As has become unnervingly routine on my bouldering trips of late, day one involved a car incident. It was wet all over Fontainebleau, but not raining and so we decided to head to Rocher de Damoiselle. We searched and searched for dry rock, but we were met with damp boulder after damp boulder.
We decided to bail from the area and head somewhere more exposed that might have dried.
We bundled the gear and ourselves into the cars and the Mitchell Brothers set off in their car. We were right behind them, but as we slowly reversed, a strangely leaning tree pressed against the boot of the car and SMASH! The back windscreen exploded all over the boot, showering our pads and bags in shards of glass.
We all sat in shock and then went round the back of the car to assess what had happened. It all became clear and we removed our belongings from the boot and shook them free of glass. Tim and I swept away the glass from the boot as Chris and Barry came to terms with what would need to be done to sort the rental car situation out.
Chris dropped Barry, Tim and I to Cuvier and drove off to sort out the car. (Thanks Chris!) When we arrived, I soon realised that my down jacket was missing… Uh oh…
It dawned on me that it must have been on the ground in Rocher de Damoiselle. I had forgotten to put it back in the boot after the window smash incident!
Anyone who knows me knows I love my down jacket and I was a bit gutted to think that it was gone. Paul and Shane both said they’d drive to Rocher de Damoiselle and have a look and see if my jacket was still there after we’d finished climbing in Cuvier.
Tim, Barry, Paul, Shane and I got to grips with our Font feet as we ran around a few easy (ish) warm ups. We met up with Kev Moroney and himself and Barry tried Aerodynamite (7b+/7c). Watching them, they looked very close to completing it, Barry campussed his way towards the top, but fell just short of the final hold. Shane and I set off in search of easier problems and after gaining confidence, topping out on several problems, it got dark and we set off from the boulders.
We headed to do the shopping and Shane and Paul went to look for my jacket.
Shopping in the Carrefour is a horrid aspect of any bouldering trip to Font – but it has to be done! Tim, Kev and I were under orders from Baz to maintain the diamond formation we were walking in as we headed into the supermarket – but our group fell apart pretty quick as we all split in different directions to acquire the many ingredients needed for the feasts that would be produced for breakfast lunch and the banquet dinners.
We got back to the Gite sometime later and Paul and Shane informed me that the jacket was nowhere to be seen. My initial reaction was that it was just a ‘thing’ and the fact that it was gone was not a disaster. It could be replaced, so not to worry… too much… I was a little gutted, but c’est la vie.
We unpacked the shopping and as we finished up and I was headed back into the sitting room – commissary beer in hand, Shane arrived down the stairs modelling my ‘lost’ jacket! I wanted to give him a massive hug! Despite them leading me on about it being lost, someone had found the jacket and hung it up in the car park, ready for the lads to pick it up.
I would be warm for my stay in Fontainebleau!!
Day 2 (Sunday): Gorge de Houx
Fontainebleau Forest is a magical place. It’s steeped in art history, and was the inspiration for many of the famous impressionist paintings that hang in galleries around the world today. As Chris lead the group towards Gorge de Houx it was easy to see how the French artists were inspired to capture the light and the colours of the vast Forest around them.
We warmed up on beautiful Arêtes and had the place to ourselves. Team Ireland were alone as we sent one warm up after another.
Chris led us towards Gargantoit (7a+). It’s beautiful.
Chris had unfinished business, as he told us he’d fallen from the problem on a previous trip. He made short work of it and was followed soon after by Barry who had a bit of an epic fall before he got on the problem again and sent it.
Shane and Tim both took nasty looking Falls from the boulder too and both myself and Kev agreed that we were a little reluctant to want to get to the top of the problem!
That prospect wasn’t an issue for me as the line shut me down over and over, on every attempt. Powerful balancey moves spat me off and I was denied reaching a good hold half way up the problem every time.
Tim reached the top of Gargantoit but didn’t have the beta for the top out and dropped off. Tim’s attempt was an explosive one and he hit every move, seemingly easily. There was little doubt in his mind, or anyone else’s that if he’d known the beta for the top – he’d have sent the line. Subsequent attempts, however, left him short of his previous high-point.
