Reflections on another Stunning Font week

So i’m back now, slowly recovering after a torrid 13-hour travel back to North Wales and already desperate to get back to the forest. That should say it all about the week really, and it’s unmitigated success and while the tick list is not long, it does wreak of quality and puts a smile on my face when thinking back. It could’ve been better, granted, but also could’ve been a lot worse, especially when you add on to the list in my previous post a last-day tick of Les Mains Pleines 7a at Gorge aux Chats.

DSCF1747So a quick recap on the successes of the week and my climbing companions: in Team Octavia was my cousin Rich Edwards, pushing the 5+ and nearly getting into 6a, Mark Baxter, a self-dubbed Sunday League climber but with a lot of heart and a positive outlook, Rye Griffiths, who is getting very well established in the 6s, and John Stringer, who managed Le Lepraux Direct 7a with me at l’Elephante among some other sterling efforts. Meanwhile, Team Micra (which continues to defy logic by continuing to move along roads) was full to bursting with driver Ben Ryle, who took the mileage option and simply ran off climbing everything and anything, his girlfriend Charlotte Milner, our resident photographer, Tom Coombe, their friend from down South and steady 6 climber, and the insatiable Dan Hale, who with one breath would complain of fatigue and general exhaustion and in the next, be found mid-way through the next project or problem. Oh and Tess (who joined me in Team Freelander which thankfully didn’t repeat last years travel epics) was around too, continually presenting our merry band with sticks and dog-toys which needed to be thrown. She was so spent by the end of the week, she was searching out any quiet spot to sit and relax.

John searching for non-existent holds
John searching for non-existent holds

With such a wide grade-range to accommodate, it could’ve been very easy for some to come back feeling marginalised in favour of others. While i can only speak from my own experience, i would say this was not the case at all – the support for the climber was unwavering regardless of who they were or what they were on. Try hard and you’ll get a cheer, it was as simple as that, exactly as it should be and i hope you all read this to know how great you’ve all been over the past week. I can think of no other group i’d rather have been there with.

The good group dynamics weren’t just at the crag either, and the evenings were spent chilling, chatting and laughing heartily around the campsite. Beer, wine and general banter flowed all week, with some getting slightly more than their fair share but probably deserving it, and Dan in particular coming in for stick for a diet that i’m sure he could take on the road as a stand up routine. As mentioned last time, it contributed to make the week a total success.

Iwan warming up before a flash of Le Toit de Cul de Chien
Iwan warming up before a flash of Le Toit de Cul de Chien

So to follow on briefly from my previous post, Friday afternoon was back to 95.2 where i was guilty of a lack of respect for the forest. I’d forgotten that because one has completed a handful of 7s, doesn’t mean the rest will fall with ease, and made the mistake of thinking i could walk up things now. It was not the case, as i found myself spat off Miss KGB 7a+ and le Mur de la Fosse aux Ours 7a, as well as the stand start to Pince Toi. Reflecting on the walk out and i found myself eating a slice of humble pie, and chewing on the thought that every climb in the forest demands respect, regardless of it’s grade.

Team Octavia left the following morning before i was up, and the rest of us travelled to the nearby Gorge aux Chats. With this being their last day, they beasted themselves and finished off with weary smiles. I got back on an old project, Les Greves des Nains Assis 7a but forgot the beta and was forced into a speculative ascent utilising a potential banned-hold. I am still trying to find out if it counts. Following this, i had some attempts on a couple of other 7as but with no juice left, no success either, merely a to-do tick in my guide.

A classic line at 95.2
A classic line at 95.2

Team Micra left Sunday morning and i followed in the afternoon after a more relaxed approach to my packing. With time to kill and no return looking likely for at least another year, i saw it best to make sure i’d finished myself off properly and wandered back up to Gorge aux Chats for another bite at Le Ritournelle 7a+ from the day before. Alas, the fatigue of the week meant i still couldn’t hold the crucial hold so i retreated to another 7 that looked easier and less strenuous. By this point, i had cut my hand, with puss leaking out at an alarming rate and was struggling to carry the pads. Still, i concerted effort let me get one more tick, leaving me with 5 grade 7s in 7 days.

With time to kill, and confidence high after my Carnage success, i nipped into Cuisiniere to scout out some more future projects. The relative ease of my ascent has made me realise that with training and determination, these things are not only possible but easily attainable and has opened my eyes to other possibilities in the forest. Don’t get me wrong, i’m not saying that i’ll get up Duel 8a or Halle Bopp 7c+ any time soon but where before i would have stood below them in awe of their difficulty, now i stand and dream.

The crew all together, with Iwan and Dan (missing Rye, on the wall and me taking the photo)
The crew all together, with Iwan and Dan (missing Rye, on the wall and me taking the photo)

So now what? I’ve been talking to Andy at work today, obviously psyched about the trip, and debating what the near future holds. While a return to the forest is not likely any time soon, it’s time to turn my attentions to the challenges at home. Where before the future was small, with a few select projects waiting for suitable conditions, now it is vast, with numbers just giving an indication of the time it will take to get them done. Success breeds success, watch this space.

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