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Pichenibule

First ascent: A. Bultel, J. Ginat, P. Grenier, S. Troussier, Jacques Perrier, J.P. Moron, P. Martinez 1977. First free ascent Patrick Berhault, 1980
By: Marco Bernini
Area: Provence Alps and pre-Alps, Group: Verdon Gorge, Peak: Gorges du Verdon, Height: 1000m, Country: France, Region: Haute-Provence

A truly classic outing, a step into climbing history and a masterpiece of route finding by Jacques "Pschitt" Perrier in the Escales sector. The route climbs diagonally rightwards and finishes up the ultra-smooth and exposed slabs next to Belevedere de la Carelle, via the infamous Bombè overhang which was finally freed by none other than Patrick Berhault in 1980. Hailed as one of the hardest free-climbs at the time, the route has lost none of its reputation though the powerful 7b+ crux can be aided at A0, bringing the entire outing down to a more moderate 6c+.

GETTING THERE

From the north: take the A6 motoway to Avignon and take the N100 for Apt, then Manosque and Riez. From here take the D56 to Moustiers, and continue along the D952 to La Palud.

From the south: from Nice take the N85 to Castellane, and continue along the D952 for La Palud. Shortly before entering the village turn left along the D23, the panoramic Route des Cretes, which leads to the Belvedere de la Carelle lookout and the routes.

ACCESS

Abseil, two alternatives:
A) From Belvédère de la Carelle reach the abseils at Dalles Grises, abseil down to Jardin des Ecureuils (4m, 30m, 40m, 40m) and follow the obvious path down through the trees to a chain. Another 3 abseils lead to the base of the wall and the start of the route "Pilier des Ecureuils". Descend slightly and traverse left for circa 200m around a spur then ascend to the starting ledge. The start is on a pillar on the extreme righthand end of the ledge.

B) Abseil as for Ticket Danger to the large ledge, coast right following the track to reach the edge of the ledge and reach the ground with one further 50m abseil. Stick close to the wall as best possible, rightwards past a cave then continue on as indicated above.

ROUTE

P1: Rock not perfect but nevertheless cleaned sufficiently by the passage of climbers. Belay on the right in a small cave. 5c.
P2: Traverse right to a small pillar, watch out for rope drag. 6a.
P3: Follow the nice corner/crack. 6a.
P4: As above, but easier, to reach Jardin des Ecureuils. 5c.
P5: Climb the first pitch of “Afin que nul ne meure” on the lefthand side of Jardin, traverse adn crack, polished 5c. Reach a first belay and climb past this, traversing left beneath a tree to another belay comprised of two anchors, not linked together.
P6: climb up a few meters then traverse left, climb around the arete and continue diagonally up an easy slab to reah the corner/gully. Bolts are located at the start of this corner/gully, climb up this for a few meters to belay on a pulpit 2m to the left. 5c.
P7: Follow the steel coloured bolts above the belay, climb diagonally left ignoring the bronze bolts (Agorgeamoclès, 6c). Beautiful climbing up pockets, difficult to read the moves. 6a+.
P8: traverse left for a few meters, then continue straight up and traverse left to a corner. Climb this, past a small roof. Small nuts may be found useful in the corner. 6b.
P9: Follow the bolts left (the ones which lead straight up are “Lex Rideaux de Gwendal, 6c+), traverse benath a bulge, then climb up past a flake to reach the belay ledge. 6c+.
P10: Climb left for 3m, then straight up to a corner and then traverse on flakes and sharp pockets to reach an exposed belay. Medium size friend may be found useful, this short pitch can be linked to the following pitch by extending the quickdraws. 6a+
P11: The famous Bombè di Pichnibule, 7b+ but easily climbed with the use of aid A0. Complicated exit through the roof with maximum eposure, the entire Verdon beneath you.
P12: Climb straight up, the first bolt is fairly run-out but there are plenty of big pockts. This is followed by a crux move, then smooth runnels and pockets. Run-out bolts, 50m 5c/6a (this pitch has been reequipped recently).

GEAR

15 quickdraws, slings. Friends and nuts may be found useful, above all on the first pitches, but they are not indispensible.

NOTES

Given the almost constant presence of climbers on the Jardin des Ecureuils and the danger of stonefall on the exit of the 4th pitch of Pichenibule, some climbers opt for the first three pitches of "Pilier des Ecureuils": 6b+; 6a; 6b.
Since the route climbs diagonally right it is not possible to escape except by abseil from the 5th belay down "Les rideaux…" to reach a narrow ledge and traverse off.

- Portfolio Simon Conseil

MAPS/BIBLIOGRAPHY

"Escalade au Verdon" by P. Légier, F. Ristori and A. Jamin

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DIFFICULTY

6c+/AO, 7b+

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South

LENGTH

320m

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