Francesco Salvaterra: a little trip in Verdon

“There was a time, back in the early nineties, when we went all the way to the Verdon from the Dolomites to go sport climbing! The routes were bolted here and back home they weren’t, and now climbers (not many) go to the Verdon to do mountaineering”.

And so it is here that the mountain guide Stefan Stufflesser enters into my question: “What was the Verdon like that he experienced twenty years ago”.

We find ourselves in the most famous bar in Palud, the bar de la Place, with a beer in front of us. Unfortunately, we are at the end of our little trip on the edge of the gorges, a trip that only started two days ago.

What is there to say, to say that I have got to know these walls would take many days to recount and many more abseils to be done into the void. What has really impressed me on the trip has been the performances of both Berni Rivadossi and Silvio Reffo (they are climbers with a capital C), the wealth of knowledge about the history of climbing that Paolo Cattaneo pulls out of his hat and also the condors and the peace that you breathe here.

Over these two days, Silvio and Berni have been able to meet the needs of a photoshoot, after all, we are here to take photos, while performing sport climbing. In exactly one hour on the dot, Silvio flashed the famous route “Tom et Je Ris”, a long 60 metre climb between two continuous overhanging tufas. The next day it was the turn of Berni who onsighted a classic 8a, the route goes up an aesthetic prow and it is called “Seance Tenante”. I limit myself to some trad climbing; I chose a route called “Crisalis”, a very beautiful 6c that goes up an overhanging chimney.

La Palud is all but a climbing mecca, just like Arco, Chamonix and El Chatèn could be: hardly any people on the street, an ancient village with a very quiet and relaxed feeling in the air, immersed in the countryside of Provence. No colourful signposts or public advertising to promote the companies that do canyoning and climbing, there are only some modest murals painted on some of the wall.

So anyway, it was a brief but memorable visit, the sensation was like that of chatting to a beautiful girl who doesn’t stay for long and leaves you unsatisfied… but we know her address.

Francesco Salvaterra

Ph: Giordano Garosio