Corsica is a mountainous French island in the Mediterranean, and according the The Lonely Planet Guide, "it's hard to find a better combination of nature, culture and pleasure". With a description like that, it's pretty hard not to want to make a trip there! But as I was planning my annual spring Euro climbing vacation, I found it hard to get a sense of the quality and quantity of the climbing in Corsica, and after visiting many of the ultra-classic French climbing zones like Ceuse, the Gorges du Verdon, Presles and the Gorges du Tarn, all of which I could easily revisit, I wondered if Corsica was going to stand up to my high standards of French stone.
Adventure Climbing in Corsica - Jasmin Caton
We bought the only guide book we could find - a beautiful french guide book called "Bavedda - Auguilles entre ciel et torrents by Jean-Louis Fenouil and Jen-Paul Quilici". The route topos were all done on exquisitely detailed watercolour paintings, and although I loved the uniquely artistic appearance of the guide book, it turns out a photo or a detailed route topo is actually pretty helpful when you are figuring out an area for the first time. We spent two days attempting to find, then climb our chosen warm-up route, Esperanza, on Punta Rosso. It's a 6 pitch, 7a+ route with a steep 1.5 hour approach, which we got thunder stormed off part way up on both days. Although we weren't able to complete the route, from these pitches and some single pitch sport routes we did closer to the road we got a sense of the high-quality and mind-bending geometry of the Corsican granite.
A crappy weather forecast drove us out of the Col de Bavedda and towards the town of Ajaccio on Corsica's west coast. Descriptions of 7-9 pitch lines on the Rocher des Gozzi in the Falaise de Corse guidebook had caught our interest, but we had nothing in the way of first hand information on the climbing and hadn't run into any other climbers in Corsica so far. Thanks to the awesome details in the guidebook, which was in english as well as french, we easily found our way to the climbing, and spent our day climbing up a well bolted 9 pitch route called Gozzilla, 7b (6b+ obligatory). The climbing was technical through the lower and upper sections, with edges and huecos. The middle section climbed out a wildly overhanging cave which would have been amazing to send, but the cave was entirely moist either due to seepage or condensation on the rock. Thanks to the close bolting, we could pull through a few of the greasy moves and enjoy the rest of the climbing.
Next we made a quick visit to the cultural and geographical centre of Corsica, Corte. Our main draw was the Vallee de Restonica, a beautiful valley next to Corte surrounded by Corsica's highest peaks with numerous long and short route possibilities. When I return to Corsica I will definitely schedule in a good week or two to climb in the Restonica, but on this trip we didn't have the time or the weather to do much more than drive up the valley and get a few roadside sport climbs in between thunder showers. But if the amount of rock and the quality of what we sampled is any indication, there is a lot of potential for great climbing on existing routes, as well as lots of new route potential with relatively easy access.
With only one climbing day left in Corsica, we really wanted to climb Jeef (7b, 14 pitches) at the Col de Bavedda. The weather was calling for afternoon thunder storms, and bailing from this climb isn't really feasible before the top of the 8th pitch, where it joins the easier and popular route "Dos d'elephant". We got an alpine start and managed to climb the route, which completely exceeded our expectations, which is saying something for a couple of rock snobs who didn't get enough sleep, had not taken a rest day in a week and got in a giant fight about whether to keep going to the top despite the menacing clouds (me) or bail from the top of the 9th pitch (Evan). Even better, our rappel route took us down the route Delicatessen (8b), which along with Jeef was established by French hardman and Arnaud Petit. Delicatessen looked hard but so good... those of you capable of that grade who like granite climbing should check it out! By the time we hit the ground, the sun was again shining and my day was taken to the next level of awesomeness when I took an icy dip in the beautifully sculpted smooth pool in the creek at the valley bottom.
With guiding work commitments drawing us home to rainy Squamish, our trip to Corsica had come to an end. Despite the fact that we experienced fairly unsettled weather, we managed to climb at least a few pitches every day we spent on the island. As with all of my favourite climbing trips, this one finished with me hungry for more and scheming for an opportunity to return.