Aaah! Holiday time! Yeah, I’m well overdue a blog update, but I’m still not in a blogging mood. It would be a shame however not to capture some notes of how the climbing went while in sunny République française.
Day 1: Beauvais Nainville
We’ve never made it to Beauvais before, despite it being on Liz’s hit list for a while. It’s a littler further north than we usually head to based on where we’ve been staying, but being in the middle of Barbizon meant it was reasonably close.
It turns out it’s a pretty big area! We selected Nainville to start with as it had a good mix of circuits, and most importantly a Yellow circuit for people to get their climbing heads back on.
The start of the yellow circuit was pretty much bang on the edge of the car park, so we got our stuff out and a bunch of people cracked on with getting their shoes on. Ed and Kelly wanted to start off somewhere a bit harder, so set off to the centre of the area to find the red and blue circuit starts leaving the rest of us to it.
I felt a bit discombobulated initially while people started to get on the first climbs. I get a bit frustrated with the amount of stuff we have to move around sometimes as we always seem to have what seems to be a mat each and a rucksack each which means a lot of effort moving things along as you go. Surely we could be a bit more efficient here? Hmm. Eventually I got my brain into gear and my shoes on and started pottering around the yellows and oranges, splitting my time between climbing with Martin, Liz, Lisa and Ceri and Andy, Lolly and Rowan who seemed to be on a bit of a mission to get all the yellows done.
I spotted something I fancied a go on, La Veuve du Fossoyeur, a tasty looking 6b sit start overhang which finished up a wall. It looked totally do-able. It totally wasn’t! 🙂 Watching the video on bleau.info, I was getting to the right hand sloper shown in slomo, but hadn’t considered the follow on pop to the next hold. Perhaps knowing that it might go?
Soon afterwards, we moved on to the start of the blue and red circuits to see if we could catch up with Ed and Kelly and have some lunch. Andy and I knocked out the first 4-5 of the blue circuit before I got a bit bored and joined Lisa who was playing on a red bise traverse thing. It eventually went after a rather walrus like belly flop finish. Just my style!
We finished up with a few more fun blues up a slippery wall which saw Lolly evacuating like a pole dancer down a tree and then on the way out returned to La Veuve du Fossoyeur with Ed for a another go which didn’t come to much.
Day 2: Rocher du Potala
The next day Ed and Kelly wanted to go to Rocher du Potala as we’d talked about it from our last trip when they didn’t come. This suited Liz as she had some unfinished business with a traverse from last year
Andy wasn’t up for bouldering at Potala and wanted to get some mileage in so went on a little tour of some of the climbing areas along the 25 Bosses route and left us to it. Once we’d made it to the departs for the yellow and oranges I left the group to find my own spot to warm up in as I’d done all those climbs a bunch of times.
Finding a nice corner with a yellow, orange and blue climb on, I got my self in the game with some easy climbing. The blue was harder than expected as I was having to work around a line of ants who wanted to wander over the decent hand holds. I think I managed it with squishing any of them.
Eventually I joined up with Ed and Kelly to show Ed Acid, the 6a I managed last year which Ed did after a bit of work and then we went to find Crimp Like Fuck. We’d pegged this last year as a climb that Kelly would like, as long as her fingers weren’t too sore as that damn thing is sharp! Ed climbed it and then repeated adding a sit start. Kelly and I alternated goes on it before it clicked and I finished it. Pretty happy with that after not really fancying it last year.
We pottered about a bit trying blues and reds till eventually Andy turned up after his wanderings. By this point Liz and Martin had gone off to work on her projects so we joined them for a bit. Most of the group decided to head off back to the gite leaving Ed, Andy, Liz and I for a few extra climbs. With some liquid encouragement she finally topped her main project at this site by braving the mantel at the end of Parenbas.
We climbed a few more sketchy feeling blues on the back of this boulder and then headed back to the gite.
Day 3: Apremont Envers
Yesterday Rowan and Lolly had continued their approach of doing the entire yellow circuit, rather than working on harder climbs and I fancied a go of that! A bit of kit rationalisation with Liz beforehand meant we could take just one rucksack with us with shoes, lunch and various other essentials in. I wore my running pack to keep my phone and some water in and we left my mat in the car just in case someone else needed it.
Apremont is a total jumble of rocks and trees, and the yellow circuit navigates through them like you’re on a treasure hunt. There were 50 problems on the circuit, but SOOO many additional smaller, less technical walls and boulders to clamber over while following it. Including these, and the bises, there must be over 150 bits of climbing until you get to the end.
It took us over 5 hours to finish it, but it’s really recommended if you’re up for a full day of easy climbing. Some of the transitions between the boulders were awfully high too! Take your head for heights!
Not content with a full day of climbing, I forced myself to go out for a run. It was Tuesday so the running club was out doing intervals and I felt like I should do them to. I went out expecting it to be a complete fail, but actually it went pretty well. The only reason my last interval was off pace was because it ran through the smoke from a rubbish fire and then the stench of a sewage works! :O
Day 4: Butte Aux Dames
The fourth day is our “Rest Day”. Usually this means packing in a silly long run, but I didn’t quite have the urge to anything very long. Andy and Kelly were planning in running the Circuit du 23 Bosses as we’ve done a couple of times now and although I’d have done it again with them, I was glad Liz came up with an alternative plan.
She came up with a mini alternative to the 25 bosses run: 16k around Apremont and Cuvier Rempart. Still hilly, but nowhere near the elevation gain of the bosses run. It was fab, loads of winding woodland trails around the impressive boulders of Cuvier Rempart and even included a spooky looking fountain with a Brothers Grimm style tale attached.
