little fuller!

It was lovely to go back to this beautiful village, with hundreds of routes to climb, many in the low grades, and a smattering of high 7s and 8s to go at too.

And 15 years later I have to say that this technical and pumpy 7b was actually little more than a warm up for me, and the very obvious holds and sequences flowed by in a series of polished moves that were almost automated. I guess my climbing has moved on in 15 years after all.

What a joy to go and climb a route again after all these years and have such a different experience. I am full of admiration of young climbers achieving goals and climbing routes that I wasn’t even ready to dream of back then.

For me now the experience levels are there, the skills are in the tool bag, so it is back to the training program to bring the body up to spec. Very excited for what 2014 has to offer climbing-wise.

I’ve also had a couple of days down in Oltra Finale in Italy over Easter, and both this and Orpierre are fantastic venues for this time of year, Orpierre with its afternoon shade, and Oltre Finale with its amazing restaurants! 12 courses with wine for just €35….. better get back on that finger board!

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