Text and pictures © 2007-2013 Guillaume Dargaud
Last updated on 2013/08/06
"I get stronger when I shake." — John Yablonski.
Left: On our way to find an old classic, we see this big finger before turning tail because the route is a complete waterfall.
The 'Diois', although unpronounceable even in french, is the area around the small city of Die. Noted for its light Champagne-like wine, the area also harbors quite a few long cliffs with routes longer than 300 meters, with a mix of moder bolted routes and older 'rotten piton' classics.
Right: Ledge on the first pitch of the route. On our way down a huge mountain ram would jump above our rope at this point.
Archiane is part of those areas that everyone has heard of, but few people seem to have climbed. The routes were opened a long time ago, the drive to get there is long, the approaches are long, hard to find, steep and bushy, the rock is not always perfect... but when you drive into the valley you wonder why there aren't as many routes as in the Verdon: the potential is astounding.
Left: Archiane has kilometers of cliffs but few actual routes due to the lengthy approaches and less than ideal rock.
Right: Traverse at Archiane.
Right: Jenny leading at Archiane.
Left: A view down the valley of Archiane. The summit of the cliff is the very south of the Vercors plateau.
Right: Main cliff of Archiane with the geat gully on the right and the descent ledges in the middle.
Left: Franck on a wake-up first pitch.
Right: Starting a 7b pitch.
Left: Franck heading up the 7b crux pitch.
Right: Overhanging and very pumpy.
Left: Excellent limestone all along.
Right: Chamois in the great gully.
Left: Vertical panorama of the great gully.
Right: A whole group of mountain goats near the base of the route.
Right: Mountain goats.
Left: Mountain goat putting on a show of his climbing prowess.
Right: The main cliff of Archiane in the evening.
Left: General view of the main cliff of Archiane.
Right: A couple years later on two different routes: Panta looking for the way up and Ago fighting in an overhang.
Left: Ago taking a break.
Right: Panta reaching the ledge.
Left: Benoit, full muscles out to reach the ledge.
Right: Panta on the smooth 7a+ traverse.
Left: Smooth as sooth can be.
Right: The Benevisse needles. Major sandbags if you want my opinion. Either that or we were in shit shape on that day. But when I have to aid a 6c on skyhook and Lowe Ball for 30 meters, I'm pretty sure there's something wrong.
Left: Jenny looking of non-existent holds on the Benevisse Needle.
Right: Heading towards Benevisse.
Left: View of Archiane from Benevisse.
Right: Franck on the Benevisse limestone, as seen from an uncomfortable hanging belay.
Left: The Pelle is only one part of the long cliff of the Trois Becs, but it's where most of the climbing is being done. I had a 15 year old vendetta to take on that cliff after we almost froze to death during a november ascent where my rope got cut off by a flint.
Right: Jenny on the strange rock of the Pelle face at the Trois Becs, south of Die. The rock is a very low density limestone which sounds continuously hollow, but the climbing itself is done on crimpy and very hard flints sticking out of the face. It takes some getting used to.
Right: Jenny on the next to last pitch, an overhanging crack with big but somewhat loose blocks.
Above: Summit of the Trois Becs, looking the opposite way from the cliff into a strange geologic circle.
Left: Agostino on a steep lead up the 'Ladybug pillar'.
Left: Jenny in a sideways dihedral.
Right: Jenny and Agostino upon reaching the summit of the Ladybug pillar (pillier des coccinelles). The true summit is on the left.
Right: A view on the left part of the cliff. Few routes there, but one good one.
Left: Traditional flintstone slab with very sharp pebbles sticking out and slicing your fingers and shoes.
Right: Summit of the route, with view on the main summit.
Right: Different time, different mean of transportation: mountain biking around the entire ridge.
Left: It's almost too steep to stay on the bike on the way down, but it's so steep on the way up that I could never sit: always pushing or carrying.
Right: Ha, finally the trail gets nicer. For a short while, before turning back to steep rocky broken traverses.
Left: A view of the cliff from the ridge.
Right: Finally the most interesting part of the descent, below the Motte pass.
Left: I have no idea what those gigantic pots were for. There were tens of them strewn around the forest, some about 10 feet high.
Left: First belay on 'A la recherche de l'Escarboucle' with a dead twisted tree.
Right: The village of Saou visible below the cliff. The rock at Saou is not the best in the world: firestones embedded in a matrix of soft limestone. It's enjoyable but you have to remain attentive at all times. Witness to this the number of impacts on the bark of the trees at the base: each tree has at least 2 or 3 major bashes that are no more than a year or two old... Puts things into perspective about wearing a helmet !
Right: On the other side of the 'Aiguille de la Tour', the route 'Nomades land' is a notch above what we did the previous day: harder in terms of technical difficulties, more delicate with long sections on hollow sounding cracked rock, longer with meandering itineraries... The good thing is that you get to the very top with a great view and the rappels are straightforward. Here Jenny at the end of the long traverse, right after the crux.
Left: Higher up on the Escarboucle. The rock is very good on most of the route but the upper part turns into bush territory and I almost missed the last belay with the 55m of rope drag.
Left: The last two pitches are in a good dihedral surrounded by a sea of shit rock.
Right: Jenny reaching the summit, the rappel starts just below her.
Above: Panoramic view on the backside of Saou, with the entry to the Saou forest which draws more visitors than the cliffs do.
Above: Panoramic view of the large cliff of Ombleze.
Right: Another view of the main cliff of Ombleze.
Left: Meta climbing a long route at Ombleze.
Right: Bellecombe seen from the side: some excellent slab routes, but the cliff reveals its true face when seen longitudinally.
Left: The rock reveals its narrow nature, reminiscent of Seneca rocks in the eastern USA. A classic routes runs along the edge.
Left: Vertical panorama of the route on the edge of Bellecombe.
Right: Yup, it really is that thin and exposed.
Left: Enjoying the many tiny rivers in the Diois...
Right: ...dangerous rivers.
Left: Pregnant climbing on a 6a+ at Pennes-Le-Sec.