At a completely virgin site like Getu the problem of equipment was present in all its complexity. Before all the necessary gear could be sent, an experienced eye was needed to evaluate the quality and quantity of what might be needed.

Responsibility for the inventory fell to Erwan Le Lann who was supervised by Olivier Balma and assisted by Whan, a park ranger.

 

Accrobatic access to bolt in the ceiling of the Big Arch
Accrobatic access to bolt in the ceiling of the Big Arch

 

Lelann described the challenge:
Prior to equipping a route, you must have a clear idea of the material that will be used. There is always a compromise between several constraints. First, there is the nature of the rock, which at Getu is an urgonian limestone. Then, there is the climate. Humid areas in general, and marine environments specifically, do not hold expansion bolts very well, especially when the rock is soft. But sometimes you have no choice; you have to work with what you have. At Getu, for reasons of logistics and planning, we chose to equip the routes with expansion bolts: 10mm for multi-pitch routes,12mm for the sport routes.

The Drill Dream Team
The Drill Dream Team

Following that, he had to evaluate the potential of the site: 300 to 500 pitches spread across 15 sectors. 5000 bolts would initially be sent. The same scale applied to the drills and bits needed to drill holes, hammers to clean the rock and drive the bolts, static rope for accessing the routes, wrenches to tighten the bolts, hangers for the belays, cordelettes to connect the dots, brushes to clean the holds, etc.

As for the route setters, they all brought their own personal gear: a comfortable harness they could hang in for several hours, long-sleeve cotton shirts to keep from getting burned, leather gloves, GRIGRI 2, ASCENSION ascender, CROLL, slings, locking carabiners, etc. Climbers generally choose lightweight personal equipment for working on a rope because a route setter is not a mule. His job is to imagine an aesthetic, sustained line and before drilling a bolt he must first try the sequence and determine the best bolt placement for making a safe clip. Route setters never stop being climbers.

 

Yann Mimet pushes on the drill.
Yann Mimet pushes on the drill.

 

"It was very exciting," says Erwan, "to arrive in this practically virgin area. Ordinarily you get to a site that has already been exploited and the challenge is to find the last clean lines. At Getu, it’s a bit like rocking up to a totally virgin Buoux with only a few days to work – aarghhh! Where do you start?!"

Faced with the magnitude of the place, the first climbers applied the "theory of small steps." First, an beautiful line goes up here, then one not-as-beautiful goes up next to it, then onto a third which is also a four-star route. We had to think in terms of sectors rather than scattering and having work areas springing up everywhere.

"One of my concerns was that due to the very high level of route setters, only difficult routes would be put up. So I insisted that routes be opened in all different grades and I seem to have prevailed. There are loads of routes in grades 4 and 5. Out of 250 pitches, we have everything from 9a to 4c. It’s all there," explained Erwan.




Observation before action / Discussion around the drill  / Watch out !!! Rooooooock !

Finally, is there a specific way that routes with stalactites and calcite petals should be opened?

"The problem of solidity is that a limestone deposit doesn’t usually have the same cohesion as the wall that supports it. Sometimes it’s solid, but other times it can be like chalk so it’s impossible to place a bolt there.
You also have to think about the path of the rope so that there won’t be too much friction, and so that when a climber eventually falls the rope will not move across fragile formations that could potentially break off as a result of the shock."

 

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