It is impossible to speak ofclimbing in Ariège without starting with the origin of the tracks. The team members play a fundamental role. Thank you to all those who have worked so that today we can all benefit and talk about it in this article.

Vincent Hebinger one of the crew of the Balcon des Seigneurs Ivan Olivier Photography / ADT 09

Ariège, a climbing destination close to nature

Ariège, known in the climbing world without being a star, far from the tumults of big cities and trendy cliffs, embodies, as we will see later, a another vision of climbing closer to nature.

Considered a simple extension of mountaineering, rock climbing has quickly become a sport in its own right. It is tinted with the passage of a rebellious spirit, ecologist, sometimes a bit mystical. Has this philosophy changed since then in Ariège?

The 60s: start of the Ariège climbing

If we want to give free climbing a starting point, in Ariège, we have to go back to the 60s. At that time, only five routes existed: the “Darcourt Grenier”, the “Cheminée Rouge” in Quié de Sinsat, the “Fantillou” on the main wall of the Sédour, the “Voie des frères Ravier” in Orlu and the “Voie Audoubert” »At Mont Valier. If you are curious and daring, know that there are vestiges in some ways.

The Cliffs of Quié de Sinsat © Ivan Olivier Photo ADT

In 1978, the first large routes and cross-country courses were equipped. Christian Roujas, Jean-Claude Costeseque, Bruno Colla, Thierry Pouxviel, Jean-Pierre Barrokas, Philippe Guillard and Didier Raboutou start the surveys. A charismatic man who reveals all his secrets if you agree to take the time to talk with him, comes to the fore: Gérard Jalbert. Its first pitons are made from central heating pipes.

Gérard Jalbert à l’équipement
Gérard Jalbert with the equipment © Collection Gérard Jalbert

Legend has it that he would probably be the first climber in France to have built an artificial climbing wall in his garden in 81 and the only one to have used his laces to de-climb a step during a solo in "Redox ".

Gerard Jalbert, équipeur infatigable
Gerard Jalbert, tireless crewman © Ivan Olivier Photography ADT 09

The 80s and 90s saw the creation of a few routes on cliffs which would later become essential places. 1983 marks the opening of “Proteine ​​Elas-tique”, a legendary route in Quié de Sinsat by Bruno Colla, Gérard Jalbert, Bruno Le-comte, Pascal Rouby and François Pellet. For Ariégeois climbers, this route marks the real beginning of the equipment. It is then said that the Quié de Sinsat, with significant equipment, could accommodate an interest comparable to Sainte-Victoire, or even to Verdon, legendary cliffs today! The first sector saw the light of day at the "Grande Dalle" and the following years saw the creation of major routes such as "L'Eperon Sud Ouest", "La Pascal", "Panorama TGV", "Telegraph Road" or more “Anaîs” and the first route to the Pic de la Madelon “La route des Souvenirs” and to the Pic de Bassiès “Eperon Bach”.

Over the years, an essential activity takes shape

The more the years pass, the more a formidable activity emerges. Gérard Jalbert, helped by his friends, equips the cliffs of Auzat and Roquefixade on a massive scale. A first climbing guide appears for the Roquefixade cliff. At the time, only ten copies were distributed. In the Couserans, the cliff of Ker de Massat begins to be equipped by Olivier Rougeant in 1985 who also draws the first lines at Port de l'Hers in the future “Bonzaî” sector. Climbing clubs were formed, the Ariégeois Group of Grimpeurs de Pamiers under the leadership of Jean-Paul Colossetti, co-founder of the CAF Departmental Committee, El Grimpayres de Saint Girons, the Amicale Montagnards Axéens and the Club Alpin de Foix.

The year 1985 marked a decisive turn with the arrival of Gérard Pouliquen. Installed in Ariège for the construction of the future N20, he is particularly interested in equipment. He was trained thanks to Stéphane, the first State Climbing Certificate in Ariège and fitted out numerous cliffs around Tarascon.

Escalade en Ariège
Gérard Pouliquen, the mountain since always © Ivan Olivier Photographie ADT 09

True connoisseur of political authorities, seasoned mountain dweller and professional engineer, he launched into the creation of a file to raise funds with the idea of ​​replacing obsolete equipment.. A subsidy will be granted by the Sports Directorate of Ariège and each club will receive a perforator, ropes, plates and studs. A first recognition of Escalade in Ariège !

