After an abortive attempt for Ed and I to on a ‘psyched’, two men on a bouldering mission to Font on the day France went into their first COVID19 lockdown (We went to Carrefour, cooked dinner, went to bed and the next day drove home 🙁 ) it’s our first Fontainebleau climbing holiday for a LOOONG time.
This time, we went large, with 11 of us in a massive Gite up at the posh little village of Bois de Roi. Liz, Andy, Ceri, Martin, Jim, Lolly, Steve, Rowan, Kelly, Ed and me!
Apart from Ed and Kelly, most of us weren’t particularly psyched this time, a combination of lockdowns breaking the habits of climbing gym going regularly meaning we were all out of practice. Ed and Kelly had been managing to get their outdoor skills brushed up with lots of peak district bouldering over the year. Myself? I’d managed to get down to The Foundry 1-2 a week for a few months, flailing and failing on most of the bouldering, but starting to see some old rope climbing skills coming back on the auto belays.
Kelly, Andy and I also had another serious thing looming over us: The Ring of Steall, a crazy looking Skyrunning race we’d signed up for which was in a weeks time, not really scheduling itself that well alongside the holiday. Oh well, never mind!
Day One: Rocher Canon – 4th Sep
Usually the first day of a bouldering holiday find me without really any head for it, unable to really get the confidence to weight my feet on the rocks properly. This time, I didn’t really feel that, although I wasn’t really trying anything hard. We spent much of the day playing around the start of the Yellow circuit, following it along while spending a chunk of time encouraging people up the more tricky problems and helping them get into their head game a bit.
After lunch, we followed Ed and Kelly to find a couple of problems they had on their hit list (They are far more organised than me) further into the forest. They were looking for Styrax 6b and Le Cheval d’Arçon 5+ which were right next to each other. We never got a chance to get on Styrax as it had people projecting it for most of the afternoon but I had a couple of goes on Le Cheval d’Arçon, which as far as I could tell was much harder than 5+! Mind you, I’m completely useless at using my heels. It involved using your heel to pull onto a high hanging tufer-y arrete onto a sketchy looking rounded corner. Yick.
I ignored that afterwards and instead jumped on the rather tall looking Orange 22 4- next to it. It was super easy, but super scary as you padded up the high hanging slab above ominous looking, backbreaking rocks. Good for getting my brain into the wobble.
Day Two: Franchard Isatis – 5th Sep
Not really feeling very strong, I elected to hang back and just enjoy following the yellow route helping Liz, Lolly and Ceri climb stuff. We slowly pottered our way before stopping for lunch at about Yellow 12. It was VERY hot, sapping a lot of our enthusiasm but fun was had. I only did one tougher problem, Orange 36 Estelle 5- to give two young English lads some beta. It had a rather saucy slopey mantle towards the top that I nearly dropped but managed to hold it.
Day Three: La Canche aux Merciers – 6th Sep
After a day of less easy climbing, I decided to try and do a bit of “projecting” on something easy. We’d planned La Canche aux Merciers, somewhere we’d been loads of times before. I’d done quite a few of the blue circuit here, limiting me the number of new harder, but not pushing grade problems to work on. Instead we ended up mostly playing on two problems. A heel hooky thing called Jeu de Jambes 6a which I just didn’t have the heels practice for, before heading behind it and spending most of the day playing on red 14 La Sortie des Artistes 6a. This was a bit of a fierce problem, pulling on from a sit start, working to get your hands high then onto a rounded sloper before… and this was where I failed… you had to cut your feet loose and go left to grab a big pocket. Just not strong enough to be able to hang from the sloper and take the feet off without popping off it. Oh well! It was good to get some a bit of psyche back though!
Day Four: Cul de Chien – 7th Sep
We’d been chasing the showers pretty much all week so far, but they really hit on Tuesday night meaning that on Wednesday morning we decided to go somewhere which should dry quickly, so… Cul de Chien! The big desert in the middle of Les Trois Pignons! Kelly and Ed headed of separately to Apremont to get on their project for the week (La John Gill).
A nice walk in, and we dropped bags near the big roof of Le Toit du Cul de Chien and wandered to the start of the Orange and Blue circuit. After a rather lacklustre performance yesterday I started to find some beans and started making short work on quite a few new problems. A particular highlight was La Dignité a tallish, thuggy 4+ which required a of laying off and keeping the head in check. Especially the slippery scary downclimb.
Our attempt at following the Oranges and Blues were disrupted by the discovery of a hornets nest, and then the rediscovery of Le Bilbo 5+, an old nemesis of ours. This one was a tall bugger, with a particularly strong layoff start on a big side pull and a really tricky transition half way up to a new set of side pulls. We’d played with this a lot a long time ago, back in 2016. We never finished it, instead getting really high and bottling the really high last few moves as there just seemed to be no holds. Our comedy escapes of the the left, repeated again by me on this trip, lead to me creating the problem “Bil-Bail” on UKC. I’m pretty sure that won’t survive long… 🙂
After getting some beta on the top from Jim, I FINALLY managed to finish it. Yay!
Day Five: RUN! – 8th Sep
Thursday was WET! People recovered a bit, read books, went for walked and Andy and I went, as per usual, around the Le circuit des 25 bosses.
It was intermittently sunny and warm, and absolutely pissing it down, which made some of the running treacherous; I managed to slip on a wet boulder and graze my right upper thigh a bit, but apart from that it was the usual knackering great fun. Very good training for our upcoming race too. We both definitely didn’t have enough to eat before setting off though, so Andy donated some of his gels to me to munch on.
Day Six: Mont Ussy and Rocher Saint-Germain – 9th Sep
We weren’t expecting to be able to climb on our last day, but we set alarms nice and early to check the forecast just in case. My alarm went off at 7 and a groggily checked the forecast which showed no rain till about 2! GREAT! We all got up and got out nice and early to Mont Ussy, somewhere we’d been before. I wasn’t feeling particularly psyched after our run yesterday, but got my shoes on to do a few of the yellows I hadn’t done before, along with a repeat of a sketchy orange which needed a rather ugly bit of knee to get over the top.
After that, I took another look at Grosse Bosse which is still as impossible for me as the last time I tried it. I need to get stronger at pulling up on my right arm from a sloper! (Annoyingly, I got good at this during lockdown last year training on my hangboard!)
Martin and I then attempted to wander to find some of the blues which led Martin grazing a nice chunk out of his shin on Harlem, a really bloody slippery 4. Once that was done, we tried to find the rest of the blues but gave up as it was a bit overgrown and confusing, so I wandered back down to join people working on Ussy tôt Fait. I had a go, and got further than expected, but didn’t really have the psyche for such a high and strong problem. I probably could have got a few moves further with some practice but… meh.
Then the rain came! We hid under the overhang a bit, but when it got to heavier we went back to the gite for lunch.
Once the rain had cleared, and we’d stuff our faces with bread and cheese, we headed back out again, this time to Rocher Saint-Germain. I think this was my third time here. We had a fun time there, not really trying too many problems, but just enjoying the unexpected opportunity to get a bit more climbing in before we had to go home.
We ended up in a bit of the area we hadn’t climbed in before, and found ourselves shutdown quite a bit. The blues and oranges tougher than expected! That, or perhaps we were just getting tired and low on skin! Still, we played on some fun things and amazing dodged the rain for far longer than we should have but eventually the storm broke above us and we got absolutely soaked. QUICK BACK TO THE CARS!
And that’s it. Our little holiday in Sunny France over.
Can I go back now?