Saturday, 3 November 2012

First trip to Fontainebleau!

Day 1

Tom on 'L'Y'
Photo by: Martin Wright
After a late night of watching climbing flicks and preparing for the trip to Fontainebleau I woke up in Hackney at 6:00 am having had very little sleep. We (Myself, Martin and Tom Wright) quickly packed the VW and were soon on route heading for our first trip to Font’.

We arrived at the campsite at around 14:00 and hurried to set up the tent in order to have some daylight remaining to squeeze a couple of hours in at L’Elephant. Arriving at the area for around 16:30 we decided to jump on something easy to warm up on and get our first taster of ‘bleau sandstone. The main feature at L’Elephant is a huge boulder called Elephant (aptly named with its elephant-like features). It is a beautiful boulder with several low grade problems- Tom went first up ‘Trompe Elephant’ 4c; I followed with a great degree of difficulty almost dropping the top out! We moved around the corner to ‘Surplomb Elephant’ 6a+, I still haven’t done it… Next to ‘Surplomb…’ is ‘L’Y’ 6a which I fell off around 3 times before I managed to top it.

Barre Fixe 7b+
Photo by: Tom Wright
We then moved to the Lepreux boulder where I onsighted a nice 6a and quickly did ‘Le Lepreux Eliminate’ 7a. We then had a quick play on a 7b roof which revolved around a painful (but crucial) fist jam but swiftly moved due to the pain. We searched for some classics and found ‘Figure de Proue’ 7a which is a giant 8 metre highball slab and decided to skip it. I went to look around and found a really cool overhanging pocketed wall. After about 5 minutes of working I had topped it- I later learnt that it was ‘Barre Fixe Assis’ 7b+.

We jumped in the van, drove back to the campsite, ate and slept looking forward to the day ahead.

Day 2

I woke up fairly early feeling psyched to get back in the forest; I had a walk into the small town of Nemours to get some food, and then got back to get ready for the climbing which waited.

We got back to L’Elephant where Tom had ‘Barre Fixe Assis’ to finish off and I was eyeing up ‘Barre Fixe Droite’ 8a to the right which then links into ‘Barre Fixe’. I got on ‘L’Aiglon de Droite’ 6a and once again fell off another 6… It did go on the 3rd attempt though. Then up a really nice 4c and then headed up to Barre Fixe. The sequence was fairly straight forward and simple but quite difficult to pull off. I had an attempt from standing and fell from just a few moves from the top, and then started to work the sit start, I fell from the first few moves several times but it soon went and I had done it. I’m not sure that it deserves 8a, 7c+ would probably be more appropriate.

Later that day we headed over to Franchard Cuisiniere. We had lunch in the car-park and headed to the boulders (getting lost along the way). The aim- ‘Karma’ 8a+ awaited, I quickly got in this desperate classic and fell from the first hold; back on and I found some better holds for my feet and gave a big throw up to the lower sloper and got close but not close enough, after around 20 attempts it became apparent that I was going to be too short to reach the higher (and better) right hand sloper, so I gave up feeling rather annoyed and helpless. Tom was trying a powerful 7a arĂȘte called ‘Bizarre bizarre’ to the right of ‘Karma’ so I did this in a few attempts then moved on and fell off of another 6a.

Day 3

We had decided that we would go back to Cusiniere and possibly check out the infamous ‘Duel’, a remarkable 8a slab which for most people involves finger-nail crimping. We made the trek through the woods and finally found it and decided to warm-up on some easy slabs in the other area; we rapidly rushed up several easier problems; ‘Dans la Patisserie’, ‘Sans Sucre’, ‘Cerise’, ‘Gateau de Noel’ and a very fine 6b+ lay backing arĂȘte- ‘Tranche de Lard’.

'Sans Sucre'
Photo by: Martin Wright
After this we headed over to search for ‘Beatle Juice’ 7a+ and ‘Excalibur’ 7a. Beatle Juice is a lovely boulder which a juggy roof to start and finishes with some crimpy side-pulls, pinches and a then to a sloping top out; to add to this, it is slightly pumpy too. There were several people working the problem so I watched and they later talked me through the beta which was my call to go for the flash attempt, I climbed through the first crux and felt okay then suddenly got very pumped and dropped it just before setting up for the final moves. I had a few more attempts on this but felt exhausted and extremely tired so moved on to try ‘Excalibur’, which I had a few attempts on but was feeling too tired to even get close.

