At the end of April we took a week long trip to one of my favourite places in the whole world: Fontainebleau, France. It’s the longest trip I’ve ever had there and I was really excited about getting away (even more so after our trip to Siurana in Spain had to be scrapped due to me falling really ill on the day we were meant to leave! Gutted!) Luckily this time round, I was fighting fit after a good few days of rest from climbing and psyched to get to France!
After a fun first night of wine and reunions (with Ben and Ceri who had been on a two month road trip throughout Spain and France) we headed to Apremont for what was supposed to be a relaxed day of getting-our-eye-in (essential for any Font trip). For the most part, we managed it although Ben and I did get briefly sidetracked a really cool arête problem which was a lot harder than it looked (which I personally think should be the strap line for Fontainebleau on the whole!). I think the over excitement of being in Font again got the better of us, but we soon remembered we needed to play the long game, so we went and joined the girls on some really nice blue circuit problems. It was pretty crowded and hot in Apremont Central though, so we retreated to the cafe near the car park and chilled out while waiting for the sun to drop a bit. Once it cooled off, we headed back into Apremont and got on some cool red circuit problems to see out the day before treating ourselves to a well earned dinner in Fontainebleau town!
The rest of the week continued along a similar theme. The weather got better and better (i.e. cooler but remaining sunny) with the slight exception of some drizzly rain on Friday morning. We managed to get out every day though, returning to some previously visited areas as well as some new ones. On our return to Bas Cuvier, I managed to tick off a long standing project La Voie de la Vire on pretty much my first attempt which felt great! Such a nice problem! Probably a bit stiff for the 5+(!!) grade, but well worth trying. Below are a few shots from our day at Bas Cuvier with Ben and Ceri on La Voie de la Vire as well as Ceri on one of my other projects there, Cortomaltèse (6c+):
In fact, most days were pretty productive. Ben and I made quick ascents of other projects at Gorge aux Châts including the fantastic, short and powerful Lait Caillé (6c+) which we ticked after only a handful of tries each. I really love that problem because not only are the moves amazing, but adding in the sit start takes it from a 4- to a 6c+! That gives you some idea of how strong the underside of the roof is. If you like core-y, strong, short and intense roofs with a wicked knee bar moves (like I do!) then this one is for you. Whilst at Gorge aux Châts we also made our way round some fun red and blue circuit problems and managed to repeat Arachnée; a strong traverse/roof with a fun top out. I definitely think Gorge aux Châts is one of my favourite areas in the forest. Worth a visit if you haven’t been.
The only new area (to me at least) that we visited was Franchard Cuisinière. After a slight false start due to some slightly dodgy navigating on my part, we managed to find the right area. I’m very glad we did, too! It was really nice, and being heavily wooded meant that it was a lot cooler and the fiction was noticeably better than at, say, Rocher Fin or Cul de Chien. Using the new Font a Bloc book by Jacky Godoffe we managed to find some really nice 6a’s and 6b’s. We took it pretty easy at Cuisinière. It was roughly mid way through the trip and we were all feeling pretty fatigued from a few consecutive days of hard climbing. We were selective in what we tried, and what we invested time into though and still felt like we had a productive time there. I feel like I got a good feel for the place and it looks like there’s a lot of really cool looking lines in and around that part of the forest (Beatle Juice and Le Surplomb de la Coquille being two for the ticklist!). Sadly though, our time at Cuisinière was cut short after Helen took an awkward spill off a problem, and her head missed the crash pad resulting in some nasty whip lash! We decided it might be time to knock it on the head (no pun intended), and take her to hospital to make sure it wasn’t anything too serious (which, thankfully it didn’t seem to be, although it did put a bit of a stop to her climbing for the next few days sadly).
The next couple of days were fairly leisurely with trips to Sabot and Cul de Chien. Ben and I did get on a few 7a’s at Sabot however to see what they were like. Jet Set started to come together, but still felt a little way off. Ben did pretty well, getting pretty much up to the point of being able to make the final dyno for the lip. I was struggling to catch the middle crimp due to a mix of fatigue and my skin wearing thin! Definitely one to get back to though. We also had a go on Graviton which has one of the most perfect lower sections ever, but an awful, desperate top out. After a couple of attempts and an awkward fall, I decided it might be one to leave for now…
Our afternoon at Cul de Chien was a very chilled. It was my birthday that day, and after lots of watching and wise cracking about the Royal Wedding in the morning we went for lunch at La Taverne (one of my favourite restaurants in Font!). I rather foolishly got a bit too full of birthday cheer (aka pizza and beer) and was battling hard to stay awake, let alone climb. Helen and Smalls (who was also experiencing some pain in her hand) went off to explore the Palace while the rest of us managed to drag ourselves out to Cul de Chien. I’m really glad we did. We worked our way round the blue circuit there, and in doing so revisited some problems which we’d tried before (during our rather wet new year trip). It was nice to be able to dispatch these without too much trouble, especially as they had totally gotten the better of me before! Also, after a bit of rain in the morning the sky cleared while we were out and we enjoyed a really beautiful and warm evening while we made a few tentative attempts at Le Toit du Cul de Chien (which, for the record feels terrifying!).
For our last day, we decided it was game time. Although it wasn’t the be-all-and-end-all of the trip, I had been hoping to tick a 7a, as it was on my list of things to do this year. I wanted to do a really nice, classic problem too, and while spending some time at Rocher Fin at the start of the trip, we found a problem which fitted both catergories: Mémoire d’Outre Tombe. This is an amazing looking, pointed roof in the middle of Rocher Fin which tops out up a perfect, sloped arête which we’d seen on previous trips there. We’d always thought it looked impossible. It didn’t really help that most times we’d thought about trying it, it had been surrounded by a lot of shirtless Europeans, grunting and screaming their way along it. The first day we’d been there though, we’d joined a really friendly group of Italians who were working on the problem and quickly managed to figure out the moves and start making decent links. We decided that it was nice enough and possibly achievable enough to warrant a return visit! When we did return on the Saturday, it was surprisingly quiet and indeed we had the boulder to ourselves for a good portion of the day! We spent some time cleaning holds and reworking out our beta for the top section, as well as some alternative starting beta for me which involved a really nice, but incredibly intense cross through move! Once everything was fresh in our minds we started going for full links and, amazingly, after only two or three attempts we both managed to complete the problem, back-to-back! A proper fairy tale end to the trip! All that was left to do after that was a couple of hours slacklining in the early evening sun and toast the end of our trip with curry and beer!
As with most climbing trips, I was photographing as much as I was climbing, and I’ve included few of my favourites in this post:
It took me a long time to slim down the weeks worth of photos to just a few of the best, but I have uploaded my favourite thirty shots to Flickr.
I really had such a great time during our trip and hopefully, injuries aside, so did everyone else. I think we all benefitted from being there for a week instead of the usual hasty long weekends. A few days to get back used to the climbing in Fontainebleau definitely helped. I’m so excited to go back again! It really is an amazing place to hang out, climb and shoot photos. I love it! But then, if you read this far, you’ve probably worked that out for yourself…