Les Trois Pucelles - the three virgins - is formed by three limestone fingers just before Saint-Nizier-du-Moucherotte in the Vercors massive, overlooking the city of Grenoble from which they are reachable in half an hour by car.
Though not a mountain per se, Les Trois Pucelles is a beautifull one-day 'adventure-climbing' outing. I add this page hoping to share this gem with people in or passing Grenoble. I do not have all info or photos available now - will add them later. If in the meantime someone else wants to take over page, just let me know.
In addition to the Voie Normale, There are a total of 32 routes ranging up to frenc 7c. Check out web page: http://www.promo-grimpe.com/html/3pucelles.htm and the guide book mentionned there (I have not read it). For crack-climbers I have from Voie Normale spotted a long slightly overhanging crack on the right (west) pucelle. This must be a hard and satisfying line for the bold.
From Grenoble drive to Seyssinet, then drive up to Vercord towards Saint-Nizier-du-Moucherotte. As you negotiate the switchback road suddenly Les Trois Pucelles will enter sight to the south. There is a parking lot (new houses being built summer 2004) in a southwards hair-pin-bend. CAUTION: Our car was broken into - an apparently increasing problem at trailheads in the region. Leave car empty. From Vercord, drive to Saint-Nizier, then descend towards Grenoble to above mentioned hair-pin-bend.
The route is composed of 5-7 pitches with short walking/scarabling in between. Depending on confidence level you can use dynamic belays for the walk/scramble parts. The climbing is very well protected with many bolts and quite varried (from memory - hope I get it right):
Pitch 1: Traverse around base of eastmost virgin
Pitch 2: Short chimeny. slippery - in particular when wet, but with several holes for positive grips.
From either walk path around or stay close to wall for a scramble through a small tunnel.
'crux' is towards end where a pitch climbs a 4-5m wide end-of-alley. Left corner has good grips but is vertical and may be pumpy for beginners (medium rock-climbers will find it easy). Midway up traverse to right side. Right side from bottom offers an interesting very flatwalled crack for more experienced climbers. Last pitch leads to the top, where lunch can be had while admiring the views. Sometimes rather windy, so bring a windblocking jacket.
Route can be rapelled (reverse climb traverse) if you have to bail before top.
Walk to far (south) end of summit, where a bolt allows rapelling. From here several options:
1) Rapell to the bottom on left (east) side.
1a) descend lots of scree around eastmost virgin to where climb started - carefull of slipping in upper part of gulley (I have not tried this and can not give precise directions)
1b) walk south along the side of the ridge from which you rapelled, first down, then back up to where the ridge turns to forrest. Option: Interesting (but only protected by one bolt) balance traverse on a 40 cm wide slab detached by 10 cm from the main wall. Otherwise just walk around.\
2) Rapell straight south to saddle point (often very windy), reclimb the ridge, follow ridge. One more 4-5m high down-climb, then back up - this part difficult to protect for last person, so team must have two confident climbers - the first and the last. Walk down ridge to forrest, where you join with option 2. Hike first slightly up forrest under/around a fallen tree. Look out for obvous path descending to the right (called sentier geologique a bit furtehr down). Descend this path through forrest back to car park.
Spring to Automn; winter if there is no snow. However, the easy route is north-facing and the chimney will stay wet a day after rain, so easiest if it didn't rain the day before.
Not sure about rules, but area above the pucelles is not that frequented and well suited for camping.
Weather forecast: http://www.meteofrance.com/FR/mameteo/prevVille.jsp?LIEUID=FR38433
None that I know of