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From Rioby in Rio to Pilier des Cathares, Calamès

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In search of fine weather, our route takes us to Ariège, between Tarascon and Ax-Les-Thermes, where there's no shortage of climbing areas: Orlu, Quié de Sinsat, Bédeilhac and many more. Our choice: a big route on the Pilier des Cathares, in the Calamès sector of Bédeilhac. The idea is to combine 2 routes that follow each other to exit on the rock's crest: Rioby in 3 pitches, then the last 2 pitches of Rio. The weather was fine, the limestone excellent and the route varied and well-equipped, even if a small set of friends was necessary, particularly for L4 of Rio. The view from the summit, over the Ax valley, is also well worth the detour. There are plenty of other routes in the area, so you're sure to come back.

Technical summary

Access to the place

At the 1st traffic circle off the 4-track road leading to the Ax-les-Thermes valley, turn right towards Bédeilhac. You'll easily recognize the large rock on your left, overlooking the village and corresponding to the Calamès sectors. Drive through the village and at the exit, on the left, park in the parking lot.

Itinerary description

Hiking to the start 20'

Exit from the rear of the parking lot along the Chemin de Calamès. Go through the village, then after the church, take the 2nd turning on the right. You soon come to a path in the woods, marked red and yellow. It climbs, then descends a little, past a sector of rinds (in the 6c/7a range), then climbs again. Exit fairly quickly, climbing towards the cliffs to find yourself under the Cathares pillar (see access map). The name of the route is indicated on the rock: Rioby just a few meters to the left of Rio.


The south-facing combined route is around 160m in 5 pitches (30m, 20m, 35m, 40m, 35m). Well equipped, except on L4 (from Rio) where, after the 1st point, you need a small set of friends for protection (but easy for IV+).

L1 (30m, V)
L1 de Rioby. Easy climbing between shrubs to a more vertical wall with good holds. R1 belay on a flat area.

L2 (20m, V)
L2 from Rioby. Short, fairly vertical with good little holds to get over the slab. Zigzag to find a better option. L3 can be followed directly.

L3 (35m, V+)
L3 de Rioby. Easy start, then a more vertical and finer section. Here too, you have to look for the best passage, sometimes to the right or left. A finer step or 2 at the top as you finish the traverse (use a long quickdraw to avoid pulling) to reach the end of L3 de Rio. The R4 belay on a small ledge.

L4 (40m, V)
L4 de Rio. Start on the right with a fairly vertical step (V), then continue in the IV without any possible nails, friends or lunules. Watch out for shifting rocks. Climb to the top of the pillar to climb R4 on the ridge.

L5 (35m, 6a)
L5 from Rio. Walk 20m to reach the wall above (not easy to know where to start). The first few metres on a slope to reach a wall. A first step (6a) and higher up under a rock the most difficult step to get out (good 6a). Then climb to the right in a dihedral before finishing on the vertical ridge with 1 step there too (6a). We then exit onto the ridge to climb the R5.


Walk due west on the ridge to the ruins of a Cathar castle (?), pass it and descend westwards on a steep path before skirting the cliff to find the foot of the more westerly routes. Descend to find the approach path.

Map & topo



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