In the Couserans, the equipment also continues with sites such as Remil-lassé or Montégut thanks to team members such as Alain Roques, Jacques Larroque, Jean-Paul Pujol, Pascal Darrieu, Paul Noiran. The topo "Lizards in the Couserans" was released in 1990. On the Massat side, the Ker cliff was equipped in 1988 by the local club. At the same time, new routes appear under the leadership of Jean-Pierre Larvol at the Port de l'Hers.

Alain Milhau will join them to equip the multi-pitch routes then a few years later, the mountain cliff par excellence: Turguilla. In Haute-Ariège, it was Pascal Dengerma who, having discovered the equipment on the Auzat cliff, fitted the first cliffs.

 La falaise de Turguilla, escalade en montagne
The Turguilla cliff, mountain climbing © Ivan Olivier Photographie ADT 09

In 1989, the first “Guide to Natural Climbing Sites in France” was written. produced by Daniel Taupin on behalf of the FFME and CO.SI.ROC. At that time, 23 cliffs were already listed in the four corners of Ariège.

Les falaises du Port de Lers
The cliffs of Port de l'Hers, a paradise for outdoor sports © Ivan Olivier Photographie ADT 09

Under the impetus of one man, Eric Triay, the equipment and the climbing have evolved. He found in Ariège the “freedom to be able to equip where he wanted, on incredible cliffs!”. Based in the Vicdessos Valley with his brother and nephew Laurent Triay, he will start to clear Baychon then Sibada.

Eric Triay and his other passion since always the CaniBike © Ivan Olivier Photography ADT

We begin to whisper the quotation of 8 in Ariège at the very moment when the sealing techniques are learned. In 1994, Gérard Pouliquen and Jean-Denis Achard (who will write the first climbing guidebook in Ariège and the following ones!) will discover the cliffs of Bedeilhac and begin equipment work, helped by local climbers.

From new friendships to changes in track equipment

Friendships are born, unite which will allow the equipment of a cliff with futuristic movements but also change the situation on the fact of carving holds. The Génat conch has just been discovered by Patrick Lopez.

Eric Triay, his brother and his nephew are commissioned to open this futuristic porch. The slope equipment is a first in Ariège. Laurent Triay, visionary, lays the first rope and equips “War of the Worlds” in 1996.

Philippe Girard, strong climber and outfitter, freshly installed in Ariège, observes that the locals do not hesitate to "arrange" the routes as everywhere in France during this period 80-90. Philippe observes the possibilities of natural routes and explains to them that the homogeneity of a route is not the essential point of a beautiful route. Its naturalness, on the other hand, is essential.

The reflection on the size of the catches takes on all its importance this same year. One day Eric Triay calls Philippe Girard and tells him “if you don't come and try the new route in Génat, I'll fix it!”.

Philippe came the next day, it was an 8a + and it passed. The team of the time saw the potential of the natural ways and had the intelligence to question themselves and to see the opening differently.

From 1995, the Prat Bonrepaux cliff was equipped thanks to Rodolphe Leduy. In the Pays d'Olmes, Christophe Baudry clears new cliffs. The Dent d'Orlu will soon become the “1000m of climbing” cliff.. The Ravier brothers, Jean Claude Costeseque, Thierry Pouxviel, Gérard Jalbert and his son have already planted the first nails in the Tooth. “Le Lézard”, “Assurance tout spit” “Fraise Preboist” to name just an example of these routes.

In 1999, Gérard Pouliquen and Jean-Denis Achard discovered the potential and opened up the “Enfants de la Dalle”, a major route since its creation because, in addition to the fact that it is one of the longest, it walks close to a historic route opened after the War, “La Ramonatxo”.

Until 2005, Gérard Pouliquen and Thierry Pouxviel, accompanied by friends, will open and re-equip many routes on the Dent d'Orlu which will become classics of the Pyrenees and which will contribute to the fame of the Ariège. Just like the Quié de Sinsat and the Quié d'Urs which will see the opening of new avenues during a second generation of team members.

