France’s BEST Hard Sport. Wait, what?

The same day France lifted their travel ban with the US, I was on a flight to Paris to see “France’s best hard sport climbing“. It wasn’t Ceuse…

Can you guess what sport crag has all this?

  • Sport climbing year-around
  • 10-20 minute walking approach
  • Routes 6b/5.10 and up to 9b+
  • No crowds
  • Bikes to ride to the crag
  • Van parking, bathrooms and showers for 9 euros/year
  • Proper cultural immersion
  • WiFi right at the trailhead for remote workers

It looks like this:

Maybe you do know this crag. But if you’re not from France, then the answer is probably “non!

Over the last quarter-century, I’ve been listening to podcasts and reading the magazines of hundreds of Sharma poster-plastered climbing gym bathrooms and I never heard of this sport crag until my best friend moved there and invited me to see the magic myself. After Yosemite, my Shark 2.0s were itching for hard limestone sport.

Dear climber, I’m privileged to share with you…

St Léger du Mt Ventoux!

La Bergerie Des Salamandres’ own Alma Esteban, climbs here between her nonprofit work with Mountains Beyond Borders and washing bed sheets.

“But- but…,” you stammer, “I’m familiar with the well-known and popular limestone cliff of Céüse, which crowns the mountains just north of France’s southern village of Gap where I get great wine and pizza. I can mingle with tanned strong nomadic gypsy climbers, and I can even pet the goats next door. How can St Léger be better?

I give you –
Exhibit A: The Highest Concentration of Quality, Hard Sport Routes

The cliff of St Léger is home to 600+ sunny, south-facing routes on a half-kilometer-long, broken cliff band above a small river. Most are in the 7’s and 8’s range (5.11+ to 5.13+).

Alma Esteban on her 7b warmup

Ceüse now often hosts crowds. Also, the footholds of the first 10 meters of the most popular routes have been loved to death, smeared into polished nubs.

St Leger. Population: 7

St Leger has a population of 7 citizens and rests just below Mt Ventoux, kilometers away from the nearest town and food store.

Exhibit B: Magical Landscape and Accomodations

Want to go? You have some fantastic options.

  1. Stay near the trailhead at La Bergerie Des Salamandres in a tent, yurt, or room (or a different gite) within walking distance
  2. Van camp up the road near the cafe/bar bookstore Le Jardin Singulier and use free bikes to approach the trailhead (10-15 minutes)

    * Do not park at the trailhead unless you are staying at Les Salamandres!
Donated bike garage that visitors to roll to the crag.
“Think of checking the tire pressure. Pump is on the table. Thanks!”

As St Léger rests in south France at a modest altitude, there is year-round climbing.

Teddy @road_to_the_9a and his dog Everest slackline just 5 min from TH, routes

Exhibit C: Alma is there

If you go, you may very well be welcomed by Alma Esteban Avalos, who one of my closest friends, and best belay partner of the year (awarded by yours truly).

Alma (find her here on Insta) is a full-time climber who’s been involved in climbing community projects. She is Project Manager for our own Mountains Beyond Borders 501(c)3, has worked on guidebooks in places like El Salto, Mexico, and recently presented Never Not Collective’s Pretty Strong film in Paris… to an audience of 3000 people! She is also an owner of one of very few copies of the guidebook.

Always looking for partners with good belay skills, Alma lives humbly and often hosts guests at the La Bergerie des Salamandres gîtes, a large complex masterfully and playfully renovated by hand by the owner and friendly Dutchman, Michel.

A small part of La Bergerie des Salamandres

Fully stocked gîtes with wood stoves, beautiful bathrooms and complete kitchens are available for as cheap as 20-30€ a night complete with outdoor hammocks, a pool and a yurt.

And if you choose to stay up the road,
pay the small 9 euro “yearly” membership fee for the Le Jardin Singulier. This is a cafe/wine bar and bookstore with an outdoor art gardin, and they offer bathrooms with showers behind their building to climbers and visitors alike. Out front a cozy, leaning garage holds an assortment of old, donated bikes and tools for anyone to use.

Le Jardin Singulier bookstore & cafe/bar area, voilá the bike garage to the right, and chemin to showers on the left

To recap: What other crags have all this?

  • Climbing all year around
  • Very quick approach
  • Cool, small blue river for bathing and slacklining over
  • Routes 6b/5.10 and up to 9b+
  • No crowds
  • Bikes to ride to the crag
  • Van parking, bathrooms and showers for 9 euros/year
  • WiFi for remote workers needing to work on rest days

Up next: Alma and I hit the Verdon Gorge with talented wall musician and climbing partner, Chloe LeCarpentier!

The usual view looking down in the famous Verdon.
Chloe LeCarpentier in the Gorges du Verdon, France on “Hold Up Mental”

Thanks for reading! And thanks to my sponsors Mad Rock, Monkey Hands, Pebble Wrestler Collective and Honey Stinger for supporting mountains adventures and youth programs.

– Salut, Tiff