Provence and Cote D’Azur / Southern France
Provence Classic Limestone Climbs:
Buis les Baronnies,Dentelle de Montmirail, Orpiere and Les Calanques
Provence Rock Climbing Highlights
- Some of the best French limestone!
- Well equipped multi-pitch routes
- French cuisine and wines!
- Quick approaches!
- Provence…Need we say more?
- Calanques: Rock and Sea
Only few countries embrace rock climbing like the French. Not surprising, as they have lots of it!
On a custom basis, we are offering guiding services and courses anywhere in Southern France including “hard climbing” areas like Verdon, Ceuse or Boux. However, our scheduled itineraries sample quieter destinations in Provence that offer a great selection of moderate climbs: “Les Calanques”, a limestone range nestled along the stunning coastline between Marseille and Cassis or the Dentelles de Montmirails and the countless crags around Buis les Baronnies, where the hill country of the Provence meets the world-class vineyards of the Cote du Rhone and Chateauneuf du Pape. Generally, the weather is mediterranean and the climbing is largely on bolted fixed anchors, which invites even the more cautious climbers to lead.
Our scheduled itineraries are set up as “climbing camps”, where the guide acts more as a coach, choosing the best routes for a given day or area and the skill level of the participants. This saves you a lot of time and allows you to sample different areas while still getting a lot of climbing in. Most of the climbing is multi-pitch between 3 and 6 pitches.
But this trip is not only about climbing – it is about “savoir vivre” the french way! Can life be better than climbing sunny lime stone all day and enjoying excellent food and local wines in hand selected hotels and B&Bs in the lovely countryside of the Provence!
Meeting in Buis les Baronnies, which is a quaint, medieval town, eye-to-eye with the famous Mont Ventoux (1900 m), about 1 hrs drive from the TGV train station in Avignon or 2 – 3 hrs from the international airports of Marseille or Lyon. Pick up in Avignon available and included in our trip price.
Day 2 – 4:
Review of belay techniques, anchors and movement skills on the first day. Other instructional content will be covered on a demand basis depending on the level and preferences of the participants.
From the town of Buis, we have quick access (5 minutes to 20 minutes driving) to the following crags: Rocher St. Julien (1 – 4 pitches), Beaumes Rousses (1 – 3 pitches), Beaume Noir (1 – 3 pitches), Ubrieux (1 – 3 pitches), St. Leger (single pitch, harder climbs) to name the more popular.
Additional world-class lime stone climbing areas like Orpierre or Dentelles de Montmirail can be reached within a 50 min drive and offer multi-pitch climbing to 7 pitches in all grades on mainly east and southerly aspects. In the evening of day 4 we will transfer to the port town of Cassis at the Cote D’Azur for lodging in a small hotel.
Day 5 – 7
For the remaining three days, we can choose among countless routes in the Calanques National Park, mostly involving approaches of 30 min to 1 hour and reaching from 1 to 12 pitches in length. The area offers a large amount of moderate climbs right above the rugged coast, especially some spectacular sea cliff traverses. Driving time from Cassis is about 30 minutes every day in each direction.
Departure after breakfast. Drop-off at the Marseille International Airport (40 min drive) or the TGV stations in Aix en Provence (30 min) or Avignon (1 hr) available for a surcharge.
For our courses, we strongly believe in the “Learning by Doing” concept as well as small group sizes. Expect lots of climbing!
Rock Climbing Beginner Course
- Follow moderate and lead easy multi-pitch climbs.
- Knots, coaching in rock climbing techniques on top rope, anchors and belay methods, rope commands, repelling with self belay, placing anchors on top rope, following guide led multi-pitch climb, leading multi-pitch with guide coaching, hazard evaluation and basic self rescue techniques.
Rock Climbing Advanced Course
Lead moderate multi-pitch climbs on gear self sufficiently.
Review of beginner’s course contents, simualted leads on top rope or leads on bolted climbs, coaching on building anchors and belays, lots of coaching on leading multi-pitch climbs.
Rock Climbing Camp
- You name it!
- A combination of any of the above contents, advancing at a rate in accordance with your personal skill level and preferences.
Detail and Logistics
Buis les Baronnies, about 1 hr drive north-east of Avignon in the hill country of the Drome Provencale. Pick up and drop off available for small surcharges at the International Airports of Marseille or Lyon (2 hrs each) as well as the TGV train stations of Avignon (1 hr), Bolene (1 hr) or Aix en Provence (1.5 hrs). Other meeting points (such as train stations) can be arranged in accordance with your individual travel plans.
Climate, Weather, Temperatures
Best season for climbing in Southern France is either spring or fall, which offer mostly sunny weather with moderate temperatures. Most of the climbing is facing south and east which makes it a suitable destination even on the wintery side of spring and fall.
Services Included in the Total Price
Guiding/instruction by a UIAGM / IFMGA mountain guide or a certified rock guide, all guide expenses, double room lodging in small,** or *** B&Bs and Hotels with breakfast, all land transport to the climbing areas in a rental van or large passenger car (depending on group size), trip organization and pre / post trip assistance.
Air fares, lunches, drinks, dinners, airport or train station pick-up or drop off (please ask for quotes).
Can I Do It?