Kev Barry and Chris had set off to find Écaille de Lune (7c). Paul, Shane, Tim and I had worked a while longer on the Gargantoit, but were shut down in the end and set off to an Arête that Barry had pointed out earlier in the day.
L’Arete (7a+) starts on tiny credit card crimps and moves out to slopey holds that make up the Arête. Tim’s skin wasn’t holding up well and quite honestly, the line seemed beyond me.
We moved on to look at other boulders about the place and finally settled at this beautiful face climb Ligne de Mire (7a).
Barry, Chris and Kev came back to join us and Tim went with the lads for round 2 with L’Arete. Paul Shane and I spent a long time working out the sequence to Ligne de Mire.
Barry and Kev moved over to Transition 6c) but I took little notice as I became more and more sucked in by the block Paul, Shane and I had invested so much time into. Barry and Kev sent L’Arete (7a+) followed by Transition 6c) and came over to try our face climb.
Chris finished his day in similar fashion to the two lads and started to film our efforts on Ligne de Mire. The sequence looked as though it would come together and I got really excited. I thought this might be just my style and just my line and I might just get up it.
Unfortunately the final move was the hardest and even shut Barry down! It started with a super delicate move to a right gaston and then another left hand gaston. Pulling my weight up on the two opposing gastons, my left foot smeared against the rock and my left hand took a side pull up high. A right hand, two finger, undercut pocket followed and my foot moved up to allow me stand up and move closer to the end hold which was a dynamic move to a slightly sloping flatty.
I loved the moves on that problem and revelled in repeating them over and over again as I tried to send the line.
I had a blast working out the beta and was only a little disappointed that we hadn’t topped it out. The guys all said I should have tried the 6c they had topped out on (Transitions), but I was totally sucked in by Ligne de Mire and didn’t really get psyched to try anything else.
Gorge de Houx is a wonderful place to boulder.
Later that evening when we got home, I did a stretching session with Barry, Tim and Paul in the sitting room before dinner and afterwards, I took Ricky through the basics on the various techniques of a good Handstand.
He’s a fast learner!!
Day 3 (Monday): Cuisinere and Isatis
Tim said he was psyched to give Beetlejuice (7a+) a go, so I couldn’t have been happier when we arrived at Cuisinere! Always cool to have a friend to work a project with. Paul was set to try Excaliber (7a) which is an arete, positioned right beside Beetle juice so suddenly there was a team heading to that spot!
We walked in to warm up in the main Cuisinere area (Beetlejuice and Excaliber are 2 blocks out on their own). I always forget how much there is to do there – there are SO many blocks and that part of the forest is stunning for me. When we arrived Ricky was trying Misery Cord and Micheal was on Karma. However, by the time we arrived they had had their morning session, and it was becoming a little too warm to try those two problems – the friction was spent.
They headed off and we began to warm up on the various slabs and easy over hangs of Cuisinere. Disaster struck for Paul as his recently dislocated shoulder that he had just recovered from began to play up, meaning his day was over, bouldering-wise.
Barry was on some over hanging sloper-fest. It went at 6b and looked really cool, so myself and Tim decided to have a go. I managed to send the line fairly quickly and knowing that I’d tried it on previous trips and failed, made the send even sweeter.
On around the corner to another block that held unfinished business for me. Again, the line has no name – but Kev said it goes at about 6c. Barry and Chris made short work of it, and at first I was in two minds as to whether I’d waste my time trying it. On the last trip I wasn’t able to pull off the ground on it.
Gave it a go, fell off, another go, fell off… and so on –
I said I’d give it a miss.
Kev jumped on it and after working it out, he sent the line in good style, and sort of sold it to me. I wanted to climb it.
Tim came over after sending the sloper-fest that I’d been on earlier. The two of us worked and worked at it and Tim got to the top and was about to top it out, but the feet are super sketchy up high! He bailed off, but sent it on his next go.
I had said to Tim that we’d send this line, have lunch, then go and siege Beetlejuice and Excaliber… Well Tim went off for his lunch after his send, leaving me eager and determined to send the line quickly. I wanted my lunch!!
