Saturday, May 12


After saying our goodbyes to the Verdon in style-- sunset bottle of wine on the shore of the lake-- we made our way north to Grenoble to check out Nina's hometown. Heading north through lush fields and then abruptly into the foothills of the Alps made for a bitchin' drive. Snow capped peaks emerged in the distance as we slowly worked our way deeper into the mountainous landscape. Grenoble is a really cool hang. Big enough to give you the impression of a metropolitan area, but surrounded with mountains. There's a nice climbing community, a proper gym, a rad nearby limestone crag, and the proximity to Chamonix, the Verdon, Ceuse, etc makes it a favorite spot for many climbers and alpinists.

I busted out for a quick afternoon session with Mike Fuselier at the nearby crag, Saint Ange. A noteworthy limestone cliff, featuring gnarly crimps and cool sloping features on a slightly overhanging wall. The view of the valley below is almost worth a trip in and of itself. I climbed a really nice 8b+ extension that had a cool mix of styles and holds. I also checked out a brand new project with Mike. We both made high points on the route, nearly sending. Just talked with Mike today and it sounds like he took it down this last week with some refined beta, adding yet another 5.14 to this already stacked cliff. Hell yea!
Checking out a cool new route at St Ange, Grenoble in the background ©Ladzinski
Mike Fuselier.. bad ass! ©Ladzinski
I spent one night in Grenoble before picking up a good buddy of mine from Colorado, Elliot Bates, and heading south for Ceuse. Elliot was one of my original climbing partners; we started climbing together way back in the day, when a 12a flash was a big deal and we only dreamt of one day climbing 5.13. Now he reps for Millet, and after a brief company meeting he was able to take a few extra days and meet me in Grenoble. It was cool to catch up with Elliot and enjoy a couple pitches at Ceuse together.

Elliot takes the wheel... 
The legendary Ceuse. The pilgrimage... It has been a dream of mine to visit this mythical area for many years. A crag of immense quality, a top ten list would never be complete without it. So many expectations… it's amazing how much can built up about a place as valuable as Ceuse. The hike, the runouts, the routes, the hang… then suddenly, over the course of a few days your entire preconception is rewritten with perceived reality. 

Three Strings Media... always cooking up ideas.

Conclusion? It's just about as good as they say it is-- Amazing. The landscape is fantastic, the hang and view at the crag is breathtaking, and the climbing is very, very fun. Definitely some of the best sport climbing I've ever done, and I've much much more to experience. The only downsides that I can see are that some of the classics are terribly polished, and many of the harder routes are at least in part manufactured. Also, if you're not willing to climb a good ways above the previous bolt, you will be limited to which climbs you're comfortable to try. Thankfully I tend to enjoy a good ride now and then.

The idea that Ceuse is a hard-person crag is only slightly true. The depth and range of quality 7's is huge here. The 7c - 8a+ grade is massive. Honestly, if anything I'm a little shocked by how few 8c/+ and up there are, though many new routes have gone in more recently. 

I was told by many people to get a taste of the style before jumping into anything too hard, and as much as I am fiending for some project level climbing, I listened. Our first day was spent at the Cascade wall- a brilliant orange and blue streaked wall that gets all day sun, and is cooled slightly by a nearby waterfall. The routes here are medium steep and around 80-120 feet long. My favorites were 'Le Privilege du serpent' 7c+, 'Pieds nus sous les rhododendrons' 7c+, 'Hyper Mickey' 7c, and a nearby super bouldery 'Keket Direct' 8a+. 
Pockets above the mega Colonnettes on 'Les Colonnettes' ©Ladzinski
Day two we got our warm ups in on the Berlin Wall, but were thwarted from a proper climbing day by devastating rain/fog/cold although I did get to do one of the all time Ceuse classics, 'Blocage Violent' 7b+. The last two days we checked out the Demi-Lune and Biographie walls… each wall is more impressive than the last. I did an amazing, 8b/+ called 'La chirurgien du crespuscule' and a very, very memorable 8a+ called 'Femme Blanche' - 35 meters long, 9 bolts… the finish is precarious climbing on brilliant blue stone, tip toeing through smears and runnels well above your last bolt. I thrillingly finished the route by the light of my headlamp. It was scary. 

Biographie wall... ©Ladzinski
Yesterday I did a couple of nice 7's to warm up, moving on to the crag classic, 'Les Colonnettes' 8a before I checked out an extremely cool neighboring 8c, with an unfortunately uninspiring start-- but it's certainly worth it for the top! Can't wait to get back to it tomorrow. I'm stoked to be settling in here and prepared to spend a couple weeks in one spot just craggin', hopefully allowing me time to try some of these wicked hard routes!