A great first day of summer for canyoning as both air temperatures in the sunny French Riviera and water levels in the Tinée valley are ideal. At 8:30 AM the club’s usual meeting place in the parking lot of Carrefour Antibes is busy with quite a number of canyoneers: Francois-Xavier, David, Franck, Francois-Xavier’, Olivier, Francoise, Loreline, Audrey, Yann-Loup, Julien, Franck, Paul and Claudiu. We carpool and meet up at a fork right after Saint Martin du Var with our leader, Lionel. We hop back in and make another checkpoint further up the road, where we make a head count and a gear recap. It is there that we uneasily find that we are one person short for the gear because one particularly careless member of the group forgot to properly signal his presence beforehand. A short detour is made by one of the cars to the local canyoning store and the odd man out manages to rent a wetsuit, harness and helmet for the day without much hassle. Having dealt with this issue, we drive on up the valley, we take a right turn towards Clans through some steep hillsides and we leave a shuttle at the endpoint of our canyon, a place marked by a large arch bridge. We finally make it to the start of our route (Pas du Moulin), get geared up and splash our way in the water just below.
Not too far down is our first rappel point, sitting above a narrow gully waterfall. FX is in charge of the complicated roping involved, with Lionel overlooking the process. Yann Loup is the first to descend and the first to encounter that the rope is too short, but the issue is quickly resolved by paying up slack from above. The rest of the group follows, everyone getting in a full load of water on the way down but ultimately thrilled of the experience. Short walks between amazingly beautiful walls of the gorges alternate with abseiling aside (or under) great vertical waterfalls. FX, Yann Loup and David take turns securing the top rope. As David is about to clear the last abseil point, the others call out to him from below: there is a problem, the rope is not long enough for abseiling in double rope. Luckily a second belay point is just a couple of meters down, at the end of the ridge leading to the fall, and David can use it to get out of this tricky situation.
Lunch break on a flat sunny bank and then the team resumes the trek. Not much rope action on this section but the spectacle offered by the rugged dripping rock faces, dragonflies and sunlight is remarkable. A few pool jumps later we’re at what looks to be the end of our journey. We hike up a trail thinking it will lead us back to the village, only to arrive on a bend with no village in sight. We decide to turn back and regain the canyon for another stretch.
The next section of the canyon is much more wild and diverse. There are natural waterslides and logs are clogging up the river in places. The aftermath of a big rockslide make an impression on everyone, as the group has to negotiate between recently fallen giant boulders, some of them extremely friable. We rescue a baby mouse from sure drowning from one of the rock faces. After one superb winding slide we are faced with a short slide that turns into free fall to a pool 5m below. It is not a particularly technical feat; the only trick is to release the rope at the end of the slide. The walking part keeps on going for a little longer. Just as some are getting a little worn-out, the arch bridge where we left our shuttle appears. We make our way out of the canyon, take off the wetsuits and enjoy a cold beer under the shade of the local village terrace.