Next attempt, got to the top, but couldn’t sort my feet. Like Tim, I had no choice but to fall from the top… I got back on the line straight away – aware of my mistakes – and sent it.
I sat down with my Baguette to eat lunch and Chris stopped me as I was about to dig in.
‘Top tip’ he said, ‘Take your climbing boots off before you eat lunch!’
My baguette was all the more enjoyable!
The group then split as the guys went to try Pensée Cache and myself, Paul and Tim set off over to Beetlejuice (7a+) and Excaliber (7a).
I was pretty excited about the ease at which the throw around the corner, which had eluded me in past efforts on Beetlejuice, came to me.
The start is fairly wired, though I’m still well able to slip off! When it goes, it goes easy… ish!
Over 3 sessions on three separate trips, the toe hooks and drops backs onto handholds have become well rehearsed for me, but Tim had a little trouble coming to grips with the fairly intricate sequence that I use.
Chris, Barry and Kev arrived back from their project Pensée Cache (7b). They were all pleased with themselves as they’d managed to send the line in very few attempts.
Chris had an alternative sequence for Beetlejuice and Kev made use of it and put the line away pretty easily – though by the time one reaches the top of Beetlejuice, it’s usually a battle to finish, even though it’s jugs all the way!
Tim and I took a few go’s on Excaliber but I was totally wasted from my efforts on Beetlejuice. That’s a long term project for me – I’m piecing it together slowly, but it’s super powerful and thuggy and so I only ever have a couple of attempts in the tank on it.
Excaliber is a very balancy arete, and I instantly loved the moves on it. It’ll have to wait for another day though, as I was well and truly out of fuel at that point.
Barry and Chris headed off to try ‘Deux Faux Plis en Plats Réel’ (7c) in Isatis and as soon as Kev had put Beetlejuice away, we followed in the same direction, but stopped at La Cocquille (6c). I had a little trouble remembering the sequence I had used on it before and had a little bit of brain melt going on as well.
Tim and I figured it out and as soon as we did, the lads came over from their other line. They hadn’t managed to send it and Chris has just told me that it’s a super crimpy line and very difficult indeed.
Barry and Chris sent La Cocquille quickly, followed by Kev. Tim and I were spent after working Beetlejuice though, and couldn’t manage a send.
We tried and tried until it got dark – but in the end, we had to walk away.
Ricky looked at the footage of my efforts later that evening and told me my right foot was slipping from the rock as I made the throw for the side pull before the top out.
Definitely some good beta for when I return to that boulder sometime in the future!
Day 4 (Tuesday): Rest Day
It was Tim’s last full day of bouldering and himself and Shane were psyched to head out. Everyone else was resting.
When we all got up out of our beds we realised that it was drizzling rain… It never cleared and poor Tim was stuck indoors for his last day in Font.
Rest days are an absolute necessity of any bouldering trip and everyone just lazed about in the morning - fuelling up on good food and chilling out, Big Time!
Michael and I decided to go make a fruit tea of some sort, and we peeled some maderine oranges and boiled them in a pot of water, adding in some anaseed and some other herbal tea leaves that Michael had a name for – but I can’t remember! I thought it was yummy, and the pieces of orange that were left in the end of the cups of tea tasted like sweets.
Barry and Kev were to meet their friend Uruthia in Font later in the afternoon. Uruttia is from Spain and is ultra psyched to climb!!
Tim and I headed in to Font with Baz and Kev to meet up with Urrutia and we had lunch in Bar de Glace. We headed off after a lovely bite to eat and went to do some shopping.
After a Summer climbing in the Cave in Dublin, my climbing shoes are totally savaged. Barry and Tim brought me to a sports shop in Font that sell boots. They had every model in the La Sportiva range except Miura’s – my shoe of choice.
After a LONG deliberation I settled on a new pair of 5.10 Teams. Psyched to give them a go!
Later on in the evening, Tim brought to the table a roast dinner that left everyone silent as we all gobbled down the steaks, roast potatoes, and veg he had spent the evening preparing.
Day 5 (Wednesday) Tim went Home
We woke up on Wednesday morning and it was mint.
