Buoux is one of the major crags in Southern France. It is located in the Parc Régional du Lubéron, a beautiful and wild place 80 km north of Marseille. It is an important part of the history of climbing but also a place where people have been living since maybe 10 000 years! Its walls, caves, forests, and river form a welcoming environment for many different species… since way before climbers arrived. I travelled there first of all because I am curious about the history of this place, beyond the climbing and beyond our own species. Of course, I also love climbing there. It is a crag I know very well, and the rock connects me to my family for many reasons. I like the game of trying to send the routes my dad and my uncle opened in the 80’s.
How to get there
Starting from the center of Marseille, I cycle to the main train station Marseille Saint-Charles and then take a TER (regional train) to Aix en Provence. This train has many stops but it’s direct. It takes approximately one hour. Bikes are allowed without additional payment in regional French trains and most of them have special spaces where you can hang your bikes. In rush hours (Monday to Friday 7:00-9:00 and 16:30-18:30) the traffic controller can forbid to put the bike in the train if there’s too many people but I have never seen any problem.
Once arrived in Aix en Provence Centre starts the fun part: the cycling! It is 45 km with 700 m up. I takes me more or less 3 h (without counting the breaks which depend on how much weight I’m carrying and also a lot on the temperature). I cycle with a gravel bike but this trip can also be done with a road bike, no mountain bike is needed. The beginning is quite busy with cars: it starts in the middle of Aix en Provence which is not exactly a small town. The first 10 km are very urban. Then the closer you get to Buoux the less cars you will see. The last 10 km are on a road called Combe de Lourmarin which is quite famous for motorcycles so you should be careful. You can find the cycling route here:
Where to stay
When I arrive I hide my bike behind a tree and go climbing. If I stay for more than one day I sleep at my grandma’s place that is 20 km away and I cycle back to Buoux on the day after.
Officially no wild camping is allowed in the Buoux area. You can find campsites either in Bonnieux, which is ~45 minutes by bike from Buoux or in Apt, which is ~50 minutes by bike.
The Auberge des Seguins is a wonderful place to stay in and it has the advantage of being literally in the middle of the sectors so from there you can very easily reach the climbing sectors by foot. It is not open all year (usually closes from November to march) so I recommend giving them a call when you plan your trip. The cheapest option to stay there is in the shared room for 22€/night. Another option for renting apartment is the Gîte la Sparagoule in Buoux.
How to reach the crag(s)
From the parking where you can leave your bike behind a tree, it takes between 10 and 30 minutes to reach the different sectors by foot. Buoux is a crag that has sectors facing in every direction so depending on the season and on the temperatures you can climb in the Face Ouest in the morning or East face in the afternoon if you are looking for shade. It is possible to climb in two sectors on the same day, some are pretty close (for example warming up in TCF and then going to Bout du Monde is a classic combinaton) but for the more remote ones you have to walk at least one hour between the far west and the far east.
The closer shops are in Lourmarin (12 km away and 260 m up from Buoux) and Apt (10 km away and 360 m up). You can go there by bike or also hitchhike if you want to rest your legs (hitchhiking works quite well in mountain regions in France).
For a rest day, I recommend to explore some of the caves of Buoux. There are so many! Walk around and get lost.
In Avignon, there are also high speed trains (TGV) stopping. As Avignon and Aix on provence have the same distance to Buoux, you can also start cycling from there.
There is some bouldering in Buoux, recently developed. You will find all the information in the latest guidebook published in 2021 (edition CQFD). There are also some multipitches.
How to book the trip
You can book the train ticket here. As mentioned, bikes are allowed without additional payment in regional French trains. Tip: if you live in this region of France, you should explore the ZOU! Cards, they give you great deals (as a student under 26 I pay 90 € per year and have access to all the regional trains for free… Why drive when you can ride :)?)