The Les Gaillands sport climbing crag is usually pretty overpopulated due to its easy access from the parking lot and small size. But it is still lots of fun!
During a week long climbing adventure on Mont Blanc in France I visited the Les Gaillands sport climbing crag to endure a morning climb. The crag is located in the town of Charmonix, which lies at the base of the massive Mont Blanc massif. The tallest mountain on the European continent! Charmonix is a vinter sports paradise, but in the summer the town transforms into an outdoor enthusiasts Mecca! There are several Traditional and Sport climbing crags nearby and it is a very popular trekking and hiking area. Actually one trail around the Mont Blanc massif takes you across the borders of France, Schweiz and Italy.
Approaching the crag is very easy. From the lift that leads to to Aiguille du Midi follow the D1506 road south-west. At the second roundabout, take the first right right turn and follow Route Benoît Couttet until you see Lac des Gaillands (The Gaillands Lake) to the right. Take a right turned follow D243 about 100 meters and you will se the parking place to the left. Park there and you can see the crag in front of you.
The Les Gaillands sport climbing crag consists of several single-pitch and dual-pitch sport climbing routes in various height. The majority of grades are between 6 and 7 with a few grade 5 and 4 routes.
I went with a group of people that I usually go climbing with. We are a quite international team consisting of three Danes, one semi-Danes/semi-German, one Scot and an Icelandic. My climbing buddy for the day, Sigurður (or Siggy as he is referred to by the group I usually go climbing with), a 24-year old member of the Icelandic Mountain Rescue team, and I chose the ‘Le dièdre Terray’ (4a, 5c/6a) route, a classical dual-pitch route of approximately 45 meters.
The ‘Le dièdre Terray’ (4a, 5c/6a) route stands as one of my most clearest sport climbing memories as this is the very first sport climbing route I have ever climbed! I have trained hard in the gym to prepare for this trip and was really looking forward to touch rock for the first time. I had the pleasure to lead the first pitch, an easy 4a pitch with no hard moves. Siggy led the second pitch, a 5c/6a, which was much harder. The second pitch starts from a pretty nice plateau, where you can get a nice overview of the pitch and plan out the climb. The pitch has pretty nice hand holds in the first section consisting of jugs and edges, but from the middle of the pitch the difficulty increases as you approach the crux. The crux is definitely as you ascend up via a tight corner that has some nice cracks that you can use as hand holds, but keeping the balance can be pain and you test your stamina as well as the corner face outwards from the cliff as a very small overhang.
I remember climbing the second pitch being a challenge. My confidence was low even though I would easily climb grade 5 routes indoors. My advice is that if you choose to go sport climbing for the first time, try out grades that are at least one grade lower than what you are used to. Simply with the sole purpose of building confidence as you gain experience from rock climbing.
I would really like to go back to the Les Gaillands sport climbing crag and try out the ‘Le dièdre Terray’ (4a, 5c/6a) one more time – now with more technical experience from climbing other crags and most importantly with more self confidence. Anyway, if you are around Charmonix at the foot of Mont Blanc in France, you should definitely consider giving the Les Gaillands sport climbing crag a chance. It is close the town, good fun, but be aware that it will be crowded.