Sunday, April 17, 2016

in the sun and on the rocks... celebrate the centième Un(t)raveling!*

the sign that said it all: both where you are and where you're headed.
On that sunny Saturday morning, after an early walk to the market to buy the legendary fougasse fraîche from le baker man with a moustache (not the Georges Brassens, hein: another man with a moustache, also very famous and admirable in the commitment to his own fine art/craft), we met dear J. shortly before eleven, as she parked her car in the garden devant la cuisine. We checked our gear and chatted a little bit before getting in the c15 with votre serviteur in the back, among the bags and ropes, ballotté dans les curves like a poor boarder collie... Awoooof! Enfin, about 3 miles later, we parked at the end of the chemin de derrière le chateau, in picturesque Contrac, took the stuff and started the pleasant half-an-hour approach to the foot of the route. Although we are aware of our issues with digression, we believe it would be convenient to squeeze in here a short anecdote about the rare privilege we had then: to witness a unicorn mare grazing in the sun with her unicorn fowl. Both were proud, strong yet elegant members of the local breed of unicorn called the brune des montagnes ariégeoise à corne bleue. A surprisingly good picture was shot and we are happy to humbly contribute through these columns to the progress of mythozoology. Or was it zoomythology?

the Roche ronde in all its splendeur ; the close encounter of the troisième type ; the steep approach to the pied de voie.
For obvious reasons - which would be ridiculous to reveal here, though we'll sure enough do it anyway through an opportune rhetoric figure such as la prétérition -, we had agreed to go and climb Pénélope. This short multipitch named after Ulysses' wife offers about 110 m and four pitches of very easy (V, V+), homogeneous climbing on generally good rock, with  nice views all the way up to the small but impressive summit (the Roche ronde herself) with a 360º panorama from the top. It seems unnecessary to highlight here that Pénélope became famous by waiting for her sailor man Ulysses who went to war and came back by the chemin des écoliers or maybe doing l'école buissonnière, as you prefer... While she waited for him, Pénélope had to stand in the middle of a truly odious tempête politique and keep sitting at her loom at the same time - which is quite un morceau de bravoure, if you think about it: to keep standing while remaining seated.

the ground from the first belay ; the iris overlooking the vallée de la Courbière ; the promising second pitch ahead.
Pénélope then went viral among Ithaca's main social networks when she committed to weave a seemingly endless shroud during many days and over 1001 nights (this last bit of data may not be absolutely accurate: Wikipedia could ask for some references here). Once you know all this, you quite easily can figure out by yourselves how the absence of the sailor man out a sea, the rock face of the Roche ronde hoisted to the wind and the curly metaphor of climbing ropes threading themselves along the pitches under a sun presque méditerranéen... how all these - well - convinced us to pick this particular climbing on that particular day with that particular friend (see that prétérition thing? told ya!)... Anyway, there we got, after thirty minutes of steep hiking and perfect warming-up: the pied de voie, flat and comfortable between the bushes of boxwood and the jeunes chênes encore tendres et souples, like in a novel by Jean Giono. We started sometime close to 12:30 and cruised along the first three pitches of nice and fine V. The Futuna took the lead, then the J. and the Wallis climbed second in la foulée.

the comfy-ish second belay ; the promising third pitch ahead ; the beautiful view of the Loulou de Poméranie high in the sky!
No big surprise here, even though the rock regularly appeared to be less compact than expected, requiring a bit more time and prudence before grabbing, pulling or stepping up. All this "knock-knock! who's that?" game around each single dubious flake or chunk along the way didn't seem to disturb the lizards catching tan, but it sure made our progression slower. And talking about tan: due to the above-mentioned slow progression, our shoulders, elbows, noses and all other pieces of skin exposed to the sun got burnt in quite a guiri-gamba-sangria fashion. The soleil brille, the imprudence brûle! said an old Fwench ad. We reached the third belay before 14:00. The place was extremely comfortable, with a fantastic view, a lovely petit tapis de gazon to nurture the bare feet and some bushes to hide behind.

Wallis out of the third pitch, just on time for the photo shoot ; blue steel Futuna ; the well-deserved picnic on the way down.
Almost too good to be true, we paused and enjoyed the power of now**! Took the time to drink and take pictures before attacking the most-expected piece of meat: the short and final fourth pitch with its mighty overhanging V+ crux! Oooooh! It was even less than it sounds, just an awkward, counter-intuitive left hand hold with the correct (excellent) foot, and one could reach a beautiful right hand before pulling one's ass - and crawling one's way - up the hump to a welcoming slab, then onto a short petit dièdre. One would then suddenly be landing on a grassy slope ten meters below the summit and picture oneself as a groundhog taking a nap entre les rhodos en fleurs...

the West panorama from the summit of la Roche ronde, with the col de Port and the picturesque Saurat dans le fond.

Oh, the places you'll go! Oh, the lovely trail back home! Oh, the nice view from below the shade of the pines! and, of course: Ooooh, the rôti de porc tranché and the Saint-Nectaire fermier in the fougasse fraîche from the market, soft and farinée with the petit goût de four à bois! Carrying a bottle or flask of red wine on multipitch climbs is something we've been willing to do for a long time and we'd like to solemnly swear here that we shall eventually implement it someday! Time: now; place: here; signed: us.

sweet J. mastering the final crux of pitch four: with quite some style and few doubts!
Et voilà. The way back and down was easy and chatty, the drive back and down home, short. We recommend Pénélope to all enthusiast climbers who do not look down (nor get bored) on low grades, even though the plethora of routes in the area doesn't make this one a major local climb. An important point, though, is the possibility to walk back down to the sector in about fifteen minutes, instead of engaging in a long and pointless abseiling down; especially if you consider the presence of loose rock and fragile flakes that wouldn't need more than that to set free from material attachment and try to levitate like enlightened yogis...

the valley de la Courbière, feat. Rabat-les-trois-seigneurs and Surba.
This route is still a good option if you've climbed most "equivalent" Calamès' routes (Pilier des Cathares, Rio, Rioby and such...) or need an introduction to multipitch climbing with easy grades, generous equipment and low engagement. If you're looking for a good warm-up before going to Sinsat or the Dent d'Orlu, consider climbing Zigzag (90m, 6b) and the other few around, just further right: you'll appreciate (need?) an appetizer a bit more vertical, physical and technical, with no long run-outs yet but with more air between bolt and bolt. Avis à la copulation (90m, 6b), at Calamès, is just superb and rewarding!

Finally, we also warmly recommend Pénélope - of course - à tous les Ulysses de banlieue, to whom we wholeheartedly wish to enjoy this spécial' cace-dédi´!


* it's almost unbelievable, but it's true: without much noise, with a spoonful of sticking-to-it-like-two-modafackaz and a good dose of everyday life, we just completed Un(t)raveling's 100th blog post, about two weeks before Un(t)raveling's two-and-a-half un-birthday... So let's face it: the end of 2015 and beginning of 2016 have been some sort of a blogging no man's land, but we promise (ooh, twice in the same post! risky risky...) to get our writing-shit together and settle back into a decent Un(t)raveling routine at once... You're warned, so stay tuned!

** my apologies to Eckhart Tolle, for I did it again: I re-re-mocked the Power of now. In my defense, at least this time I didn't made fun of the eagle's answer, high in the sky, to the "what time is it?" question... Ooops! See? It's just done that same thing as it did before! Wicked paralipsis trick!

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