Tim had to catch a train to Paris at 11.30am and so the prospect of climbing was kind of out the window. It seemed unfair to me that the previous day had been so miserable, when Wednesday morning was so perfect for bouldering. Them’s the breaks though – and despite being a little gutted, Tim realised he had had 3 out of 4 full day’s climbing in Font.
Each morning the guys would go and pick up Baguettes from the local bakery and we’d all gather around the dinner table and prepare our lunches for the day. Lovely.
We said goodbye to Tim and headed off to Roche Aux Sabot, but despite the crisp air and clear skies, all the blocks were damp.
Plan B: Apremont.
I had major trouble on past trips, finding the boulders in Apremont. Indeed, I had written off mornings looking for them, before deciding it wasn’t worth it and heading off to other areas of Font.
Chris led the way and I can’t quite figure out how I couldn’t find them on previous trips!!
Apremont is a bit of a maze when one arrives at the boulders, but after a morning of wandering about the place, I’m confident that I know how to navigate the place.
We warmed up on various bits and bobs and as the sun got higher in the sky, it was tops off for power in the blazing heat. Baz received a text from Tim that read of a strike in Paris. Disaster!! His train to Charles de Gaulle was cancelled… uh oh, we thought he might miss his flight… a further text came in a few minutes later and he said he had to quickly grab a taxi to the airport... disaster averted.
Back in Apremont, Chris said he’d save his energy for cooler temps later on in the day, but myself Paul and Shane were PSYCHED to try L’egoiste (7a).
What a cool line!
I got to grips with what the lads told me was the crux fairly easily. The small jump that followed left me stumped and I failed time and time again.
The guys all agreed that sorting one’s hands out on the Arete was the tricky part, but to be honest, I didn’t find that a problem.
The right arete is matched on one side, before the feet are sorted, and a small dynamic jump to the left arete that makes up the point is made before the right hand slaps up over the top of the ridge and it’s ‘exit stage left’ from there.
Though Barry and Kev went right – either way, makes no difference.
The lads headed off to try Faux Contact (7a+) and all sent it pretty easily. Shane, Paul, Uruthia and I all worked on L’egoiste for the rest of the afternoon.
I'm finding it difficult to remember what the else Chris, Barry and Kev did for the day in Apremont. Maybe that's a good sign of how focused Paul, Shane and I were whilst working L'egoiste!!
Brilliant day, and as we headed back to the carpark, we all just hoped we were headed in the right direction!!
Day 6 (Thursday) L’egoiste, Round 2
Paul, Shane and I headed to Apremont again – having all come so close to L’egoiste (and admittedly all having the aim of Font 7a in mind) we were eager to keep working the line.
We warmed up in a different spot along the path leading up to L’egoiste and before long, Paul’s shoulder was at him again. Shane was having an epic struggle with the choice between a rest day or a climbing day… His arms were sore and we were all a bit tired…
I was spared injury or any indecision, and had only one thing on my mind. Sending L’egoiste.
Time and time again I tried, and time and time again I came so painfully close that no one knew what to say by the time the session was finished.
The lads weren’t climbing at that stage and I stuggled to rest between attempts. By the end I was mentally drained and being honest with myself, I didn’t want to climb the line anymore. It was time to walk away.
We wandered over to have a look at Faux Contact (7a+). It’s a jump start to two positive, but sharp holds, left foot out wide and throw out right to a good crimp. Pull up, lock off with the right arm, reach over the top with the left and pull over.
It looks cool and though I tried it a couple of times, I was out of energy and again, we walked away. We decided to wander about and look for other things to climb but we were all absolutely shattered and in the end, we decided to pack up and head off for a coffee back at the Gite.
The group were at different spots during the day but when we met up in the evening, everyone had had the same sort of day as us. Sometimes one doesn’t get to choose one’s rest days.
The evening’s have been kicked off with amazing dinners every night. We all tell stories from our days and look at photos on the laptops and watch any footage that’s been taken.
Ricky is incredably fast at quickly editing pieces of footage together, putting them to music and we all sat around each evening watching everyone’s efforts from the day.
