“Falls during rope soloing are static and intense – not the best experience.”

Siebe Vanhee has developed a taste for rope soloing. In the Verdon Gorge, he managed free ascents of Une Jolie Fleur dans un Peaux de Vache (300m, 8b) and Take it or Leave it (110m, 8a) in this demanding style. In the case of the former, it would have almost been an onsight ascent if it hadn't been for this tiny error in his rope solo system.

Nachdem Siebe Vanhee Last August he was able to climb the steep and exposed 500-meter route El Pilar del Cantabrico (8a+) on Picu Urreillu Rope-Solo, he wanted to be in the Verdon Gorge an even more difficult multi-pitch route: A Jolie Fleur in a Peaux de Vache (300m, 8b).

I chose this line because of its steepness. Steep climbing and long rope lengths make falls softer and safer.

Siebe Vanhee

And of course he wanted to go a little higher in terms of difficulty than on his last rope solo adventure in Spain, where he was able to climb an 8a+.

Just past the onsight inspection

At 8 a.m. Siebe Vanhee started the route at the foot of the Parois du Duc. After the 6b entry pitch, the 8b key pitch was approaching.

I was nervous but also confident as I had been able to onsight climb the famous Hulkosaure route (8b) two days earlier.

Siebe Vanhee

“But it was still a completely different caliber, rope solo.” However, his set-up worked perfectly, which increased his confidence in climbing the pitch onsight. Said and done. Now the chances of onsighting the entire tour were really good.

A lot of air under his butt: Siebe Vanhee during his rope solo from Une Jolie Fleur dans un Peaux de Vache (300m, 8b). Image: Jean Elie Lugon
A lot of air under his butt: Siebe Vanhee during his rope solo from Une Jolie Fleur dans un Peaux de Vache (300m, 8b). Image: Jean Elie Lugon

On the first 8a – a beautiful climb on a mono tufa – he quickly felt pumped. “I should have rested longer,” he remembers. “But that’s the downside of climbing alone, it’s difficult to get enough rest.”

I fought the pump, but my belay blocked me and in the middle of a hard pull I couldn't climb forward or backward.

Siebe Vanhee

A fall is inevitable. He had made a stupid mistake: he had hooked his belay device to the rope loop the wrong way around. After a 15-minute break, he completed the pitch on the second attempt. Siebe Vanhee was able to onsight climb the last 8a pitch high above the Verdon Gorge.

  • Siebe-Vanhee-Jolie-Fleur-4
  • Siebe-Vanhee-Jolie-Fleur-3
  • Siebe-Vanhee-Jolie-Fleur-2

Next rope solo: A classic by Patrick Edlinger

Two days later he took the Verdon classic Take it or leave it (110m, 8a). The first two pitches went well, although he had to get used to the style of the route and the steepness of the wall. However, in the following 7c he made a mistake and fell unceremoniously.

The fall was static and intense – not the best experience. I have to think of something to make falls more dynamic.

Siebe Vanhee
Siebe Vanhee during his rope solo ascent of the Verdon classic Take it or Leave it (110m, 8a). Image: Jean Elie Lugon
Siebe Vanhee during his rope solo ascent of the Verdon classic Take it or Leave it (110m, 8a). Image: Jean Elie Lugon

Next, the famous 8a pitch with the wide key pull was waiting for him. Here, too, he got through on the second attempt after bouldering out the movements. “Certainly, the technical style of the route and the fact that I climbed it rope solo made it more difficult.”

And nevertheless, rope soloing is a climbing style that is exciting and new for him, enthuses Siebe Vanhee.

I can't yet climb as freely as I can when I'm with someone, but the mental and technical aspect of rope soloing gives it an interesting dimension.

Siebe Vanhee
Siebe-Vanhee-Take-it-or-leave-it-2
«I love the social component of climbing. But the challenge of being able to deal with everything that comes along on your own is very exciting.” Image: Jean Elie Lugon

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Credits: Cover picture Jean Elie Lugon

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