Situated near Buis les Baronies in the south of France, Baume Rousse is a compact limestone crag that is far less frequented than some of its better known neighbouring crags, making an ideal venue to escape the crowds yet still climb some top notch lines. The crag can be split into three sectors, two easy angled slabs with a good selection of routes from very easy to 6b and the main central sector which offers steeper routes from 7a to 8b+.
Right: Rigpa (8a). Image courtesy of alpinismeetmineraux.fr
Routes vary from burly two movers to 35 meter lactate trips. The better lines follow thin tufa systems and often require involved sequences, contorted rests and a big pair of arms. The rock seems to be a mixture of limestone and sandstone which can wear the skin. On the upside most routes are generously bolted, which is always welcome. An interesting fact about Baume Rousse is that it was first equipped for an open competition. Do not fear though, the routes have not been manufactured in anyway.
Best Time to Go and Conditions
Baume Rousse would make a superb all-year-round crag. I visited the crag in July, and despite the heat we still managed to climb at our limit. The main wall is shaded until around midday and then again in the evening. In colder temps you can climb from lunch time onwards in the sun. The sheltered nature of the crag also makes it a good alternative when the cold ‘mistral’ wind is blowing. Having said that, I imagine the caves and tufa lines will suffer from seepage during periods of heavy rain, specifically in the winter months.
The nearest airports to the climbing serviced by budget operators are Nimes and Grenoble/Lyon. These are about 1.5 hours (Nimes) and 2.5 hours (Grenoble/Lyon) drive from the climbing and are (at the time of writing) well served by Ryanair.
From Grenoble: travel south west towards Valence to pick up the E15 and take the Bollene exit heading East towards Gap (D994). A few miles after leaving Nyons take the D64 south to Buis-les-Baronnies. As you start to descend into the town the crag is clearly visible on the left.
From Nimes: head for the E15 towards Orange, then drive north east to Vaison-la-Romanie (D975). Take the D46 east to Buis-les-Baronnies. The crag can be found a couple miles north on the D64 and is easily seen from the road.
Below: The author on an unknown 8b+.
Baume Rousse is by no means a major crag and probably would not suit a trip in its own right, but if your in the area with a car it is a MUST visit! St Leger is only 20 minutes drive away and other major venues such as Ceuse and Buoux are only around an hour away. Due to the remote location getting to Baume would be very difficult without a car. There is ample parking in a nearby lay-by and from here the climbing is a steep 10 minute up the hill.
Accommodation & Provisions
Campsites can be found around the nearby towns of Vaison-la-Romanie or Mollans-sur-Ouveze. Buis-les-Baronnies is about 2 miles down the road and has a small Hyper-U supermarket as well as nice selection of shops, bakeries, bars and restaurants (with free WiFi). Take plenty of chalk, tape and other climbing supplies as there are no climbing shops nearby. The nearest Decathlon store can be found in Orange.
Baume Rousse is covered in the Rockfax: Haute Provence guide [available to purchase here]. There is also a local guide available but this does not feature the more recently developed routes. Route names are painted at the base of the climbs, but not the grades.
Grade Spread and Recommended Routes
The main central sector is best in the 7a to 8a+ range with the hardest route being 8b/+. If you operate around the 8a mark then the steep tufa lines are a dream, with five to go at next to each other. The routes on the slabs are also popular and offer plenty to go at in the lower grades. This could be great places to begin leading outside and is often used by local guides as a introduction to outdoor rock. The left hand side of the main sector provides good mixed ground for either warming up or a mixed ability group.
My recommendations: Gnocchi on Heaven’s Door (6b+), L’Ecolo Net (7a), Les Raviolis de L’Enfer (7b), Rigpa ou la Nature de l’esprit (8a), Les Secrets de Régine (8a), Rahan fils de Crao (7b+).
The standard sport climbing equipment is required, 18 quickdraws and a 70m rope wouldcome in very handy for some of the longer routes, although the standard 60m is sufficient for most.
A knee bar pad or thick pair of trousers would come in useful as well.
Experiment with rests, think double knee bars, over head heel toes etc. there are lots of cunning stopping places that make all the difference in controlling the dreaded pump. It is also worth training your pinch strength prior to a trip as many of the routes feature thin tufas!