Edinburgh Mountaineering Club: Meet Report
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Fiona M on Peppermint, 6a - Alison C La Dent d'Orlu - Mike W
Fiona M on Peppermint, 6a - Alison C

Meet Report

2nd to 9th October 2011 - Basecalames, Ariege


This was the club’s second visit to the excellent and spacious gite, Base Calames at Bedeilhac in the Ariege area of France.  The gite is run by expats Jon and Debs who couldn’t be more helpful and friendly.  The gite is also very reasonably priced


The cast list was Alison C, Kenny, Fiona M, Fiona R, Mike, Fiona C, Rebecca, Sara, Pete, Ewan, Chris 




The holiday started in traditional mode with a night in the Travel Lodge at Prestwick, the joys of Frankie and Benny’s restaurant and an early start on Sunday morning from Prestwick Airport.  Despite the stingy Ryanair weight allowance, Fiona R managed to take out my trad rack and 2kg of rice (you will have to ask her about the rice bit).  Ewan made his own way from Geneva which allowed him to stock up on supplies for the rest of us, thus ensuring that we were able to get out to the crag shortly after arriving.  It was pretty hot so we headed for some shade at Roc a Steph, a 15 minute walk from the gite.  The climbing there was OK for a first day warm up but the crag suffers from the lower grade routes being a bit dirty and exposed to goat poo and probably isn’t one to go back to.  Ewan cooked a delicious tomato pasta sauce for all of us in the evening, although the bloodbath mess round the cooker afterwards was somewhat reminiscent of a hammer house of horrors movie.




Monday was also very hot.   Fiona C and Rebecca did the  classic Pic des Trois Seignours.   The rest of us went to the shady granite venue of Auzat which quickly became Mike’s favourite Ariege venue.   After a few routes at the Montcalm area the party split so that the classic Sabine, 5c+ could be done by the Auzat first timers.   My goal was revenge on Pale Rider 6a+, done by Chris and Fiona M last year but which I had failed to get up in 2009 and fallen off in 2010.  Sadly the Far West venue with Pale Rider is now totally overgrown with thick bramble bushes.  A machete and a suit of armour would have been handy.  Chris very kindly powered through the brambles in shorts to carve out a through route and belay for me.  After various contortions and much grunting the Ratho training had paid off and ghost of Pale Rider had finally been dispatched cleanly.  Due to the undergrowth nobody seemed keen to do any of the other very good routes at this sector and we finished the day with a few more routes at sector le Far.




Rebecca and Fiona had a wonderful day’s walking on Pic d’Etang Rebenty.  The native goats seemed to find Rebecca’s knees exceptionally tasty.  Sara and Pete went back to Auzat.    With the forecast still very good, the rest of us decided it was Dent D’Orlu multi pitch day and left the gite early in the morning when it was still dark.  Fiona R, Mike and Ewan made a confident start for their  Orlu debut with Fleur de Rodho, despatching the two 6a pitches with ease.  Kenny and I did the adjacent Pink Floyd at 5a.  We all topped out together and bumped into Scottish Guides Andy Nisbet and Jonathon Preston on the summit who were on their second week of Ariege rock.   Chris and Fiona had gone for the longer 16 pitch Arete L’est.  This turned into a slight epic when they couldn’t find the abseil descent for the start of the route and had a rather harrowing down climb on granite slabs.  The route was also somewhat vegetated at the start with some route finding problems.   They finally topped out around 5pm with Fiona declaring that she would never climb another route on the Orlu again.  A few hours and drinks later the route was being described as a classic must do mountaineering route and Fiona was busy planning her next route on the Orlu.




Another very hot day.  An early start allowed us to do some multi pitch routes at Calames before the heat got too intense.   Kenny, Ewan and I did Rio, as did Chris and Fiona.  Mike and Fiona R did Pour Lubelline, 5b+.  It was baking hot at the summit of the cliff so Fiona R, Mike, Ewan and I escaped to Auzat in the afternoon for more granite fun in the shade.  Chris and Fiona worked their way down the Calames crag climbing any routes that were in the shade.   Pete, Sara and Rebecca opted for some routes that were around 10 minutes from the crag, also handily in the shade.


In the evening Kenny’s Tuna Surprise proved to be surprisingly moreish. The carnage that was left in the kitchen allowed plenty of scope for more blatantly sexist comments about the mess that men leave after cooking.




This was another hot day…….Fiona + Chris and Kenny + I went to Sinsat which was a new venue for all of us.  Fiona + Chris were going for the multi pitch Peppermint, 6a as recommended by  a couple they met on Arete l’est.   Kenny and I decided on an easier alternative of two three pitch routes side by side.  Sinsat has a slightly tougher walk in than some of the other crags and a rather intimidating feel.  The sector with Peppermint looked particularly intimidating.   Over at sector Pubis, Kenny and I decided to do the harder of our two routes first (5c) so that we could relax as we got more tired and the day got hotter.  We spotted Fiona M high up on the ridge of Peppermint as we descended for the second route which was supposed to have two final pitches at 5b and 4c.  Kenny’s pitch certainly felt quite a bit harder than this.  Never mind, an easy romp for me to the top.  I was in for a rude awakening as the climbing seemed to get harder and harder until eventually a very steep wall loomed up.  Hmmm 4c.  I decided I had better take my sunglasses off and start concentrating.  I then had to rest on a quick draw and struggled my way up the rest of the 50m pitch, placing some gear and having to miss out some bolts at the top due to running out of quick draws.  On the way down Chris and Fiona appeared and were raving about the superb climbing on Peppermint, particularly the 6a pitch.  We rounded off the day with a very refreshing foot dip in the river at the car park.  Over at Calames, Fiona R, Ewan and Mike did the classic Pilier de Cathares (6a) at Calames and Sara and Pete did Pour Lubelline.


Meanwhile, Rebecca and Fiona c made a raiding trip to Andorra for their first Via Ferrata fortified by Kenny’s description of it as perfectly straightforward and easy.  Kenny’s ears must have been burning as they cursed their way up it having found it a bit trickier than had possibly been suggested by Kenny.


Later after tea Kenny and I discovered that, since we had printed out the topo, an extra route had been put in between our two planned routes at Sinsat with the top two pitches coming in at 5c and 5c+………




A day of rain.  I suppose it had to happen at some point.  Pete investigated some bouldering in the Auzat area.  Rebecca, Fiona C and Sara went to the thermal baths at Aix Les Thermes.  Rebecca declared this the best 16 euros that she had ever spent.  Fiona M, Chris, Kenny and I went up one of the hills at Col d Port.  As the sleet was slapping in my face in zero visibility I was rather regretting the decision not to join the others at Aix.  Fiona R, Mike and Ewan visited the Decathlon store where Fiona made a few purchases to replace the free 2kg space in her hand luggage previously occupied by the rice.




Our last day and a return to the usual Ariege weather albeit slightly cooler  which made Calames a bit more bearable.  Kenny and I did le Pilier..  Fiona, Chris and Rebecca knocked off a number of single pitch routes at Calames before Fiona and Chris headed to Roc de Sedour in the afternoon for another multi pitch route, this time  Pierre  at 5c+.

Mike, Fiona, Ewan, Pete and Sara climbed various single pitch routes at Calames, with Mike and Fiona hooking up with Jon from the gite for some of the day.  It was another late finish at the gite for our final communal meal.


Another week of great climbing and walking, good company and good food.


The Ariege area seems to have it all


Anybody for Ariege 2012?









Alison C