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Tête de Gondole

by Caroline Minvielle.


Route name: Tête de Gondole

Location: Boffi cliff, Millau, France

Route grade: 8b+

Route type: single-pitch

Route opener: Ivan Sorro

My story with Tête de Gondole begins in 2008, during the Petzl Roc Trip.

I was 18 then, I was climbing 7c/+, and I remember that the strongest women were almost all attempting to climb this incredible route. Watching them climb was like fantasizing.

At the time, this route seemed beyond my reach, but I felt the desire to conquer it slowly growing inside me.

Tête de Gondole is a pillar that connects the west face to the south face of the Boffi crag near Millau. When the sun is shining, the ridge is defined and takes shape above the Gorges de la Dourbie, becoming imposing and majestic.

The route is visible from miles away, from the road that descends from the Causses, making you immediately want to climb! Fortunately, there are enough holds to allow the route to be climbed.

In April 2021, I returned after many years to attempt this impressive route. As is often the case, the hardest thing is deciding to get started! The first attempts are always complicated. The route hadn’t been climbed by anyone in a long time. Moss covered the rock, there were very few traces indicating which holds to use, and the direction to take on the pillar wasn’t always easy to identify. In fact, I fell when I was two quickdraws from the belay, at the crux of the route.


The next day I moved on to the top part, lowering myself on a static rope to brush the holds, remove the moss, and study the moves. The ones I had visualized all worked, but I was missing one. So I decided to call a friend, Pierre Soulé, who immediately managed to solve my problem by giving me the answer I was looking for: a calf jam behind the crest. Obviously, I hadn’t thought of that! So I started climbing, but I almost always fell on the last moves, and on the fourth day of attempts, before starting again, I fell with my hands already on the final hold. I couldn’t understand how I wasn’t able to grip such a big hold!

I told myself that on the next attempt, when cooler temperatures returned, I would be able to complete the route...



A week later, I had three days to go back to the Boffi, even though the weather was uncertain. I was confident, but I still fell two more times with my hands touching this last huge hold. I understood that I was lacking something and that it wasn’t just a matter of the high temperatures on those days. I had to use four fingers instead of three on the next-to-last hold, but it wasn’t that easy. In fact, at first I still continued to fall in an attempt to correct this small detail ...

The last day, after three more falls on the final moves, I finally managed to position my fingers right, and my willpower allowed me to finish the route by gripping the last hold.

It was my desire to dream that pushed me to attempt this route, and it’s only thanks to the desire to finish this project, and my determination, that I was able to make it happen!


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