It was brilliant craic.
Day 7 Friday: Rest Day 2
We all needed a rest day, except Paul. He and Shane headed off to Bas Cuvier for the day and the rest of us had an ultra lazy morning about the Gite. Barry and Ricky played some lovely tunes on Kev’s guitar that he’d left in our Gite and Michael made us a Spanish Omlette. It’s funny the different things I became aware of with regards talents aside from bouldering that everyone had on the trip. It’s the rest days that these talents and habits prevail and we all see more of the characters outside of the cranking and the top outs among the boulders.
For some reason Chris went looking for his new tripod, but it was nowhere to be found. The cars were searched, the bags were searched, and every room was searched. It was gone, and it dawned on us all that it must have been left at the boulders of Cuvier where himself and Barry had climbed the previous day.
Chris set off in the car to search the boulders and the carpark, but we were all aware of Cuvier’s colourful nightlife, and that anything of value would probably be picked up.
He came back to the Gite empty handed and with that, we set off to the big shopping centre just outside Font to check the internet, buy dinner (and tea!) and so that Chris could look for a new tripod.
Friday was a bank holiday in France and the Shopping centre was manic. It was like Grafton Street in Dublin on a Saturday afternoon, but with 10 times the amount people.
We all split up and after buying tea bags and a new water bottle, I decided I’d had enough and went to get a hot chocolate in the Café. I was just about to sit down on my own when I saw Barry had had the same idea as me and was just sitting across the way.
Amongst the manic shoppers and crazy crowds we sat and sipped hot chocolate and had a grand auld chat before deciding it would be a great idea to get two beers and chill out some more! Perfect idea and as soon as we were finished we found the lads and headed home in the car with Chris’ newly bought tripod in the boot.
That evening Ricky cooked up some roast chicken and lots of different veg and after dinner we all sat around the big table, chatting, watching some videos and waiting for the long overdue banana bread to bake.
I had promised the lads I’d bake banana bread but had come up short on ingredients every day. I’d forget, or I couldn’t find them in the super market, etc, etc…
Kev had bought the ingredients for cookies the previous night and so finally I had the makings of the promised bread. I’d sneakily bought bananas in the Carrefour earlier in the day and to my surprise, the bread didn’t turn out too bad!
The gas oven burnt the bottom of it a bit, but I could have kept a closer eye on it I suppose!!
The proof was in the eating – and there was bearly a crumb left on the plate when everyone was finished!
Day 8 (Saturday) Paul, Shane and Barry’s Last Day
We had to change Gites in the morning and so our day was shortened. The new Gite is cool and we dropped our stuff and headed off.
Shane and I both had a major goal in mind this trip. We both wanted to do a 7a in Font.
Such was the hard work that had gone into L’egoiste (7a) on previous days, we decided that it would be a good plan to go back and give it a blast on Shane’s last day.
On my best attempt I caught the left hand arete but the swing was too big and my right hand slipped from the boulder.
We tried and tried and narrowly fell short each time.
The right hand moves to a sort of sloping crimp just beyond the arete and I take it as a 3 finger open hand (as usual!). Shane realised that he had been pulling his fingers off the hold by enlisting his thumb to pinch it, which was the reason he kept falling.
Barry and Kev arrived back and with his new beta in mind, Shane pulled onto L’egoiste and looked absolutely solid. Shane is amazing on dynamic bouldering moves. Once set in position he launched for the left arete and stuck it dead. No swing. No hesitation. Just Boom!
He slapped up to the top and rocked over. We were all chuffed to bits for him and he couldn’t have been happier!!
Shane’s first Font 7a: L’egoiste, Apremont.
With Shane’s success breathing new life into the session, I was eager to get back on the line – alas, it didn’t come together.
I like to keep this blog fairly positive but I have to be honest too… I was gutted after my last attempt on L’egoiste – there was a lump in my throat and I fought back some tears that were surely a result the failure in the face of the want I had to send the line.
I got myself together quickly and kept in mind that it had been a wonderful trip and the lack of success on one block shouldn’t bring me down.
