Verdon Gorge: ‘The Only Way Out Is to Climb Out’

Four decades on, sport climbing may be relatively tame. But in its birthplace in the 2,000-foot-deep Verdon Gorge, ‘the only way out is to climb out.’

Early climbers thought the Verdon Gorge in France was an impossible challenge. Too deep, too steep, too blank.

Then, they developed a sport where impossibility was the objective: enter sport climbing.

Rock climbers like François Guillot made the first timid forays down into the Verdon in the late 1960s. Rappelling into nothingness for hundreds of feet, they hunted first ascents on the swirling limestone faces.

“At the time, Verdon was not considered as a place climbable,” a gray-mustached Guillot says in his thick French accent. “But I decided to have a double-check.” He cracks a brilliant smile and laughs.

Verdon Gorge rock climber Francois Guillot
Verdon Gorge first ascensionist François Guillot; (photo/3 Strings via Vimeo)

Watch him, Emily Harrington, Matt Segal, and others talk history and go climbing in National Geographic-produced “The Verdon Gorge – The Origins of Sport Climbing.”

Runtime: 8 minutes

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Sam Anderson

Sam Anderson is a staff writer at GearJunkie, and several other All Gear websites.

He has been writing about climbing, cycling, running, wildlife, outdoor policy, the outdoor industry, vehicles, and more for 2 years. Prior to GearJunkie, he owned and operated his own business before freelancing at GearHungry. Based in Austin, Texas, Anderson loves to climb, boulder, road bike, trail run, and frequent local watering holes (of both varieties).

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