How do you climb a cliff by bike?


By Guillaume Rodellas
June 22, 2023

Arrrh!

"Hurry up and take the picture. My abs are killing me and I'm shaking like a vibrator."

It's been a while since a silly idea came out of the Captain Wild team's hat. But we needed a good excuse to do it again.

The last photo had left its mark. The sofa in portaledge mode. This good old cliclac, bought on the corner, had almost opened up in the middle of the wall when Mistletoe, the third of the gang, had delicately sat down with all his weight.

The memory of the squeaking sound of ropes being pulled taut, cushion springs squeaking and... the exceptional view from the rocky cliff of La Chambotte above Lac du Bourget, Aix-les-bains. One of our fondest memories of outdoor nonsense. We had to do it again, but with an equally ambitious idea!

When you set yourself this kind of challenge, you have to come up with an idea that everyone can get behind. We were in the middle of creating our cycling holidaysand the subject revolved mainly around wheel size and personal VMA. We needed to make a big impact to get us out of the winter and back in the saddle. That's when the vélo-falaise project came up.

Hang a tandem in the middle of a wall, to represent cycling in its entirety. Mountain biking, roaming and cycling in a single image, sprinkled with the Captain Wild touch.

A project like this is imagined around a fresh craft beer from the father-in-law, Brasserie Interstellaire du Devoluy (we do a bit of advertising for the family). Then it's time to get down to business:

  • Find a photographer? Easy, it's Antoine Mesnage. The Annécien highliner and adventure buddy. He'd already delighted us with his photos of the sofa. The guy knows how to handle vacuum and photography at the same time.
  • Finding a spot? Fat Map to find a cliff with an unobstructed view, but accessible for mounting a bike, and some distance for the photographer. The real ones will recognize the spot.
  • Find a tandem? It's more fun to be with others. One look at Bon Coin and you realize that there are a lot of farmers' barns full of nuggets.
  • Finding a secure hanging system? Well, that's our specialty. After 2/3 tests on the office walls, we had settled on the main one.
  • Finding a weather window? We needed a sunset for warm lights, to fit in with everyone's after-work schedule, all between 2 clouds.
  • Finding a logistics team? All you have to do is lift a finger, and everyone will want to help out, just to watch a few gignolos jiggle around at the end of a rope, with Lake Annecy in the background.

 

When the big day arrives, the excitement mounts. Like an expedition to climb a big wall in Patagonia, the gear is laid out on the ground, carabiners are counted, ropes are coiled in the harness bridles, and the maneuvers are reviewed one last time...

The first of the roped parties attack the climbing face via a route to the right, giving access to a rocky spur some 40m high. At the top of the pillar, the pitons are being sniffed out, and the temperature of the project is beginning to sink in. The first ropes are thrown into the void. The project takes shape.

Down below, I harness up with my cycling and bullshit companion, Seb. Despite my confidence, I sense a few doubts on his face, but the guy remains determined.

The bike flies into the air, and off it goes!

You've got to imagine that a rope-assisted bike ascent isn't all that complicated. The climber abseils down and pulls the bike up with his weight. A rope clamp at the belay makes the rope slide in one direction, preventing the bike from returning to the ground. Except that the handlebars get caught in a fault.

Plan B, I hook a handle onto a static rope from the ground. I start to climb up the 9mm diameter rope with the strength of my arms. It's late in the day, but the sun is beating down hard, reverberating off the wall. I'm dressed like an enduro mountain biker, sweating like an ice cream cone in the sun.

When I get to the tandem, I try to unblock the beast, but the thing weighs a lot. We avoid getting tangled up with the ropes, and I get a couple of pedal strokes in the shins, but it finally comes loose.

As the sun begins to dip in the sky, we need to speed up.

I arrive at the spot we'd scouted for the gear. We're on a climbing route equipped with plates for hanging quickdraws (not bikes). I take a cord from my harness and wrap it around the fork. I clip the carabiner to the plate fixed to the wall. It holds!

The moment of truth is here.

I pull myself tight on the rope. I flex my hamstrings to get my leg over the saddle. Both my feet leave the rock, my hands grip the handles, I put my soles on the tandem's rusty pedals ... HOURRA, it works!

Seb doesn't wait a second longer. The clock is against us. He climbs under the bike on the rope. He straddles the rear seat, attaches himself to the "mountaineering bow tie" to double the safety.

Axel is at the top of the rocky outcrop, playing the role of cinema boom operator. He holds the flashlight at arm's length just above our heads. Seb and I cheer each other on, stretching backwards to give the impression that we're pedaling vertically. Our abs heat up like never before to the point of shaking the whole structure of the bike. We cramp up, grit our teeth... then we hear Antoine's scream with his camera on the right of the cliff:

"ÇA SHOOT

Thanks to all the team for their support on this project

Harold and Eloi for logistics and backstage

Axel as vacuum boom operator

Antoine Mesnage, of course, for the exceptional photos

Seb to accompany me in this kind of plan

Mistletoe for your dubious look on our c** plans

Article written by Guillaume (the other member of the team)

We're already thinking about the next plan 😉