It wasn’t long before I was back having a laugh again. The guys are amazing at keeping spirits high and encouraging psyche in the face of disappointment.
In between my efforts on L’egoiste we took a break and followed the lads over to a line that I think Barry said was called ‘The 13th Work of Hurcules’ (7a)
It was so hot when we got there, and the guys pulled on a couple of times before Barry announced that the trip was over. His arms were spent, he could do no more. The others agreed.
It was amazing to watch Barry, and Kev climb in Font. They blasted through multiple 7a grade or above boulder problems everyday…
Shane’s success on L’egoiste made it a perfect trip for him, and though they all had to go home the three lads were all content in their efforts in Font.
We set off back to the new Gite and the guys changed their clothes and got ready to catch their plane home.
Major brain melt on my part…
Paul was driving back to Austria that night and so offered to spin back to the gite with me. It was totally out of his way (Thanks Paul!)... I felt like a total dope but had good intentions at heart…
Got back to the gite and sent a text to Tim asking what he thought I was doing wrong with my bouldering!!
I had trained my ass off for 3 months and was coming to terms with the fact that I might tick nothing that might push my grade on this trip… I knew if anyone had an answer for me it’d be Tim! He didn’t elet me down and sent me a text saying not to let ‘numbers’ frustrate me, and just to enjoy the trip among other gems of advice.
It’s with those gems of advice that I set off into my last 3 days in Font.
All or nothing – with a smile on my face - I’d leave every last effort there in the forest.
Day 9 (Sunday) A Natural Rest Day
We all woke up a little tired yesterday and Michael noted that it seemed like a natural rest day. I believe I needed to clear my head a bit from the pressure I’d been putting on myself and so took the opportunity to completely relax and do nothing all day.
My body felt good but actually, my brain still felt drained, and we just did nothing but chill and eat for much of the day.
Later on, Chris was eager to check out a new area called Cassepot Roches Grises
We weren’t climbing – just going to have a wander and a look about. Ricky was psyched to do a night session on Miséricorde (7C+) and so the lads stayed at the gite and Chris and I set off to go exploring and to grab some food for dinner and breakfast the next day.
Roches Grises is different to other Font bouldering areas in that the blocks are scattered along a pretty path through the forest, as opposed to being clustered together. The terrain is also quite hilly. I really liked the look of the climbing there, though there isn’t as much to do as the more popular areas, so I suppose one would only go there with a project in mind.
Chris was there to look at ‘Double Axel’ (7a+/7b). It’s a little hidden gem in a quiet little part of Fontainebleau Forest – we were there on the Sunday afternoon of a French Bank Holiday Weekend and there was not a boulderer in sight!
There was shopping to be done and Chris and I were planning on heading to Cuisinere to watch Ricky on Misery Cord, so we headed away from Roches Grises and as empty as that area was of boulderers – so too was the Carrefour Carpark devoid of any cars or any people.
The monster super market was shut, so we took our chances on visiting a small supermarket in Milly La Foret, which was open and kind of saved the day as we had totally run out of most things back at the Gite.
I’d never been in Fontainbleau Forest for a night session, and making my way through the ferns and winding little trails towards Cuisinere, by head torch was a very cool experience indeed.
I was scared we might get attacked by a wild boar, but also kind of wanted to see one, after all the talk of them I’ve heard in the past.
We arrived up at Miséricorde and the guys had the whole place lit up by little head torches. It just looked beautiful. The photos I took don’t do it justice.
I was so excited to be there in the forest at night at such a magical spot, and I really hoped that Ricky would send his project in such a spectacular setting.
After a couple of attempts, and a good rest, Ricky squared up to the block and pulled on. It was one of those sends when every move just came together, and Ricky neither struggled, nor stressed. He looked comfortable and confident and as he caught the final hold, which is a generous jug, there was a sense of elation.
Day 10 (Monday) Nature Carved Me a Block.
I decided that I’d love to try Graviton (7a) in Roches Aux Sabot. Chris had shown me a video of Paul’s attempts on it the previous day and he was so, SO very close and made the line look like so much fun, that I wanted to see if I could send it.
