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Certainly one of the best rock climbing cliffs in France (and hence, in Europe), Presles has more than 300 routes and is known for its brilliant multi pitch climbing. Located on the northwest side of the Vercors plateau in a very rural setting, the crag is mostly 250m high yielding an abundance of 8 to 12 pitch routes.
South facing, warm in spring and fall, climbable on nice days in the winter, and purportedly quite hot in the heat of summer, this is a year-round destination.
Set above the very small town of Choranche, the views superb, the rock bulletproof and excellent limestone, the situation serene, a day (week, month, year!) at Presles would satisfy the most discerning of rock climbing aficionados.
The immense Presles escarpment (nearly 5 km long) is broken up into 14 or 15 secteurs. There are venues from the standard 6-12 pitch long routes, to single pitch sport climbing.
The more popular sport climbing areas are:
•Tina Dalle: nearly 70 routes, mostly well bolted, ranging from a couple 3c’s to 8c. - A number of fun, slabby 4’s and 5’s with many routes in the 6-8 range.
•Pierrot Beach: a long, spread out area with over 100 routes ranging from a single 5a to 9a. - Majority of routes from 7a to 8c.
•Balme Etrange: 50 or so routes, ranging from 6a to 8a.
Some of the popular areas and longer routes:
•Rochers de Nugues: 120 meter high crag with 3 to 5 pitch routes, located to the west of the D292 road, this is a good place to acquaint oneself to the area.
•Autre Monde: the furthest west of the main Presles cliff to the east of the D292, this area has shorter 40 to 150m routes. Good introduction area. Bim Bam Boum and La Voix d’Eliane popular.
•Les Buis: 30 or so 7 to 10 pitch routes with the namesake, Les Buis, a great moderate.
•Chrysanthèmes : highlighted by good rock, 40 some routes, mostly 8 to 12 pitches. Popular routes from Nosferatu, La Grotte,Topomaniak and Chrysanthèmes.
•Léadine et Pierre : namesake routes the big hitters at this secteur.
•Grottes de Choranche: Le Fou Qui Repeint son Plafond and Digitibus the most climbed venues in this less crowded area.
•Fond du Cirque: Serviteur du Prophète and Même pas peur popular outings in this less travelled spot.
The list could go on and on...
Double 60m ropes are recommended for most of the long routes (wandering pitches, rappel full length possible in inclement weather, etc). For routes that top out, it’s possible to climb some routes with a single 60m rope. A set of 12 or more quickdraws, 4 to 6 shoulder length slings (‘biners to match) and a couple double length slings, along with a set of nuts and cams (.3 to 3 Camalots or equivalent) should suffice for most routes.
Fixed gear is plentiful on some routes, but, sometimes the bolts are well spread out and supplementing especially in crack features will help keep the hair shirt from getting too itchy. There are less travelled routes that still sport pegs and/or little in the way of fixed gear.
There are campgrounds at Choranche and at Pont en Royans. Several gîte d'étape are located nearby and there are some hotels in the nearby towns.
In the town of Presles is the affable L'Auberge de Presles: some jazz, a bite of Italian cooking, perhaps a communal refuge (a number of bunk beds). Recommended is the lasagna (!).
On the top of the Rochers de Nugues is the Gîte Gazon which is a refuge for 10 people which would be a great location especially if one lacked transportation.
There’s a gear store, groceries, butcher, bakeries in Pont-en-Royans. Villard-de-Lans and St. Marcellin both have large supermarkets.
Please remember, it is strictly forbidden to “wild” camp in this area.
The most complete guidebook to the area is Dominque Duhaut’s Escalades à Presles. Immense amount of beta and includes both the sport crags and longer routes. The book also has useful practical information as well as a table of common climbing terms in 5 languages (!). In French with some general descriptions in English.
Also useful is Philippe Brass’ best of book, Les Plus Belles Voies de Presles. Selected route topos for the more popular routes in color, as well as color photos to aid in identifying locations. In French only.
There’s a number of Presles routes in Brass’ book, 6a MAX Dauphiné. Recommended for routes in the 6a grade range for Presles, as well as other areas nearby. In French only.
Presles is located 110 km south of Lyon, between Grenoble (65 km) and Valence (50 km). The easiest way is by car, of course, but, if public transportation is the only option, then a bus to the town of Presles would suffice, with a short 2 km or so hike to the crag from town.
There are a couple of ways to reach the crag. The easiest is to drive the A49 freeway between Grenoble and Valence, and take either exit 8 to Saint-Nazaire-en-Royans or exit 9 towards Saint-Romans.
• Exit 8: Possibly the easiest approach for first-timers. From Saint-Nazaire-en-Royans take the D531 to Pont-en-Royans and from there the D531 towards Villard-de-Lans. Look for and take the D292 on the left towards Presles. The cliff band above is Presles. There’s also a road from Choranche rising up back to the west which connects with the aforementioned road. If the destination is at/near the Grottes de Choranche, go past Choranche and look for the turnoff to the left (north) which passes by the GR9 hiking path enroute to parking for the eastern part of the cliff.
• Exit 9: This approach comes in through the town of Presles and the top of the crag. Drive to Saint-Romans and then towards St-Pierre-de-Chérennes on the D31. Take the D292 to the town of Presles. From Presles, head in the direction of Choranche on the D292. Just south of town the road will cut through the escarpement and switchback after a tunnel through the rock. Depending on the venue, there’s parking back at the top on the east side of the road, or, at the switchbacks.
• A scenic approach or nice loop from Grenoble is drive to/from the D531 through Lans-en-Vercors past Villard-de-Lans. From Lans-en-Vercors, either continue down the D531 to Grenoble, or, take the scenic (and sometimes faster) route to St-Nizier-de-Moucherotte then down to Grenoble. This route passes through the Gorges de la Bourne and pastoral scenic country with good views of the high ridgeline on the eastern edge of the Vercors plateau.
This is a fun, classic route which follows natural weaknesses in the cliff while maintaining exposed positions.P1: Start by climbing up to the left leaning ramp and follow that, past an intermediate belay (for the route La Dame de Coeur, etc) and traverse nearly straight left to a belay at the base of a large right facing corner. 5.5 40m.P2: Climb the corner and belay at the top of the dihedral. 5.6 30m.P3: Move up to the right and climb the right facing dihedral belaying at its top, below ...[more]Browse More Classics in International