While St. Triphon was great for what it is, there is a photo in the guidebook that captures my interest and we decide to go check it out. The drive takes us high into the mountains. The cliff tops out at something like 1450m with climbs as long as 150m, to give some perspective. We drove up and up and up until the roads narrowed and after a sketchy U-turn on a single track road that made our hearts skip a beat, we found our pull off. The views were stunning up there. We arrived just in time to lunch before setting off on the beginning of our adventure.
The hike started pretty casual, for hikes. There are wooden reinforcements that create stairs and we follow this to a large watershed. At that point, trees and rocks with red paint direct us upward. The hike is steep, deep in brown leaves and takes us at least 20 minutes before we arrive at a Tyrolean traverse. Galen is leading the charge and I’m on the tail. With me being the ‘more experienced’ climber, I’m a little anxious when I find them making their way across. The ground is soft and the cliff edge too near. But, we make it across and quickly forget the approach the moment our eyes catch the cliff. It is every bit as awesome looking as I imagined from the photo. We are alone and fortunately, the base is wide enough for all of
us and our stuff.
Galen takes the lead on Euro Zero and Mary follows soon after. The climb is really good, but it’s got a lot of ash accumulation from whomever camps up there. The next climb is similar but Mary opts out of trying it. Instead, Galen follows, making really good work of it. Finally, I get the opportunity to try Espirit Libre, the climb in the photo. Disappointingly, the upper part of the climb was not nearly as great as the lower third. By this time, we figure Galen and Mary should try to do one of the longer, easier routes to take in the views. We are climbing mostly in the tree line and thus the views are mostly hidden from us. Mary is already hiking up the fixed line to the base of the climb as I start packing our things. Galen follows and for a brief moment, I’m aware of how unsettled I am about this.
Galen and Mary may be relatively newish climbers, but they are very skilled and neither this fixed line nor the Tyrolean seemed to phase them. As I settle in to observe and take pictures, I notice more skills at work as Galen flakes the rope and Mary establishes the belay. Everything is going well, at least until I hear Galen yell something down at me about Mary’s shoe. I look up and sure enough, a shoe is bounding towards me. I’m caught staring and watch as the shoe bounds right past, not quite in reach. There are trees and brush the whole path but somehow the shoe misses everything that could trap it and disappears over the cliff edge.
Galen and Mary sort out logistics for the climb and hike out, with only one shoe, while I set up a rappel line to see if it’s possible her shoe was caught on something at the cliff edge. This feels a little precarious but I know it’s safe and I walk myself down and look over the edge. No shoe. Mary foregoes the climb and they clean the line and we pack up to hike out. I’m worried for Mary because she is hiking in 1 Miura climbing shoe and 1 normal shoe. The leaves are slick, but at least on the Tyrolean, she will scale the rock part, we tease. We each have a hiking stick to assist us on the way down. No one wants to accidentally slip and slide off the mountain. Galen is at the front, Mary in the middle and I bring up the rear. Somehow, we made it back to the watershed with only a few minor scares but entirely without incident. Relieved to be back on somewhat of a normal hiking trail, I pull out my camera to capture the moment. Mary has removed her 1 climbing shoe and is hiking half barefoot. Back at the car, we each have concluded that for the effort and scare factor of this cliff, the number and quality of the climbs did not make it worth it. If there were more 6a – 7a/b climbs, those climbers would not enjoy the approach. And, there aren’t enough difficult climbs to make the hike worth it for more experienced climbers. If you are looking for a remote, adventurous outing, then you might consider the Roc a L’Aigle. Otherwise, there are more approachable areas than this.
Having come off the mountain, we entertain ourselves with the numerous food options available to us. We could dine in France or Italy, if we wanted. Instead, we opted to dine in the Swiss countryside at a restaurant in Montreaux, Le Montagne. Little did we know that our adventure wasn’t over!
Mary’s GPS was both a bane and a godsend. Without it we couldn’t have found our way anywhere, but with it, we experienced a few interesting and adventurous driving situations. For instance, on our way to the restaurant, we apparently took a wrong turn without knowing it. The GPS kept directing us and at one point in the drive, I noticed we were heading up a seriously steep drive. It didn’t start steep and at the point I noticed that it might be too steep to drive, we were committed. Galen said something about punching it over the top and I think he was right. Instinctively, I did exactly that. The car scraped the road as we crested and lunged directly into traffic stopping short of a set of railroad tracks where the gate was down and the train arriving. As the car came over the hill, I thought the scraping was me going over a curb and my first thought was that I wasn’t on a road at all. I took a quick check for pedestrians and traffic. Miraculously, I didn’t hit anyone and no one hit me. There are two cars at the gate to my left and they drive around me giving me enough space to set the car back on the road properly. People ahead of me on the other side of the train gates are staring at us. I adjust the car and we set off to the sound of the GPS lady ‘recalculating.’
It’s not long before the adrenaline of that moment has passed and we find ourselves on more single track roads. At first, it seems plausible that this could be the way, but after the 2nd single track, I’m aware that I wish I had turned around at some point and found the real road. We are pretty sure that we are not on the right roads but we believe we will still arrive at our destination if we listen to the GPS. The roads are getting narrower and the drop offs appear to scream at me. I’m surprised I can keep driving and I secretly pray I don’t encounter oncoming traffic. The pull offs are fewer and farther between and with the windy, narrow roads and steep edge lines, I’m worried I won’t find it in me to back up if necessary. One more detour and we course correct to find ourselves on the last of these scary roads. I start driving up and immediately feel fear tugging at me. I’m not sure if Galen and Mary can sense my apprehension but Mary points out how close to the hillside edge I’m driving. I’m willing to risk some scratches and maybe a lost side mirror if I can avoid driving too close to the driver’s edge. Dramatic visions of the driver’s edge crumbling away underneath me overpower any other sense until we find ourselves back on the main road and finally at the restaurant where we enjoy solitude and exclusivity as we are the only patrons dining at that time.
Another wonderful meal and beautiful countryside setting (I recommend this restaurant if you get the chance), but there is very little nerve left in me to embrace much more ‘excitement’ and fortunately, we encounter nothing further on our way home. In fact, we stop to take in the wrong turns and our near accident site. We are aghast at what we drove up and how we somehow couldn’t have timed it better. The road is a road, and it wasn’t a curb I drove over, it was the bottom of the car scraping the road and there are numerous scrapes, obviously from other cars. We can’t believe the GPS sent us up there. Humored, we try to capture the angle before setting off home for the night. Each of us passes out, no doubt from an adrenaline crash after all of the adventure we’d been having that day.
More photos can be found on my webshots photo site.