We had an adrenaline filled day today, with a climb up a gorge (including a cliff with an overhang 😳) assisted by ladders and cables, then an eventful paddle on the Gyronde for John.
The morning was quite relaxed, with a lie in and then some chores around the van, such as emptying the loo and the bins, washing up and sweeping the floor. It’s funny how, on holiday, these jobs never feel onerous and leave me feeling satisfied when Bertie’s spick and span again 😊.
We then jumped into Dan’s van with our kit for a trip up the valley to Puy St Vincente to climb the via ferrata or ‘iron way’. A series of ladders, staples and cables are fixed to the rocks on either side of the gorge, and a type of climbing harness is used to attach yourself to the cables in case you fall. This via ferrata would be pretty tame for proper climbers but was rather nerve wracking in places for me and John who are nervous around heights and drops.
We put on our climbing helmets and via ferrata harnesses (borrowed from Dan) and set off. we ended up behind several English families, the last group of whom had a very small child with them, whose progress was very slow. This must have been particularly frustrating for Zac, Judy and Ffion who were with us, who are experienced climbers. It also made me more nervous, because I just wanted to get going.
Finally, I set off up the first ladder, clipped onto the cable to keep me safe if I slipped. It was rather wobbly, and so were my legs! The via ferrata harness has two tails with carabiners, at least one of which should be clipped on at all times. Only one person should be on each section of cable at a time and we followed each other up the gorge, backwards and forwards across the river and waterfalls below, and traversing the cliffs, hanging onto staples in the rock.
On this particular via ferrata route, there are easy and harder ‘sport’ options. I’m quite pleased with myself because I did all the harder options, including a section quite high on a cliff with an overhang, which took quite a bit of arm strength, and had a couple of long reaches for a short person like me. Thank goodness for weight training!
John was in front of me and rather vocal about how tough he was finding it mentally, with the long drop below as he hung off the cliff. I had to ask him to be quiet because he was making me even more nervous! Our hands and legs were visibly shaking as the adrenaline raced through our bodies and we were pleased to get around the corner (the scariest bit for me because I couldn’t see what was coming) onto firm ground again. I felt quite elated afterwards though!
After this, the final few sections were quite straightforward… a few more bridges over the gorge and a traverse along a cliff.
The rungs on one bridge felt a long way apart, and one of the others was rather wobbly and had a very low handrail. All were fun though!
We sat on the final bridge (on which the rungs were nice and close together!) and waited for Dan and Jackie to finish the final section, then we walked back down a path to the parking. We couldn’t believe how far we’d come, and how high we’d climbed from the start… we must have been concentrating so hard on clipping and unclipping, and where to put our hands and feet next! Fab! 👍
John and I hadn’t brought any lunch with us, but we met some other friends in a cafe where we bought a takeaway pizza. Then we set off to the ‘get in’ for a paddle down the Gyronde, which Dan, Ian, John and Zac were doing. The bouncing white water looked scary to me and I could see John was nervous, but I knew Dan and Ian would look after him and Zac. They’re really good paddlers.
They got onto the river and the speed of it took them off downstream really fast. I didn’t find out until later that Ian and John both had swims soon afterwards! Jackie then drove us down to the ‘get out’ point at Argentiere la Bessee, where there’s a cafe and slalom site. I stood on the bridge for ages waiting for them to appear in the distance. Eventually, I had a text from John to said he’d had a second swim, which was much worse than the first, but was ok. However, Dan had had to get out of his kayak and do a bit of bush whacking to retrieve John’s paddle so they were delayed.
Finally, I saw the four of them appear around a bend in the river, which was a relief. I took some photos then ran down the bridge to try and catch them up. John paused so I could get some photos of him.
The paddlers were all very tired and pleased to finish. I think it had been more ‘exciting’ than they expected! John had bruises on his arms and legs, and Ian had a large lump on his head and had lost his paddle.
Back at the campsite, we had some Prosecco and made a curry, then we went over to a Dutch camp where Dan had agreed to run a silent disco for an organised group. I was feeling up for it tonight and we spent a couple of hours dancing to the green channel. This was rock music and far preferable to the red and blue channels which were playing europop music chosen by the Dutch families. Another great day 😊