1) Private Guiding / Custom Courses
As for any of our private guiding weeks, we enjoy optimal flexibility! The areas that we can visit in the Provence are very diverse: From sport climbing to trad climbing, from single pitch to 15 pitches, from a semi alpine environment to sea cliffs of the Mediterranean. We are certain we find the right itinerary for you, regardless if you are a beginner or you have been climbing for decades and want to trade leads with your guide
2) Climbing Camp
This is a very open concept that leaves ample flexibility to adjust the program to our small group’s preferences. Ideally you should be able to safely lead easy to moderate climbs on fixed anchors and you are keen to improve your skills and leading ability. But we can also accommodate participants with only top roping experience or who do not intend to get into lead climbing. Your guide will either guide you or coach you on the climbs, help you set up safe belays, assure route finding and will step in, if the going gets tough.
For our courses and camps, we strongly believe in the “Learning by Doing” concept as well as small group sizes. Expect lots of climbing!
1. Technical Equipment
• Approach shoe, a sturdy trekking boot for alpine approaches
• Running shoe or light approach shoe for easier approaches
• Rock climbing shoes*
• Climbing backpack (30-35 liters) with rain cover if possible.
Some have built-in rain covers (Deuter backpacks).
Rain covers can also be bought separately.
Otherwise bring a big plastic (garbage) bag as an inside liner for your backpack.
• Climbing helmet**
• Collapsible ski poles* (recommended on some approaches, better for knees)
• 1 harness with gear slings**
• 6 quickdraws** (2 carabiners with a short sling of webbing)
• Minimum of 4 regular carabiners**
• 2-3 locking carabiners**
• 1 HMS (large locking) carabiner**
• 4 long slings of webbing (single shoulder)**
• 2 long slings of webbing (double shoulder) or one cordelette (8mm)**
• 1 figure 8 or other belaying/repelling device**
• 2 prusiks: (3,5 meter long rope slings, both 5-6mm wide)**
• Single rope (10-11mm wide, 50-60m long) or double rope (8-9mm wide, 50-60m
long) per climbing team**
• 1 set of wired nuts (stoppers) per climbing team**
• 1 set of cams (friends/camelots) per climbing team**
All items marked ‘*’ can be rented from a rental shop locally.
All items marked ‘**’ can be provided by OnTop.
Let us know ahead of time if you need any of these items.
Please bring your own equipment if you have it.
We suggest using the ‘layer system’: Light technical clothing that doesn’t take much space
in your backpack and dries quickly if sweaty or wet.
Layers can be put on and taken off fast if weather conditions change during the day.
• Wind and waterproof shell jacket with hood (Gore Tex or similar)
• Wind and waterproof over pants with side zippers (Gore Tex or similar)
• Mountaineering pants
• Fleece or heavy jacket
• Medium weight fleece sweater
• Long underwear or running tights (e.g. Capilene or polypro)
• Undershirt – preferably long sleeves (e.g. Capilene or polypro)
• Warm socks for trekking/mountaineering boots (wool/synthetic outers)
• Lighter socks for rock climbing shoes
• Warm hat, covering your ears
• Lightweight gloves (fleece)
• Sun hat, with a wide brim if possible
• Bandana (optional)
3. Hut lodging (if included in the program)
• Spare underwear, socks
• Down vest or light insulated jacket (optional)
• Light cotton sheet or youth hostel sleeping bag for the huts for sanitary reasons,
wool covers are provided by the huts (optional)
• Light hut slippers (optional). Usually huts provide slippers, especially in France and
• Light stuff sacs or zip lock bags to keep your backpack organized (optional)
• Toiletries and small towel
• Alpine Club card (if you are a member)
• Ear plugs (optional but very useful)
4. Other Items
• Sunglasses (with very good UV protection)
• Sunscreen and lip protection
• Water bottle, preferably insulated, minimum volume: 1 liter or camelback
• Head lamp with spare batteries and bulb
• Blister kit (optional)
• Snacks (candy bars, dried fruit, sandwiches, nuts, etc.)
• Personal items (prescription medicine, extra contact lenses and maintenance
equipment, extra pair of prescription glasses, etc.)
• Pocket knife or leatherman (optional)
• (Health/Travel) insurance documents
• Zip-lock bag for wallet and other documents to keep them dry (recommended)
• Camera, batteries (optional)
• Compass, maps and GPS (optional)
Can we rent equipment from OnTop?
For our intro course level you need to have climbing shoes, a harness and a helmet. Should we need to rent this to you the cost are 50 € / trip / person.
How much is it to rent or buy a helmet in Buis les Baronnies?
A helmet rental is 5 €/ day. The local sports store also has helmets for sale starting at 45€.
Provence Rock Climbing
- Technical Rock Climbing
- All Levels
Provence Rock Climbing
Custom trips are always available anytime, any location and any duration
SCHEDULED CLIMBING CAMPS
8 Days, 6 Days Climbing
April 2 – 9
April 16 – 23
April 23 – 30
May 7 – 14
May 21 – 28
May 26 – June 2
June 4 – 11
June 11 – 18
June 25 – July 2
July 2 – 9
Aug. 20 – 27
Sep. 2 – 9
Sep 9 – 16
Sep 16 – 23
Sep 23 – 30
Oct 1 – 8
Oct 7 – 14
Oct 14 – 21
Oct 29 – Nov. 5
Nov 5 – Nov 12
Nov 12 – Nov 19
Shorter durations possible at pro-rated prices
Provence Rock Climbing
6 Days guiding and instruction, 6 x hotel, 6 x breakfast, all ground transport from Avignon or Marseille
US $188, CA $225
€ 150, £ 135