La dent d'orlu
The Dent d'Orlu, majestic from the top of Tarbesou © Ivan Olivier Photographie ADT 09

Appearance of bouldering

Bouldering made its appearance in 1996 under the leadership of Guillaume Tourrent Pascal Matose, Eldrige St-Jacques, Maël Loizance, Philippe David, Philippe Gi-ard and Vincent Hebinger. The blocks of Orlu and Laramade are cleaned. The forerunners quickly discovered the potential that there can be on these two sites. 2001, 2002 and 2003 will be the years of consecration for Laramade and Orlu with the organization of incredible and international competitions. Dany Andrada, Philippe Gondoux, Tony Lamiche and François Lombard, Liv Sansoz (3 times world climbing champion, 1996, 1998 and 2000) even making the trip for the occasion!

Blocs Lamarade
Laramade boulder site © Ivan Olivier Photography ADT 09

The 2000 years

The 2000s will be the great era of innovative advances in Ariège! Eric Triay and the two Gérards in the lead, helped by many climbers, will equip more than 65 climbing sites.

Today Ariège is the department of the Pyrenees with the largest number of equipped routes.

2002 marks the consecration of the high level of climbing in the Sabart cave as well as the memories of frenzied parties and of course the wedding of Momo, iconic climber of the department! The equipment continues and communities realize the positive lever that can be climbing in a territory.

Equipment in the Sabart cave © Collection Gérard Jalbert

Communities are aware of the enormous potential of Ariège

States General were held in 2003 and brought together the Association of Natura-lists of Ariège, the Departmental Council of Natural Areas of Ariège and the Permanent Center for Environmental Initiatives of Ariège as well as all the stakeholders concerned. through the development of the activity. A study on Biodiversity and Climbing was carried out to question the place occupied by climbing within a territory, as well as the prospective for its practices in the context of local and sustainable development. A first in France!

Le French Alpine Club of Ariège Montagnards will "also achieve a major first (which remains unique to this day) by making all climbing tips available on the website, free of charge!

For history, Gérard Pouliquen drew all the topos by hand, photocopied them and then distributed them for free. It is thanks to Colette Portet, CAF manager and computer enthusiast, that the topos were imported on the CAFMA website. Since 2004, the topos are thus accessible to all.

A job dedicated to climbing in Ariège: a first in France

2008 saw the arrival of a unique approach in Ariège! A job will be created specifically linked to the maintenance of the cliffs. Eric Triay, for the recognition of his volunteer work, will be employed in this position. Thanks to a collaboration between the Community of Communes of the Pays d'Olmes and the Valleys of Ax as well as the Mixed Syndicate of Tarascon-Vicdessos, the CAF, the Departmental Committee of the FFME and the DDCSPP, the General Council, the ADT and Pole Emploi, has enabled the creation of a job which ensures the verification, maintenance and upgrading of climbing sites between Haute-Ariège, Pays d'Olmes, Tarasconnais and Vicdessos.

Part of Eric Triay's findings! © Eric Triay Collection

In 2019, we are witnessing the creation of Escalade Nature Ariège, representing all of the team in cliffs. A new study on climbing is being carried out to lay down an environmental, social and legislative framework. At the request of several Communities of Municipalities, Eric Triay's post has been renewed for an indefinite period. Good news for the future of rock climbing in Ariège! Local stakeholders recognize that the enhancement of climbing sites had considerably boosted the territory.

In conclusion, the rebellious, environmentalist, sometimes a bit mystical spirit has not really changed and has done things quite well, theclimbing in Ariège has bright years ahead of it! And as it says so well Mathilde Becerra (10 years in the France Escalade team and from Toulouse:

"Nature and its gifts, the world does not lack wonders, it lacks wonder"

Mathilde Becerra in one of Orlu's blocks © Collection Mathilde Becerra

Ivan - de Gratteron et Chaussons


Ivan - from Gratteron and Slippers

Cradled by the world of climbing since my youngest age (by an oldschool generation who loves the slab…), I now share my knowledge and my experiences! Climber and photographer I am a big fan of mountains, Ariège, this land so endearing (and filled with cliffs!)

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