The bus ride from Barcelona to Marseille involved several exciting events. First, this gal carrying a toddler decided to smoke a cigarette in the bathroom, which made the bus driver furious. So he pulled over the bus and for about 10 minutes scolded her with many instructions as to how to avoid such stupidity in the future. I felt like giving him a high five as he walked back to the driver's seat, but I restrained myself because several angry French people thought that his tirade (entirely held in Spanish even though the French folks were requesting that he speak French) lasted too long. Verbal fights about the bus being cold and then fierce verbal battles about the bus being too warm brought me flashbacks from scenes out of Gladiator. The driver endured the brunt of all these complaints and frustrations. When I arrived in Marseille, I felt like crap from all the stress.
I hiked for a mile to meet a familiar face. Clothilde was once a visiting professor at Mines with an office next to mine. She allowed me to stay in her place as a refuge.
Clothilde set me up to climb with some of her friends at the Calanques, but we ended up climbing some slab in a light rain. =] I put the draws on the scariest 11d of my life at this place. I have no plans to return to do the harder routes.
[Mental photo activity: imagine a flat piece of granite like rock that sucks and insert it here.]
I sort of gathered that the climbing in Marseille was not my style, so the next day I rented a car and drove 2.5 hours to Ceuse. Now this was nice: during the drive through the beautiful countryside of southern France, I was continually accompanied by large fields of colorful flowers who were receiving a tango lesson from the light wind. I watched the flowers being wildly dipped into the green grass, but I'll ask Shelton to confirm that these were tango moves.
After the slab, I could hardly contain myself as I was approaching Ceuse. Towering high above the valley, the cliffs of Ceuse just beg you to hike to them as they are unmistakably visible from almost any point from the flowering fields below. So as soon as I arrived at the campsite, I parked the car and bursted up the trail. The burst lasted for the entire long, long hike. And when I say long hike, I'm not joking. This bad boy cliff is straight up hill for 45 minutes or more.
As soon as I arrived at the cliff, I people started offering me belays even before I would ask! [For me, this experience was much better than showing up to Rifle without a partner - anyone feel me there? I love Rifle but I think we need a cultural revolution out there]. Anyway, I got to climb almost immediately. Three climbs deep, I sent my first Ceuse 12a, not without complications though.
Ceuse sort of seems like a mushroom to me. Similar to a mushroom cap, the cliff band is almost perfectly round and much of the climbing starts vertical only to tapper off as you get closer to the top. Now I have not tested this theory, but apparently most mushrooms are poisonous and will make you sick. Ceuse was a cap that I should not have tasted. The climbing generally has crimps and slopping pockets (except for one good wall), which stole my health. On that 12a, I was pulling on a mono crimp with my left middle finger when I heard it pop. It was so loud that my belayer heard it! It seriously sounded like a nerf gun shooting a ball by the force of compressed air. Ceuse is a poisonous mushroom and my ruptured pulley can prove it, but the view from the cliff is worth the hike.
I had planned to stay in Ceuse for two days, but the finger injury made that pointless. So I did the long hike back down to camp and drove during the night to reach Marseille. When I arrived at Clothilde house, I realized that I had reached my France synopsis: I saw a small part of this country and it didn't really make me want more. I thought that I might go to Fontainebleau, but I couldn't bring myself to stay. Hence, I was on my way to Finale Ligure, Italy in the morning.