There’s many holes in my climbing ability at the moment. My glaringly obvious weaknesses include: an inability to crimp and a terrible lack of umph in any jumping I do.
That said, I know I’m good at mantles.
Graviton starts with a a couple of layback moves up a juggy sidepull rail. Once the left foot is established, the right hand is thrown out to a rail over the lip.
Over the lip is a horribly angled slab and while my left hand was on the rail, my right heel needed to be lifted almost over my head (perfect!).
From there it’s a LONG reach (again, perfect!) to a textured bit of something way out the back of the slab, and grovel and will oneself over the top.
I had a goal in mind this trip. I wanted a font 7a.
I had come agonisingly close on 2 blocks so far. I had trained and trained for this trip and by the 2nd last day I had come to terms with the fact that it might just not happen this time.
I arrived to Roche Aux Sabot with no expectations. Tim’s text from the previous night had sort of calmed my mind from the pressure I had put myself under. I warmed up on this, that and the other and felt good.
Chris wanted to try Sale Gosse (7c), so when we were warmed up, we started there. Chris looked solid on the moves just before the lip – but there’s a massive jump for the top and he just fell short of it.
After a few attempts on Sale Gosse, Chris suggested I give Graviton a go, while he took a rest.
We headed around the back of the block Chris was working on, and there it was. Mine for the taking.
Graviton includes a selection of moves and skills that are made for me. My flexibility became a huge asset, my reach was crucial, my long limbs, which so often get in the way, were perfect for the slab.
I wanted a 7a this trip, but knew I’d have to work hard to get it.
I had worked and worked to the point of frustration on previous days.
Graviton was sent on my 2nd attempt.
There was a sense of freedom and happiness at the top of that boulder.
I had asked Ricky if he was even more chuffed the morning after his send of Miséricorde. He had said he was delighted and felt like the pressure, which he’d put on himself… for no reason at all… had been lifted.
That was exactly how I felt at the top of Graviton. The pressure I’d put on myself was totally personal, but it’s like I wanted to prove I could do it… prove it to who? When Graviton was sent, there was no one in mind I needed to prove anything to, but once it was done, my mind was free. There was nothing there but happiness.
I wonder if there’s a learning experience in there for me… Next time it’ll be 7a+ or 7b or whatever. There’s a question in my mind as to whether that pressure is an asset or a hinderence to my climbing.
It’s a holiday after all…
But I think every boulderer would agree that though it’s a holiday, for sure… there’s something more there – a need to achieve – a want.
Chris decided to sack Sale Gosse and we headed to Cassepot Roches Grises to give Double Axel (7a+/7b) a go. The moves are cool, and though there’s a sloper that looks good to lunge towards the top of the block from… it wasn’t as good as one would like, at all.
I gave it a couple of attempts but soon put my runners on and began to film Chris’ progress instead. There’s a sort of right leg ninja kick that needs to be timed with a jump of the left foot, while the right hand pulls off an open hand sloper…
Chris made real progress on the line, but in the end, it began to get dark and we were both pretty psyched to try Zen (7a) in Roche Aux Sabot.
We packed up and headed there in the dark…
I would have my first Font night bouldering session and it was great!!
There had been a hunt during the day for wild boars and there were ‘proceed with caution’ signs about the carpark.
We wandered about looking for Zen and when we found it, it was about 3 times as long as we though it would be. The photo in the guide makes it look like a lowball arete, but it starts way down from the arete and sort of follows the hill upwards, before the arete blasts up dramatically from the top of the slope.
Ron taught me A LOT about knee bars during the months I’d spent in the cave and I was quite chuffed to spot a sneaky one on Zen… before either of us had even pulled on.
The opening move is the hardest for sure, I strung most of the rest of it together in the hour or so we were there. Zen is akin to the climbing in Ayton’s Cave for sure.
Chris onsighted the thing, and came away from it with screaming finger tips!! The problem is quite long and it was freezing cold, added to which neither of us had climbed in about an hour.
I needed a break from my efforts on it, and so Chris went off to look for some 7b he wanted to track down. I chilled out in the dark and brushed holds and hoped that Chris wouldn't get lost. Before long, I heard sound of a couple of dogs barking... I thought nothing of it. It sounded like two dogs in the carpark or something...
