My final post on our trip to the Vanoise is about a great little sport climbing crag that we visited quite a few times in the two weeks we were there. It’s name is La Fraiche and it lies only five minute’s walk away from Camping le Chamois. This crag is split up into four different sections, the easiest and most frequented being the “Grande Falaise” section, which is literally 10 metres from the road. The ease-of-access does mean the crag is extremely popular with climbing schools, so expect large groups of children throughout the summer months. There are plenty of routes to chose from, ranging from 3 right up to 7b. A guide to the crag (and others around Pralognan) can be bought from the Bureau des Guides for £2.
Although most of the routes are actually multipitch, it is commonplace to climb the first pitch and then be lowered back down. We had some great fun on the easier-graded first pitches whilst dodging bad weather on the second week we were there. On the last morning there, we decided to attempt one of the multipitches that we’d done the first pitch on earlier in the week. The route was La Traversée, a four-pitch 3+ route probably akin to a hard British Diff or easy VDiff, and which gets the Alpine grade of III/IV-, AD.
Our bus back down to Moutiers was at 5pm and so with the fact that we still had to pack up our belongings in mind, we made an early start. A few others had had the same idea, most likely to avoid the midday sun, and it certainly wasn’t warm when we started up the first pitch. I took the lead first of all, as I was keen to repeat the pitch which I’d struggled on earlier in the week; the guide reckons it has “one move of 4a”, though personally I felt the entire pitch was a solid 4a. The difficulties arise because of a few delicate balancing traverses one has to make across rocks that jut out. In particular, one sequence of moves has you pulling up on a slightly-overhanging block so that you are balanced with your right foot on a rightwards-leaning slab whilst being thrown backwards by the overhanging rock. Your left foot must then find a foothold that at first seems far-too-far away, and then you must trust this and use the overhanging rock to pull leftwards to gain better handholds to the left of the rock. I enjoy this kind of climbing that isn’t so much about physical strength, but more so about ingenuity and requires a lot of thought about what your next move will be.
I squeezed onto the belay alongside a French couple doing another route, and they kindly waited until Lorna and followed me up and lead the next pitch. The route gets its name for its line that traverses rightwards across the crag, and this line was picked up on this pitch, which comprised a ramp and a few blocks. I took over for the third pitch, and regretted trying to squeeze behind a flake that was probably a little too small for me. The final pitch was technically easy but in a very exposed position, and the view down to the base of the crag was quite dizzying. We reached the top just as the sun was shedding light onto the crag; just in time! We both thoroughly enjoyed the route, which would probably be a classic if it was in Britain. It’s just a shame that it’s bolted!