Between Marseille and Cassis the Mediterranean coast forms one of the finest limestone massif of the world, wild and well preserved, despite being very close to the civilization: the Calanques de Marseille. All the Calanques are truly amazing, a unique environment, breathtaking and world famous! A spectacular area and a magical place to practise many outdoor activities, including hiking and above all climbing. The white limestone of the Calanques overlooks narrow fjords and a blue and turquoise sea with unmatched aesthetics and offers unforgettable sensations.
When people talk about "Les Calanques" it actually covers an area that is almost 20 kms long with several climbing sites:
Les Goudes climbing area is one of the highlight of Calanques de Marseille. Located at the western end of the Calanques massif, the Les Goudes area dominates the picturesque port of Callelongue with its small "cabanons". Above the tiny seaside village it stands out one of the most beautiful and celebrated rocky cirques of the Calanques. There is everything there! The sea, the small fishing port with its characteristic housesand the impressive crags just above! The absolutely attractive rocky amphitheater, also visible both from Callelongue and the village of Les Goudes, is formed by the mighty rocky tower of the Rocher des Goudes, on the right, which contrasts with the frail and thin cliff of the Lames.
More to the left we find the beautiful wall of the Rocher de Saint Michel d'Eau Douce and even further away the Tete du Trou du Chat. Beyond its fascinating appearance Les Goudes area is very interesting in reason of the quick access and the great variety of routes and climbing styles and above all in reason of the different orientation of the cliffs. The possibilities are numerous and varied and range from the multipitches to the single pitches routes, from the technical slabs to the overhangs.
From Cassis, take the road D559 in the direction of Marseille ( towards West). After crossing the Col de Gineste, the road descends to the East end of the town Marseille. Follow the main road getting to the Mazargue obelisk, situated in the East side of Marseille. When reaching the "Mazargue" round-about, turn to left and follow the well signed road to Sormiou, At a following round-about leave to the left the road to Sormiou and follow the signpost to Pointe-Rouge and Madrague de Montredon. Once you reach the seafront, turn to left and continue along the coast towards the characteristic village of Les Goudes, pass it and continue to the tiny port of Callelongue, where the road ends.
The approaches to the various climbing sectors are carried out by Callelongue. After parking the car near the small village, follow the path between the cabanons, turn to the left, then soon take the green path to the right rising to the various climbing sectors.
The Rocher des Goudes offers some great routes on its short but severe shady and overhanging North wall and several single pitches on the opposite and sunny South crag, overlooking the sea. Truly infinite are the possibilities on the Rocher de Saint Michel d'Eau Douce, a with a double exposure ranging from the sunny South wall facing the Mediterranean and the very wide and cool West wall. On this face it's situated the interesting Grotte de l'Hermite.
The area is completed by some single-pitches cliffs:
- Escaliers des Gèants
- Jardin d'Enfants
- Flammes de Pierre
Les Goudes area is situated inside the Calanques National Park, a very frail “milieu”, where the climate is arid and the winds may sometimes be violent; this factors, together with the closeness to the urban areas, make this environment particularly frail. Fires risk is very high; Sormiou, Morgioux and Callelongue routes are closed from 7h to 19h starting from June to the end of September. Fires, free camping and bivouac are absolutely forbidden. Check the park official website to know the prohibitions and permissions for the access during the summer months: Calanques National Park.
The Mediterranean climate – sunny and very mild – is extremely dry in this area; the precipitations are very few and centred on rare rainy days, but sometimes becoming torrential. Eastern and North Western winds – the last one is the famous “mistral” - sometimes may be extremely violent. The Calanques are almost entirely molded by the urgonian limestone, a white sedimentary and hard rock having an excellent quality.
All year round excluding the summer really too hot and with various access restrictions as said at the previous chapter. Local climbers adapt themselves to the climate, climbing all around the year and choosing the sunny sides in wintertime and North faces during the hot season. Anyhow this is an excellent advice for planning a climbing trip: the best season goes from October to May.
A great place to stay is the little town of Cassis with wide possibility of accomodation, including a good campsite:
Camping Les Cigales Avenue de la Marne - Cassis Phone 00330442010734
“Escalade Les Calanques” by Andrè Bernard - Gilles Bernard - Pierre Clarac – Hervè Guigliarelli – Bernard Privat Ed. Nota Bene
"Alpes du Sud - Provence" by Hervé Galley - Editions Olizane
“Calanques Escalade” by Jean Luois Fenouil and Cèdric Tassan – Ed. VTopo
Map: "Les Calanques de Marseille a Cassis" 3615 IGN 1:15.000