Whether its your first time on rock or you are looking for an adventure high in the mountains we can arrange a qualified and experienced climbing instructor to help you along the way. We can offer you tailored private individual coaching or from spring to autumn we can reserve you a place on one of the group climbing courses that regularly take place. Just let us know your requirements and we'll do the rest.
This is the South of France not far from the Spanish border so the weather is usually pretty good. Summer is generally hot and dry with occasional thunderstorms thrown in to keep things interesting. Many of the crags, particularly in the Bédeilhac climbing area are south facing and are too hot to climb during the summer days but make superb evening destinations after a day at one of the shadier crags. The winter is mostly typified by cold clear crisp days (perfect for that hard project), although snow is possible anytime between November and May, and access by road to some of the crags particularly those at higher altitude may be limited. However, the plentiful supply of south facing crags in the Ariège make it an excellent winter destination and if the sun is out you won't need much more than a T shirt. Spring brings the biggest chance of rain, but sunny days are warm and the rock dries quickly. Autumn has the most settled weather and is probably the best season for climbing with clear blue skies and refreshing breezes. Like anywhere, particularly these days, the weather can be unpredictable and individual valleys tend to have their own weather systems. One benefit of climbing in the Ariège is the huge range of crags and it is generally possible to find something to climb in any weather although the overhanging routes that offer shelter from the rain may only succumb to those at the top of their game!
The Ariège can be busy during the main holiday periods particularly on the roads, but the crags are never crowded by UK standards. Our local crag 'Calamès' is a popular destination due to the quality and variety of routes on offer, but even at the busiest times there will be free sectors available for those willing to walk a bit further. Summer evenings, although a fabulous time to climb, are never busy.
A 70 meter rope is advisable, particularly on Calames although there are plenty of routes that can be done with less. Thirteen quickdraws are plenty for the sports routes and if you want to check out some of the Trad a full set of cams and nuts is required. If you plan to climb any of the multi pitch routes its worth bringing some comfortable rock boots. Many of the crags are easily accessed in trainers (or even flip flops) however, there are a number of crags with quite serious walk in's requiring sturdy approach shoes (and sturdy legs!). A number of shops sell climbing equipment, the biggest being Decathlon in Foix (around 20 minutes drive) and Intersport in Pamiers (around 30 minutes), Telemark Pyrenees in Ax les Thermes also stock a good range of outdoor equipment. Equipment can also be hired locally. We have a bouldering mat available to hire.
The Ariege Rockfax guide book published in 2012 covers the vast majority of the crags in the Ariege and is well worth picking up. We normally have a few copies available at the accommodation. There is also big selection of free PDF Topo's on the CAMFA website, with plenty enough to keep anyone going for quite some time. It is fairly easy to navigate using the 'plan' view however all info is in french. Generally, there is a diagram of the cliff and a list of routes with grades and lengths.
We stock the 2008 climbing guide book covering our area 'Escalades en Ariege Pyrenees-Autour de Bedeilhac' as well as the Ariege Rockfax. If you would like us to post you any guide books prior to your arrival please let us know.
The bouldering at Laramade is available here (pdf). For bouldering at Orlu its best to either use the colour coding on the boulders to give an idea of the difficulty or purchase the topo for the area.
Below is a summary of the grading systems used in France.
Sport- Sport routes use, yes you guessed it the French (F) sport grades that are generally used throughout the world, including the UK so no problems there. Generally its assumed that 'easier' routes have 'on-sight' grades and 'harder' routes 'redpoint' grades although the boundary between the two is a bit vague.
Bouldering- Generally the Font bouldering grade and colour coding system is used. Click here for a bouldering grade summary table.
Trad- Trad routes listed as semi-equipped have bolt belays and may have additional bolts. They are graded using the 'International French Adjectival System' or 'Alpine grade' detailed below, as well as a sport grade as above.
F (Facile)— Easy; a straightforward climb; belaying usually unnecessary; easy scrambling; little objective danger.
PD (Peu Difficile)— Moderately difficult; a more challenging climb; some belaying and protection necessary; harder and/or more exposed scrambling; apparent objective danger.
AD (Assez Difficile)— Fairly difficult; a moderate but not strenuous climb; belaying and protection necessary; route may be long and/or high altitude.
D (Difficile)— Difficult; a long, serious, strenuous climb.
TD (Tres Difficile)— Very difficult; a long, serious, strenuous climb with high objective danger in places.
ED (Extreme Difficile)— Extremely difficult; a very serious climb with strenuous rock/ice/mixed climbing and/or exceptional objective danger; ED is often additionally sub-graded 1 through 4 (i.e. ED2).
Aid- Aid climbs are graded A0 to A5 depending on the reliability of the gear placements and the consequences of a fall.
A0- A free climb with an occasional aid move that does not require specialized aid gear ("aiders" or "etriers"). Pulling on gear during a free ascent is often referred to as A0.
A1- Requires specialized gear but all placements are solid and easy.
A2- Good placements, but sometimes tricky.
A3- Many difficult aid moves. Some of the placements might only hold body-weight, but the risk is still low.
A4- Many body-weight placements in a row. The risk is increasing.
A5- Enough body-weight placements in a row that a fall might result in a fall of at least 20 meters.
About the Base Calames Climbing Guide
The guide is aimed at first time visitors to the area and gives general information on the crags covered by free downloadable topos on the CAFMA website. Areas that we have not covered include the St Girons & Plantaurel areas both of which have some excellent climbing but are not covered by CAFMA. The guide includes some suggested climbs at a range of grades. The guide is a work in progress and we very much welcome visitor input and recommendations.
Generally, French guides don't award stars or ratings to climbs so any information of this type is very useful to future visitors. A good source of information and ratings for climbing in our area is the UK climbing crag database which is compiled and moderated by users. The UKC database is an excellent resource and we recommend our guests to get involved, add missing climbs and rate routes. (Routes are only rated by users, so a route with no stars could be a great routes but with no ratings).