Cirque de Solitude - how prepared do I need to be?

acooper

Posted: Wed, May 15, 2013, 12:02

Hi all,

Looking forward to doing the GR20 North-South at the end of June. While the whole thing looks massively exciting, I can't help but feel concerned about the Cirque - possibly through pathological over-Googling.

I'm 28, fit, pretty strong and have lots of experience walking and some climbing (bouldering) experience, though nothing too challenging. However, I don't really have much between the two - my scrambling experience is almost non-existent.

Is scrambling experience necessary? And could you recommend anywhere in England or Wales that might give me a similar (or similarly challenging) experience, without any gear? I want to make sure I'm treating the Cirque with the respect it deserves, but I also don't want to miss out on a great experience and the feeling of having completed the official route.

Would be grateful for any thoughts!

Cheers,

Harry



Michele
moderator

Posted: Wed, May 15, 2013, 13:00

Harry,

Although caution and concentration are always in order when doing the Cirque, quite frankly I believe this place is highly overrated in terms of difficulty. True it can become dangerous and slippery during a rainfall (and therefore is to be avoided in case of bad weather), but if the weather is fine and the terrain is dry, all you need to do is to watch your steps and follow closely the waymarks. Chains are in place whenever some assistance is needed. For the rest just use your best judgement.
People who get scared are mostly those who've never done any climbings and/or never dealt with steeps. You are fit, strong with lots of experience in walking and some in bouldering. You are going to be ok, I promise. When you reach Col Perdu (Bocca Tumasginesca) the first impression can be intimidating, but that's just an impression. You don't have to look too far ahead. Quite the opposite. Follow the next waymark/cairn, watch your step and your footing. And when needed there are plenty of holds. After the first 5 minutes you'll start to relax.

--Michele



Turnertactics
moderator

Posted: Wed, May 15, 2013, 13:30

Harry

Personally I was a bit dissapointed by it.

I was hoping for something more challenging!

We even resorted to not using the fitted chains and ladders just to make it more difficult.

Bouldering experience would be useful but you might find some easy grade scrambling useful in your preparation. If you're heading for the hills to build fitness & stamina, add in a scramble or two.

The Cirque is no more than grade 1 scrambling, if that.

--

Alan



Tarjei

Posted: Wed, May 15, 2013, 14:09

I also have the notion that the Cirque is an urban legend. What you hear about it is much worse than what it actually is, and it just get worser the more people talk about it.

It was actually quite fun to do it. Though I also was expecting it to be much more challenging.

As Michele already has said, you should of course be careful. Be then again, in my opinion, you should be careful when walking in the mountains anyway.

Tarjei



dinny

Posted: Wed, May 15, 2013, 16:22

Hmm...I'd had several years climbing experience before going to the Cirque but none-the-less the traverse section without chains/handholds/protection freaked me out. I hate traversing at the best of times, but that section was very exposed with a long, long way to fall. The straight forward up and down parts were no problem for me...in fact, no one else there seemed to have any difficulty, so maybe its just me...ok, it's just me! Though I was travelling as light as possible, I had all my camping gear and dehydrated food on my back, so the pack made my centre of balance a bit off-kilter.
Once I'd got to the top I couldn't speak for 10 minutes.
Having said all that, I want to go back and do it better!



Michele
moderator

Posted: Wed, May 15, 2013, 18:23

(quote) the traverse section without chains/handholds/protection freaked me out. (/quote)
If I'm not mistaken, it's on your way up, right? Well I too wondered: why on earth didn't they protect this part? hmmm

--Michele



Turnertactics
moderator

Posted: Wed, May 15, 2013, 19:00

Harry

If you want a couple of scrambling experiences to get you in the mood, try following Jack's Rake on Pavey Arc in Langdale (Lake District). It's always a fun outing, especially if you combine it with a trip up Mill Gill. Such fun! There's so much scrambling sport to be had in Langdale, It's worth a whole week's visit. I've taken my children up them both and they coped fine!

In Wales, Crib Goch is the best easy scramble but it's not in a Cirque du Solitude style. Try The North Ridge of Tryfan and Bristly Ridge instead. If you find them OK, you'll have absolutely no problems with the Cirque.

--

Alan



dinny

Posted: Wed, May 15, 2013, 22:02

Hey Michele,

That's right - its on the way up out of the Cirque going North to South. If rain moved in while one was in the Cirque, that traverse would be really nasty...
Other hikers seemed unfazed by it - practically stolling along with hands in pockets, whistling Dixie!

Best wishes for your next adventure,
Dinny



acooper

Posted: Thu, May 16, 2013, 10:23

Hi all,

That's absolutely brilliant - thanks so much for your help and advice. North Ridge of Tryfan it is this weekend then... if the rain/snow holds off! Cheers all.

Harry



Joanna

Posted: Thu, May 16, 2013, 11:20

Before you reach the cirque, you'd already have done some scrambling on the gr, so you'd get enough experience just by doing that. And just to give you some perspective on how it's like: my husband is not very comfortable with heights, and we did have do turn back and go down a few time while scrambling/climbing in the Alps because of that, but he did not experience the Cirque as scary at all!

On the other hand, we did meet a guy walking from the south with a group who was so scared that they had to belay him with a rope, but that must be a one-off case...



Tarjei

Posted: Thu, May 16, 2013, 12:14

Either way, it's best to see it for yourself anyway. I would recommend going up to Col Perdu and see it for yourself. And if you feel that it looks too intimidating you could always go back and take another route around.

Be careful, and you'll be fine.

Tarjei



Gaffr

Posted: Thu, May 16, 2013, 12:50

Must admit I didn't spend much time looking around but I got the feeling that the descent and re-ascent of the cirque was perhaps the easiest way?
How would one circumvent the cirque if required? Descend from Haut Ascu and somehow get round to Col di Viergo or to Auberge U Vallone to continue the journey? Ascend Monte Cintu and descend to Tighjettu? I recall meeting a couple of Belgian folks there and I'm sure that they said they had been up and down Cintu from Tighjettu. I also recall that the scrambling on the lower down slabs of Cintu, although not hard, was more difficult than anything in the Cirque. Maybe I had the wrong line on this but I'm sure that I returned by the same way!
I did feel that the wee descent,on good rock, after the breche de Capitellu to reach the area of bocca a Soglia, was as interesting, although quite short, as anything on the entire route.
In the cirque, on the descent section coming from the North, the loose material lying around was a concern especially when below a number of folks moving. On that day everyone was careful and I was not aware of any stones bouncing down from above!....but it is an additional concern. Quite a contrast from the rock on the ascent side of the cirque which is very sound.

--

Gaffr



Turnertactics
moderator

Posted: Thu, May 16, 2013, 19:35

Have fun.

The weather forecast isn't too good though.

Make sure you do Bristly Ridge as well as it's an obvious continuation and better than the North Ridge and you should be aiming for a good long day out on the mountain to build stamina.

--

Alan