Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Sweaty September

I have foregone a holiday all summer on the basis that work has been very busy and the conditions in Font are better towards autumn. I was desperate for some time off, time away from the office and some long stints of fresh air.  I was also looking forward (with some trepidation, I must admit) to showing Tamsyn and Dina the joys of la foret domeniale de Fontainebleau and introducing them to real outdoor bouldering.

Tamsyn and Dina headed out on Saturday and I joined them on Monday, having had prior engagements on the Sunday. My journey was fine until I reached the French border, whereupon three plane-loads of passengers discovered that French Immigration Control were apparently "working to rule".  It took me just under 2 hours to have my passport checked, during which time there was a vague threat of a stampede, with Gallic tempers demonstrating their frayed edges very clearly. Just a little intimidating.....

Having hung on for better conditions but also been just desperate for a holiday, I had a twinge of mixed feelings on arrival in 30 degree heat. Lovely as it was, I knew it wouldn't be great for climbing anything hard!

With only really 4 days climbing to be had, we started at Isatis.  Being a little over excited about the whole Font experience (the last time I was here it snowed!) I just climbed anything and everything I laid eyes on that looked vaguely do-able.  I was a little freaked by the highball things, and even by the height of some things that are not considered highball, but then all the bouldering I've done elsewhere this summer has been pretty low. I figured I'd get used to it pretty quickly.

Isatis was warm. Oh how warm. Blissful in some senses, but frustrating and lethargy-inducing in others. While I revelled in being able to wander around without wearing a million layers, I quickly realised that the heat was going to put paid to any really hard problems. It's taken me a while to realise that the proverbial "bad conditions" does mean something.  Even at my level, the warmth and humidity means my skin doesn't last long, my fingers slide off things, my feet slide around inside my shoes and sweating with effort becomes gradually more unpleasant!

Dina and Tamsyn were new to the outdoor bouldering experience so I was glad the weather was good. I remembered that when I first started bouldering I didn't give two hoots about the whole "good conditions" thing. It didn't make any difference to my climbing, except that I hated being cold; it made me miserable and I couldn't climb anything for frozen fingers. Ah yes, pre-duvet days!

The warmth was good in some ways, and not in others. Dina wore through her fingers pretty quickly, and I think she was a bit shocked that these things do happen:

I think I just wasn't trying hard enough to wear through my skin as badly as this.  Without wishing to share too much, I wasn't particularly well for the last 4 days of our trip. Praise be for NHS24 and ERI's outpatient department who kindly issued me with some antibiotics at midnight on the Saturday I got home.

In spite of the heat, we mustered enough energy for a bit of dyno practice. From a sit start on this little arete, there was nothing else but a big jump for the top edge. Above is Dina, mid-fling. The hardest bit was sticking the top edge, especially with sweaty mits!

We spent one day at Diplodocus on the yellow circuit. Caroline and I did this 2 years ago, and I think it was the only circuit we completed properly: 39 easy problems and we were still knackered. This time was different, since my buddies had never done such things as circuits. It was good fun showing them the wee tricks I'd learned previously, and watching them work stuff out for themselves too. It was cooler at Diplodocus, and even started to spit a little, but we carried on regardless.

Dina's face is a real picture on this problem (number 8 yellow at Diplodocus I think). The prospect of slipping off this means hitting the big ledge on the way down; clearly this was a difficult thing for Dina to forget!

We had another day at 91.1, which was very warm too. In spite of this I found the red 6b in Stone Country's new Fontainebleau guide relatively straightforward. I think it's known as The Pince.  First pop was desperate. Slippy, crimpy, reachy...didn't really seem possible, but with a bit of perseverence (something I was distinctly lacking this week) it went. Stone Country's book is beautiful, by the way. Definitely worth a tenner. Small, light, good pics, nice honest commentary!

Our last day was spent at Rocher Guichot. I'd not been there before and was pleasantly surprised to find it close to the carpark but not crazily polished. We stopped at the first big boulder (which was pretty big!!!) and walked around it several times. Dina definitely didn't like the height; Tamsyn was pretty sanguine about it, but not overcome with eagerness; I was busy inventing reasons to myself why I should only climb half way up!  So we tootled around on some of the lower boulders to start with.

I thought the lower problems would be easier. Ha ha. There were a couple of very sketchy slabs, tiny crimps, and one giant rockover from the ground - standing start, heel up high, rock over and push hard, turn the hand round an balance precariously against a slab! Magic :-)  With a great deal of egging on from Tamsyn, I was persuaded to try a very sketchy blunt arete. Highball? Really? Oh I never noticed! I'm still not quite sure how I got up it, but I did. Tenuous, balancy, sweaty? All of the above, a definite adrenaline rush. Tamsyn - send me the pics!! Did you find your camera lead yet??

If there are Font lovers out there who haven't been to Rocher Guichot, I would definitely say it's worth a look. Plenty to keep you busy at least!

We found lots of big beetles here too. I couldn't resist taking pictures of them. I think they're fantastic wee beasties:

Four days was great - we climbed every day, but it's still not enough for me. When the weather is dry, it's fantastic. I feel like I've had my fix to last me a wee while, but never for long enough. So when can we go again??