Rockclimbing in the footsteps of Patrick Edlinger in the Verdon cliffs
Patrick Edlinger is the man who brought rock climbing to the attention of the general public in the 1980s. A great title, certainly, but for a simple man, a cliff climber, a passionate man of life coupled with a lover of nature and more particularly that of the Verdon.
It was at the age of fifteen, in 1975, that the young Patrick discovered the impressive limestone walls, at the foot of which flows the emerald green ribbon of the Verdon. At the end of his first bivouac in the Verdon, above the void, he attacked the famous Red Wall.
From that day on, he will gradually devote his life to climbing and will literally propel climbing into his sporting era.
Edlinger and the Verdon, an intimate relationship
The Verdon, with its 100 km of tracks, is an ideal playground. Edlinger spends his days on the cliffs, sometimes with good friends like Patrick Bérhault, sometimes solo, and starts to make a name for himself with some difficult achievements for the time. Above all, it is his way of climbing, where the physical dimension counts as much as the spirit, that will mark the world. Edlinger, connected to the roots and nature of this country, sometimes said that the great Verdon canyon was “his only close friend”.
In 1982, thanks to Jean-Paul Janssen’s documentaries, he introduced climbing to the world. “La vie au bout des doigts” and “Opéra vertical” show him practicing free climbing and climbing some of the most beautiful routes of the Luberon and the Verdon gorges in full solo. From that time on, the Verdon will become the center of gravity of the climbing world.
Climbing in the footsteps of Edlinger in the Verdon: some mythical routes
When you think of Patrick Edlinger, you can only think of some of the most mythical climbing routes in the Verdon.
We have therefore selected for you some ideas to climb in the footsteps of the “Blond”.
The climbing routes in Fenrir’s sector:
First of all, the Fenrir sector is one of the most famous in the Verdon. Its mythical routes such as Iron Dream, Gas Alert, or The Decaying Angel. Rated from 6a to 7c+, the routes of Fenrir allow you to taste the pleasure of climbing in the middle of nature, on the Verdon limestone and in the middle of birds. Let us note however that if Patrick Edlinger is at the origin of the media coverage (in the climbing world) of these climbing routes, he was not the opener, i.e. the first to climb them.
Access to the area is very simple. From La Palud-Sur-Verdon, you take the route des crêtes to the Carelle lookout and then park in the car park. Finally, you will follow the path that goes up through the bushes.
Access to the abseiling is from a small balcony below the cliff top.
A little further on, 8 km from La Palud-Sur-Verdon, and close to the village of Rougon, the mythical route “Les spécialistes” is open to you. The name makes you dream and tremble in the world of sport climbing. Rated 8b+, it was for a long time one of the most difficult of the Gorges du Verdon. It was originally opened by J. B. Tribout, who wanted to rate it 8c, and it was Patrick Edlinger who proposed 8b+. Considering the level of these former climbers, you will indeed have something to tremble about when approaching the Specialists!
To get there by car from La Palud, take the road to Castellane, and park in the only small car park located about two kilometers after the junction for Rougon. From there, you will be at the foot of the tracks after five minutes of rather steep descent on a not very marked track.
In the shadow of legend… and Escales
Among the routes where Edlinger wrote his legend, one immediately thinks of “Orange mécanique” (at Cimaï), climbed solo in 1989 and “Surveiller et Punir”, where he was struck by lightning! This route rated 7a+ is located in the Escalès sector, near La Palud-Sur-Verdon. It is a homogeneous and continuous route, requiring very technical climbing, but experienced climbers will have a lot of fun on this magnificent wall. The route is sunny early in the morning and shaded in the middle of the afternoon. Good to know to prepare your outing after a night and a good meal at La Palud-Sur-Verdon!
Two films about rock climbing that you must see
Vertical Opera” and “Life at your fingertips” are the two short films that introduced the general public to what climbing was all about. Directed by Jean-Paul Janssen in 1982, they also launched Patrick Edlinger into a more media-oriented career. Thus, he very quickly symbolized a vision of rock climbing in the whole world.
First of all, in the first one, “La vie au bout des doigts”, Edlinger climbed solo in Buoux. The full solo is climbing “with bare hands”, without the help of a rope or a harness. It’s climbing in slippers, or barefoot, like the Blond himself! The final sequence of the film is particularly magical. It indeed shows Patrick Edlinger evolving on a vertical wall of more than a hundred meters, in the middle of the Luberon. The fluidity of his movements and the regularity of his progression lead us into his fascinating rhythm.
“Opéra Vertical” is filmed entirely in the Verdon Gorges. Patrick Edlinger can be seen there during the production of “L’Ange en Décomposition”. He falls down voluntarily to show the usefulness of the rope. The final scene is still a little more magical than the one in “Life at your fingertips”. Indeed, it shows Edlinger climbing a Verdon wall, barefoot, over several hundred meters of empty space. Bach’s music, which arrives progressively, will give you goosebumps! It’s a very beautiful moment of cinema.
Finally, funny thing, this cantata, chosen for its particular beauty and its measured rhythm on which the climber glides quietly, is entitled “How my steps were staggering and fearful”!
Guides to take you on the trail of Patrick Edlinger…
At La Palud Sur Verdon, you can contact several guides who will help you discover the most beautiful climbing routes. You can contact Bruno Potié (Des Guides pour l’Aventure) or Philippe de Roc’nVol and even book on this site.
The office of the Guides of La Palud Sur Verdon also proposes climbing outings. Let’s not forget the UCPA which organizes complete climbing or multi-activity stays.
What is my budget and what should I do if I’m a beginner?
It is necessary to count approximately 250 euros for a day as a guide or 150 € for half a day. This price will be shared if there are two. Finally, it will be divided if there are 5 or 6 of you for a half-day of initiation climbing. If you are a beginner, we recommend le parcours aventure du trou du renard : vertigo and fun without technical difficulties! It will hardly cost you 45 euros per person and you will spend a wonderful time.
If you are planning to go on your own, the 50-year-old 500 routes climbing topo-guide is a must. In the last edition (2018) you will find all the new routes and there are a lot.
The climbing season starts in March and lasts till mid-November. The Verdon offers many possibilities. You will always find a sunny cliff sheltered from the wind in summer.