Dawn - Sometimes An Ultrarunner

Dawn - Sometimes An Ultrarunner

July 16, 2014

Via Ferrata L'Escale, France

Our travels have taken us to Spain from Austria and now back again, in a rather futile chase of paragliding weather.  We did fly in Spain, but mostly we just escaped a week of some really terrible weather in the Alps.  That's worth a lot, even of driving.

But it's almost always sunny on the southern coast of France, so a via ferrata there is a sure bet.  Especially this one, literally just up the hill from Monaco, we had views of the Mediterranean from high on the rock.

From the description, this ferrata seemed a little difficult, but since I was reading in French, even the translation was a little quirky.  I asked myself "how hard could it be?" and we gave it a go.   Finding it was easy, it's a relatively new route which climbs up and over a tunnel in the road going up to the medieval village of Peille.  The old town is clinging to a hillside with tiny little walking streets and a lot of charm.   Signs in the village led to a pub called L'Absinthe, where they rent equipment, sell you a 3 Euro day pass for the via ferrata, and speak passable English to be able to explain the equipment, yay!  (Incidentally it's possible to climb this route at night, from 8-10 pm with headlamps).  That would be fun....

The route began at the bottom of town with a couple of swinging wooden bridges and some vertical bits.  Then comes monkey bridges and some tricky vertical sections.  At a few points it's possible to escape if it's too hard and take the walk of shame back to the village...but we kept going.  The route even goes through a small cave at one point, before heading straight up a rock.   Then there were a couple of options, one being a rather long net made of cables to climb up.  Super fun.  

At that point, two routes went up, and since we couldn't read French, I chose what looked like the more difficult of two options (actually I didn't realize there was an easy option until later, much later).  Luckily by then it was too late, and we had sweated our way up some very overhanging sections where it was all we could do to keep going to a point where we could rest!  It felt more like lead climbing and not via ferrata even if we were just climbing up metal bars....  Definitely the hardest section of via ferrata I've ever done.

The end of the route was a pretty cool Tyrollean Traverse, also known as a zipline.  It was Jim's first attempt at one of these as we had rented pulleys from the bar so we could do it.  Yippee, I love zip lining!  Actually it felt pretty easy compared to the harder sections of the course.  And, then it sprinkled just as we finished, no harm done, and it was nice to cool off a little.  Better than exposed on the rock, the cables get really slick when they are wet.   It's a quick walk back to the village so a very user-friendly route.  I think they call these sport routes, rather than the ones in the high mountains that help you get up to a summit or something.  Virtually this whole via ferrata was visible from the town or the road, so anyone can watch climbers clinging to the rocks.  It's pretty nice that way, and very accessible.

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