Winter is here and the cold is already well established in our beautiful department of Ariège ... Of course there are climbing rooms for indoor use, but this often means forgetting the incomparable charm of cliffs in the sun, which offer excellent support to climbers motivated by the outdoors.
We even tend to forget that some sites in the Ariège region are downright more pleasant in winter, the summer period often being synonymous with overheating ... This is the case of Sinsat, an ancient and mythical cliff, facing south where it is not uncommon to climb the day after the New Year, bare-chested. You just have to plan not to arrive too late: deep in the valley, the site goes into the shade from the middle of the afternoon. Another example, again a great classic: Alliat and all its sectors. The cliff is sunny and clear. But like Sinsat, the cliff quickly goes into the shade around 14 p.m.!
You will understand, winter does not necessarily mean snow and skiing. Don't put your slippers in the closet and instead enjoy the “oven” effect of a few sunny cliffs: the t-shirt in January is possible! Now, we love skiing too, and we will therefore understand that you still have some infidelities when climbing…!
So where to climb?
Many sites offer optimal climbing conditions in the heart of winter where you can enjoy a grippy rock and afford the luxury of climbing for a few moments in a T-shirt when the sun is pointing the tip of your nose and reverberates on the wall.
We will therefore naturally favor areas that are very sunny, facing due south and little subject to the north wind. It is even better if the foot of the routes is clear in order to take advantage of the sun's rays when belaying and snacking or reading the topo breaks.
In this regard, remember to study well the topos which often give good information on the best climbing conditions of the site and make a weather report shortly before leaving (temperature, but especially sunshine as well as direction and strength of the wind).
Think about it 😉: A day in the cold can quickly become an ordeal if you don't organize yourself properly. As long as there is wind or it is humid, the feeling of cooling is even faster. Here are a few tips :
- Choose the south-facing sectors as a priority, where the wind is not present.
- Being at the cliff during the hottest hours of the day, generally between 10 a.m. and 15 p.m.
- Bring warm clothes and a thermos.
Here are some sites (non-exhaustive list) listed in alphabetical order:
The various sectors of Alliat are split up on the left bank in the Vicdessos gorge between Niaux and Tarascon. This bank faces due east. The valley is deep and the sun only touches the cliffs in the morning. The walls pass in the shade between 14 p.m. and 15 p.m. depending on the sector. It is very beautiful limestone, compact, ocher on vertical and overhanging walls. Ratings from 5a to 8c.
South-west facing at an altitude of 1000m with a breathtaking view of the Pyrenees, you climb all year round. It is a beautiful bar of gneiss with sculpted relief. Ratings from 4c to 7b.
Ax-les-Thermes " the swimming pool "
Oriented south-west, it is an ideal cliff for beginners with routes between 4b and 5c. The short access and the comfortable foot of the tracks make it a perfect site! A beautiful slab of gneiss at the foot of the ski resort! Quotes from 3c to 6b +.
Oriented East, South-East, the sun comes early on the cliff and hides around 15 pm-16pm. It's a steep wall perfect for those in the 7! Ratings from 5a to 8a +.
Family cliff with view of Mont Valier! An ideal limestone bar for the whole family with a comfortable footing. It is the school site of Saint-Gironnais oriented South, South-East. Quotes from 4c to 8b +.
South facing with a view of the peaks! Cliff of rinds and multi-pitch routes even in winter, it is the winter site par excellence. Quotes from 3c to 8b +.
Facing south, the cliffs are located in the Herm valley. They are two beautiful limestone bars with a majority of routes in the 7 and 8. Ratings from 3c to 8b.
Beautiful conch facing south, it was the temple of hard routes at the beginning of climbing in Ariège but now many affordable routes have emerged. The cliff is located in a valley so the shade arrives between 15 p.m. and 17 p.m. depending on the sector. Ratings from 5c to 8c.
Sector "station to you" and "Elysée" because the others are to the north 🙂. Mountain type rock, it is a pink marble type limestone, the rock really has a beautiful color. The sun beats down on the wall from 10am! Ratings from 5b to 8b.
Small cliff facing south with a beautiful view of the Couserans landscapes. The first left lanes have been discouraged since July 2017 because of fallen blocks. Ratings from 5b to 7c +.
True winter cliff, facing south, tree-less at the foot of the tracks with a view of the Haute-Ariège mountains. Only downside, you have to go up there, between 30 and 40min of walk. Quotations from 4a to 8b.
Historic cliff of Ariège, where climbing is again allowed. Exposed South-East, the climbing and the style of limestone vary according to the sectors. Ratings from 4c to 8b.
If you missed the alarm clock but want to go climbing, it is in Sibada sector Niaux that you have to go! Accessible in 5 minutes on foot, the cliff is not in the sun until 14 p.m.! It is a beautiful slab of limestone with crimps with a majority of routes in the 7. Grades from 6a to 8a.
Sinsat I, Sinsat II and Quie of Urs
Magnificent limestone bars with beautiful flights, routes for all levels. Ratings from 4c to 8c.
Have a good climb in the sun while looking at the snow in the distance!