The noise of two dogs barking multiplied into the noise of a few dogs... then loads of dogs... then the sound of loads of dogs barking echoed around the forest and seemed to get nearer and nearer to us and my heart started pounding...
Chris had the good sense to realise that I'd probably be getting anxious on my own, and so came back from his wanderings to make sure I wasn't having a nervous breakdown!!
We realised that the hunt wasn't over yet, but luckily the noise of the dogs died down and the drama finished!
Michael had said to me that when conditions are perfect, one’s hand is almost velcroed to the rock.
I accepted that, but knew I’d never experienced that total sticky feeling on contact with a Font Sloper.
When I worked the top part of Zen I threw for the arete, blindly and with no expectation of catching it.
Tack! My hand stuck, and didn’t move, and I tried to pull my weight up on it, and it still didn’t move. I was amazed and knew I had just experienced perfect Font conditions. My arms were spent though.
When we got back to the Gite later - Michael and Ricky told us about their 'hunt' experience! Michael had sent Fata Morgana (8a) on day one of the trip and had been working Fata Morgana Bas (8b) during the rest of the trip. As he tried to focus and send the line, there were gun shots booming out around him. Both Ricky and Michael agreed the shots were close enough to be a little freaky!
Chris and I squeezed every last bit of bouldering out of Monday.
Fantastic day in my life.
Day 11 (Tuesday) It All Ends.
Michael and Ricky had both suggested that we have an all or nothing morning session and be back at the Gite by 1pm or 2pm ish. We agreed that this would be a good idea and the guys set off to try Duel (8a) and Chris and I set off towards Cuvier Rampart.
Chris was psyched for a day of 7a crushing… and I was totally on board. Only trouble is, Chris is beastly strong and so very experienced… and well… I’m not!
He woke up with a cold that looked like it might slow him down… We left the Gite and arrived at Cuvier at about 10.30 ish. We warmed up and began work on Festin de Pierre (7a)
I loved the look of this line. Straight up, face climbing with a nifty heel hook and crimps to pull towards the top. It’s a Font classic and I’d never seen it before!
Chris had told me that he wasn’t able to make the first move, some years ago when he’d been at the boulder last.
Nice to see progress then, cause he flashed it yesterday!
Chris told me the opening move was perhaps the trickiest, but I made that with little or no bother at all. He said he thought I was in after that, but It was pulling through the heel hook that followed 'the crux' that I became stuck.
After some time working it, I was pretty psyched – but knew there was more to do and didn’t want to become sucked in by this one problem (however beautiful the climbing was) on my last day in Font.
Chris was eagar to try a 7b he’d gone off and had a look at while I was working Festin de Pierre. I can’t remember what he said the name of it was, but when we arrived it had Font Top Out written all over it!!
It was an undercut start out to slopers that trended towards a desperate looking top out over the classic font style bulging rock form.
It totally shut Chris down and he noted that having flashed Zen (7a) the night before and Festin de Pierre (7a) just previously, he was expecting to do better on it.
Not to worry and we continued on to Atmosphere (7a) which is possibly one of the most aesthetically pleasing lines I’ve seen in Font… though there are many!!
I was spent, and though I had a good crack at it, my arms gave up. Again, Chris sent it quickly on his second go and I was left inspired by his efforts to get home and work hard to become a climber who doesn’t just work 7a climbs… but gets 7a climbs.
Beside Atmosphere (7a) there was another easy looking arete, but it was one of those climbs that one looks at, and just HAS to climb it… regardless of how easy it is!
Some problems in Font make you climb stylishly… I pulled on and the Arete just pushed and pulled me into lovely shapes and each move flowed into the next.
I said to Chris that it was a satisfying and confidenc boosting end to a wonderful trip away in Fontainebleau with such a lovely crew of talented climbers.
This trip to Font was fuelled by the focus and psyche of the 9 climbers who came together for it. Everyone was on the same wavelength and everyone was psyched to be there.
As the only girl bouldering on the trip, I have to say:
Lads... it was a privilege.