The last few ks though the rolling hills of Apremont were a little hard work but it was worth it. Getting back to the gite we had a late lunch and then convinced Ed to come out with us for an quick afternoon boulder. Uh oh! Breaking the rest day!
The closest location to our gite was 15-20 minutes walk into Apremont at a site called Butte Aux Dame, a name which had prompted quite a few giggles from the group. We didn’t get too far into the site, instead just focusing on the first few boulders; the first of which was pretty big!
After warming up on the much smaller yellow problems, Ed and I turned around and looked at the big boulder with the depart problems for the black and blue circuit but neither of us look convinced. Then I thought, bugger it, and climbed the second blue problem: a pretty simple arête climb (L’Arête de la Pyramide). No problem up, but then I had to get off…
A tentative slip down the slab on the front before I escaped to jump off halfway off on to the mat. After showing that it was possible to get off, Ed followed and down climbed the Blue depart slab properly.
With the confidence built that we could actually get off this boulder, we took at look at the Black Depart and climb it. A simple traverse followed by a nice nervy slab. No problems! (L’Hésitation)
Next, La Voie du Sanglier, a sit start with a heel and a throw to grab a good hold on a bulge with an easy slab to finish. Liz fancied a bit of this one, so she worked it in between Ed having attempts on the rather tough looking Antimatière. After a few goes, she got it! 🙂
Back on the big boulder, Le Trajet de la Limace was next and this looked really intimidating. Ed lead the way rocking into a high left foot and grabbing a good undercut before finding a sloping ledge just below head height that we somehow had to mantle on to. Cripes. We spent the next hour or so trying this one, even breaking out the vodka for some dutch courage before giving up. I feel like I could have done it, if I could have summoned the courage to really commit to getting the right foot up to my right hand. It felt really bloody high though.
Pretty happy with our bouldering on our rest day, we headed back as the mosquitoes started to come out and cracked open some beers.
Day 5: Mont Ussy
“Rest day” done, we decided to go to an area we’ve not been to before. Mont Ussy was the choice! Not too far away from the centre on Fontainebleau with a Yellow, Orange and Red Circuit for people to play on, and an ‘virtual’ blue circuit. Not quite sure what that means, but it was on bleau.info and in our guide book, but not actually painted on to the rock.
We spent a good while on the first couple of boulders and I latched onto trying the first red problem on there (Ded’Ussy, 6a too hard!) and then moved to the right to try the 2nd problem of the virtual blue circuit, Mark.
Kelly and I worked this one for quite a while and it was ace fun. Great fun to work out. It was quite bulgy and slopey in places, so a good test that we were picking up essential font skills.
After finishing on this boulder, we moved up to the much higher and impressive looking boulders in on a bit of a plateau. There were quite a few harder problems here which we played with a bit, but didn’t complete.
Eventually deciding to find a challenge, I picked out a 6a from our guide book and took Ed to go and try it out. It was crozzly, covered in pine needles and lichen and we really weren’t sure of the route on it. I did a bit of brushing to clear it off, but it didn’t hold our attention that long… because it was horrible!
I started to drag Ed off on a bit of a mission to find some harder stuff, and next we picked out Grosse Bosse which looked doable, but completely shut us down. I could pull on to it, but not make a single move at all! Reviewing some videos of it, I suspect we were sticking to a marked hold in our guide book a bit too religiously making the start much harder.
Final climb of note was Le Grand Corona which was fantastic fun and required me to use my heels properly by laying off high left heel just after the start move. I didn’t think it was going to go at all at first, but “trying hard” made it stick.
Day 6: Rocher Saint-Germain
Last day! :'(
We decided to head to Rocher Saint-Germain again, as it had a great mix of circuits. I had a really fun day and finally climbed something harder than a 6a at Fontainebleu! La Caresse, 6a+
It’s the first red problem on the circuit on the massive first boulder and latched onto it once I spotted it as it definitely needed doing. I needed to double mat so I could get my left foot on to the first foot hold, but I’m taking it.
It required a good bit of heel work, some sloper squeezing, a high foot step and a rather precarious gaston on the edge of the shoulder once you are on the belly of the problem, but we worked it over about an hour and got up.
The first hold appears to be a bit fragile as we saw a few bits coming away on our last few attempts, so I’m glad to have got it done before it becomes even harder!
Another climb of note was Le Casse-Noisettes. Ed and I were taking a look at it when a German climber turned up and we all decided to have a go. It took a bunch of mats to protect; there was a large rock right under where you’d land falling from the top. Urk!
From a sit it required heels, slopers and slapping for decent holds underneath a small roof before trying to gain a hanging wall and slapping for a rounded mantle top. I got my hands and heel onto the wall but was knackered and couldn’t make the final moves. Ed and the German guy could catch the top but not finish it. This one is definitely on my hit list for next time. Great fun.
After giving up on this one, we did a few more of the blues, including the fantastically named Lézard Bleausard and then slapped my way up the slopey as all hell Johnny Depp. Quite happy with that one!
By this point most of the group headed back to the gite to get final day pizza, leaving Liz, Martin and I to finish up.
Our final climb of the holiday was L’Idéal Ment which was a lovely wall. Once Martin and I had completed it, we decided it was Liz’s turn and spotted her up the wall. Nice one Liz!
And that’s it. A pretty successful holiday. We had 10 people in a gite together and we didn’t kill each other and I got my first 6a+!
I think it’s likely we’ll be going again next year.
Photos and videos stolen without mercy from Andy, Liz, Lolly, Martin and Rowan!