I mentioned to someone the other day that when my climbing career eventually comes to an end, whenever that may be, Prowess will undoubtedly be one of the highlights. What i’m now hoping, after the briefest of glances at my blog the other day, is that is hasn’t trumped everything else so much that it’s left me nothing else to say!

In truth, i have been rather busy of late, with North Wales enjoying a customary early-summer spell of good weather and the subsequent evenings out and about. The long days lend themselves to long sessions, leaving little time for eating and general life stuff, let alone blogging.

Nevertheless, i’m still here and right now, here is sitting in a hammock at La Musadiere (that old faithful campsite near Mily la Foret, Fontainebleau) being eaten alive by blackfly. I arrived early this morning following the customary driving-through-the-night that makes negotiating London and Paris significantly easier. Currently alone but for my faithful canine companion, i’m here until Friday (today is Tuesday) before heading to Germany and on to Switzerland with my old Canadian friend, Simon.

Now, for none of this is history on my side: my last Font trip in March was a complete write off, my last trip to Magic Wood a disaster and the last solo trip of this nature was the worst trip of my entire life (albeit two years later giving the best story of my life but that’s not the point). As the usual stress grew in the build up, this did not help.

Things are very different this time around. Gone is the Freelander, with it’s seemingly endless list of issues and in it’s place is my trusty Defender – recently renovated with almost an entire drive train. New clutch, gearbox, transfer box, rear diff and, fitted personally during a long pit stop yesterday, a new rear prop shaft. While i can easily be reminded that issues still remain, i know exactly what they are and how to manage them. I think.

The German trip of 2013 did have the added complication of a huge lack of local knowledge of the Frankenjura during that first, tumultuous week. Not so, here, as this is a site and a forest i know only too well. If anything, i can’t decide which of my existing projects to explore this evening, as the list is as large as my ticklist at home.

Of course, last time here was blighted by illness but today i feel fit and strong. I even took heed of the issues in March by pitching camp and going straight to bed on my arrival; much to the sanguine of Tess after many hours locked in the car. Recent ticks have fallen as they had in the Spring, with Ultimate Retro Party V8 under my belt and strong progress on The Witch V7 after a session with new bouldering partner Karen and another with Ryan and Owain. Karen also accompanied me on a successful evening blast to the Braichmelyn, including a repeat of the V5 line (whose name escapes me) and the V6 variant. I’ve even managed all the moves on Original Traverse V8 – the last remaining line on the convenient Brenin boulder. In short, i am in good form and feeling fresh.

As for Magic Wood, last time was a distinct lack of psyche due to poor research. High in the mountains, the temperature is not forgiving in the steep sided valley and following last summer’s sweat-fest in Spain, i suddenly realised maybe the cold places would be better in June, and the hot ones in November, rather than the other way around as i have done before…

And there is the factor of personnel. With no disrespect at all to my great friend, Mad Jim, who accompanied me on that frozen voyage, a lack of amenable and achievable grades did add to the misery somewhat, sapping psyche and making a bad situation slightly worse. Simon was working projects here with me in March, as well as climbs in North Wales and Canada so sitting under the same piece of rock should keep us both happy. Granted i’m not there yet but there is certainly cause for optimism this time around.

Of course, this is merely day one: not yet the time to crack open the bubbly and announce a successful trip. Nevertheless, other ill fated voyages have often had little hints at the beginning – the car trouble with the Freelander actually started in Oxford! The Defender is running beautifully, the best it has since it’s acquisition and i certainly feel in fine fettle. Apart from the black flies. Really hope they’re not poisonous…


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