I walked back up to ‘Duel’ with Tom (a friend from London whom I met at Anstey’s several weeks back) and we quickly found the beta which lead us 2/3’s of the way up the wall and just about to set up for the final move out to the top of the lip. Soon after; it started to get dark so we headed back to the campsite to rest for Franchard Istatis the next day.

Day 4

Another early morning and I followed the usual morning routine then headed over to Istatis where I wanted an easy days climbing because I felt very very tired and a little ill. So I did loads of easy slabs and a nice 7b+ roof called ‘Divine Decheance’ which many people were trying. I went looking around for some easy problems to do- Meanwhile Tom Wright was trying ‘Rataplat’ 7b which he later topped and claimed his first font 7b!

I continued to rush round topping tonnes of 5 and 6 slabs. I went to bed quite early that evening hoping to feel a little better for the final day of the trip.

Scoping the top-out...
Photo by: Tom Wright

Day 5

I woke up feeling really psyched and incredibly motivated to leave Font with some classics ticked and having thoroughly enjoyed my first climbing trip abroad- This day did everything to ensure that that happened…

We arrived at Bas Cuvier for around 11:30 and headed straight over to ‘La Marie-Rose’- The first 6a in the world. Sadly I didn’t get the on sight or the second attempt but did manage to send it on my third try.

I decided to check out a 7c classic named ‘L’Aerodynamite’, the problem started with a jump to the starting hold which is quite an awful sloper, then you have to campus to another (and slightly worse) sloper. After a few tough moves you come to the most horrendous top-out I have ever experienced! I had quite a few attempts on this but decided not to waste all my energy on it. I decided to have a go at a 7b+ just to the right called ‘Aerosol’, I set up at the base of the problem and soon had onsighted the problem- This was my first 7b+ onsight!

Feeling very psyched from the onsight I moved on to the famous ‘L’Carnage’ 7b+, this was the most painful problem with the awful condition that my skin was in, the holds on ‘Carnage’ are very polished and quite difficult to hold, they’re also really difficult to keep your feet on. After quite a few attempts, I had topped it and now it was time for the sit- ‘L’Carnage Assis’ 7c. This went fairly quickly after the stand start and was a very enjoyable problem to tick despite the pain of my rapidly diminishing skin.

We then headed over to a slab which I had liked the look of earlier that day, the slab has three difficult and technical problems on graded 7c+, 8a+ and 7c+. We cleaned up the left hand 7c+ and quickly got onto working it, after around 20 minutes of working Tom had topped the problem and sent his first ever 7c+, my attempt after Toms successful ascent saw me repeat the problem too. I was quite pleased to claim a 7c+ SLAB (probably my weakness) on my first visit to ‘Bleau.

After this we had a play around on some other problems and then as daylight slowly faded I felt this huge urge of motivation to do ‘L’Aerodynamite’ and make it my last tick of the trip. The sun started to quickly disappear and rain started to fall… Everything was against me to do this problem; I fell from the final move three times within around 10 minutes. I had my last opportunity to do it- It was now or never. I hit the penultimate hold and kept slipping from this hold, I fought with everything I had left and topped the problem! This was the best feeling I’ve had through climbing… It wasn’t the hardest problem which I’ve done but the chances of success were so little that when it went I was so pleased. Absolutely amazing!
'L'Aerodynamite' 7c
Photo by: Martin Wright

This was the last problem I did in Fontainebleau, the trip was now over and I was left feeling really happy and excited to return next Easter. I learnt a lot from my first trip to the forest and was very sad to now be leaving.

Thanks to Martin and Tom Wright for everything and making the trip happen.
Well done to Tom Wright on your first 7b and 7c+!

Thanks for reading,


'Five Days in Fontainebleau' video.
Video credit: Tom Wright