|Date: 6th-12th June 2013
Submitted by: Alan Tees
Mont Inaccessible. 2082m
Imagine the scene. 1492, and King Charles VIII of France is travelling in Vercors with his chamberlain Dompjulian De Beaupre when he spots a remarkable table Mountain. What's that? That is Mont Inaccessible, your majesty. Why is it so called? Because it is impossible to scale, your Majesty. Nonsense, have it climbed immediately, and report to me.
In an early example of outsourcing, the job was delegated to Antoine De Ville, one of the king's most successful campaigners, and a team of experts consisting of a seige ladder builder, a master carpenter, a stone mason and of course several clergy! On 26th June, after several weeks of preparation, it was duly climbed, ( the same year Columbus landed in America) by various means, including the use of engines and half a league of ladders, ( which would be disapproved of now), but nevertheless, it was the first technical mountaineering ascent in the history of mankind, by a considerable way! Dompjulian says " I have had mass said upon it and have caused three crosses to be set up. It is about a French league in circumference, a quarter of a league in length, and a crossbow shot in width, is covered with a beautiful meadow, and we found a herd of Chamois which will never be able to get away. Well they did, because when it was next climbed in 1834, soloed by a youg local in his bare feet (thats more like it) there were no Chamois. In 1878 it became the world's first via ferrata when a steel cable was installed by Club Alpin Francais, in 1957 Henri Giraud landed a light aircraft on it, and it January 1992 (500years after the first ascent) extreme skiers Pierre Tardivel, and Rene Leclerc, skied gown the precipitous Chimneys known as Les Tubulaires.
Move the calendar on a mite to 2011, July, and a guidebookless Tees was over the base of the, now renamed, Mont Aiguille like a rash, looking for the 'Voie Normale,' watched with increasing alarm by his terrified wife Margaret, who had hoped to be in Beaune by this stage sampling nice Burgundy cheese and stuff. The route was finally located just as the said Margaret lost patience, interest, and indeed even the will to live . Mont Aiguille, however, duly took pride of place on the Bucket list.
2013 , having assembled a crack team at the very cutting edge of mediocrity, it was felt that the ascent of the inaccessible mountain was a foregone conclusion
Not so. Mont Aiguille had the kitchen sink in readiness.
The trouble really started on the 2.5 hour track up through the woods from Richardiere, when Sandra remarked " I really love these wooded tracks". Almost instantly the firm path became a muddy, silty, trench, up which we slithered in our trainers for at least an hour before emerging from the woods. At least the weather was sunny and hot. Just as we were getting roped up, I got a text from that nice chap Alfie informing me that Ballykelly was the warmest place in the UK. Smugly, I replied that it was only 35 degrees here. Serious mistake! Instantly it started to pour, with cloud coming in over the blind side of the mountain. I put my coat on, Sandra did a passable imitation of an armadillo, rolled up inside her rucksack cover, while Bill and Dave just stood there and dripped, having decided that a waterproof was unlikely to have been of much use on a sunny day in France. We stuck it out until the sun reappeared, roped up and tried again, but 1.5 pitches up, more heavy rain, hail (and this time accompanied by thunder) we gave up and abbed off. Two hours tobogganing down the now even more muddy path we were back at Richardiere, a mite more humble, but with a new plan. We were too hasty trying it on our first day, and we started too late!
Yes, that was it.
The forecast said Sunday was going to be the best day, and it would be dry until 2.00 PM, so we went shopping and cragging on Saturday, getting up on Sunday at six, away 6.30, finding a drier approach and reaching the bottom of the cliffs at 9.00. Problem was there was a big guided group there about 5 minutes before us, and the weather didn't look promising. As les Francais started, the mist came in, and we could only hear them, but we gave it half an hour, and followed. Three pitches up it cleared, (just as I reached my 2011 high point), and the big traverse on fixed cables was spectacular (Bill ran out a full 55 metres on it). Behind a big rock tower there is a ledge, with a couloir above, another 50m pitch. Above this again, is a leftward traverse on a cable, very airy and a bit cramped for a gentleman of diminishing elasticity like myself. Into the final chimney, and looking good, as there was a big cable up it.
(Re-enter kitchen sink).
Is that rain? "Mais Oui Messieurs et Madame" Bill's pitch, while Sandra negotiated the awkward bit of the traverse and joined me at the belay. We watched, while Bill battled with the increasingly wet muddy and slippery chimney, belaying on the cable when he ran out of rope. (Enter thunder and lightning accompanied by hail). Speed was of the essence as we were now climbing a lightning conductor in a thunder storm. Above the cable, it was a scramble, but as we exited onto the plateau, the hail became snow, and the snow became a blizzard. I hunted around the top for the descent couloir, and mercifully, a gap in the weather allowed me to glimpse the tail end of the other group at the top of the first ab. Rejoining Bill, who was tidying up the gear, and Sandra, who was bringing up Dave, we sheltered during the worst of the snow, before sallying forth, cold and wet.
And to think we had planned to bivvy on top!
The scramble down the couloir should have been easy, but it was full of snow, and not ideal for descending to the lip of a cliff in rock shoes, as you might imagine! We abbed off a tree down to half way, and down climbed the rest, to the abseil bolt. A 30m Abb brought us to a big 40 metre rapell over an overhang (awesome) and into a snow filled chasm, from where we were able to regain the scree, and our rucsacs. A full on memorable kitchen sink day, worthy of a quality meal out in the gastronomic capital of the world! We drove around fruitlessly searching for a restaurant that wasn't closed on Sunday nights, finally retreating to the cafe in Monestier Claremont, where we were offered a choice of pizza or pizza. Bloody good though.
The forecast was poor for Monday, so we planned to go to the col d' Arzelier, utilize the cable car and walk up the balcon to Le Grand Moucherole. The cloud was down, the Col was a hideous off season ski resort where everything was closed, so we went to the lake Monteynard D'Avignonet to relax in the sun and watch kite surfers. We had a big day planned for Tuesday (the best day of all, according to the forecast), and Bill had lined up a local guide promising something really special from the Col De Marcieu in the Chartreuse.
Sacre Bleu! When we woke on Tuesday the cloud was down to the top of the tent poles, and our guide was unwell and unwilling to go out. We settled for another trip to the best climbing shop in the world "Le Vieux Campeur", and more bolted cragging in Grenoble, where Sandra and Dave managed a very tough looking 5c, and I, either stupidly or cleverly, forgot my gear.
And of course, when we got to St Expury airport, the French Air controllers were on strike....
17 Jun 2013
Oh aye, I forgot to mention, and Alfie got there first ( no not before Antoine De Ville)!
17 Jun 2013
The picture attached was taken on the summit...
Good tale and a trip to remember. In effect my climb was a guided ascent, even if the "guides" weren't even aspirants at that time. More importantly, I think ladders are legitimate rock hardware but is the ascent A0 or A1?
19 Jun 2013
A trip to remember. Not sure if I'm jealous at missing out or just glad I wasn't there. :)
24 Jun 2013
24 Jun 2013
25 Jun 2013
Defo sounds like a trip to remember. Seems like an awesome climb. Well done guys
28 Jun 2013
Don't know why my comment, "Nice report" came up twice. There may have been a slight earth tremor here in Ballykelly.