Milestones: Fontainebleau in June 2009

This is part four of a series of posts all about the turning points in my climbing career. From single moves to huge time spans, these are the events that shaped me into the climber and person i am today. 

I’ll be posting a new one every few days so keep an eye on the blog for the latest or, if not, they will appear in one beast of an article at the end of the series. Feel free to comment and let me know of some of your own highlights, i’d greatly enjoy hearing some of your own. 

Fontainebleau in June 2009

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If you challenged everyone to create a similar list, you’ll find they are littered with firsts. [This is a hunch but one that i am so confident of that i will pass it off as fact]. First climb, first climb of a grade, first time abroad, so on and so forth. This is one that bucks that trend.

My first climbing trip to France was by invite of my good Uni friend, James Siverns, now regularly referred to as Mad Jim. His friend, Sean, drove the three of us to Ailefroide: an Alpine village in the Ecrins Massif that has continued to grow in it’s appeal to Brits. This was back in 2005.

The following year, i recruited my best friend, Dave Boulton, and another couple of reprobates from the climbing wall, Tom Churchman and Chris Lancaster, for a three-week tour of some of Europe’s bouldering hotspots, including, of course, Font. Even before this, i’d travelled with my parents during my childhood to some eight European countries. So by 2009, being abroad was anything but an alien concept.

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What made this trip unique and important was the format that it took. Accompanied by a friend, Steffi Orke, originally from Germany but living in London, we drove down to Font and stayed at La Musadiere – a place that from here on would become a home away from home (although again, this wasn’t my first time there). We climbed, made friends with other climbers, had a great trip and from here, planned the next, beginning the pattern for the next six years and counting.

Nothing stands out from this trip as particularly significant, which in some ways makes it even more significant. Looking back through the few photos i have from that trip, only Jet Set, my first Font 7a and the three-way slackline have any lasting memory.

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What is important here is the way it all unfolded. A short week long trip, drive out, climb, plan the next one and come home, it’s a simple format. Granted, sometimes it doesn’t quite work out the way you expect (the lad we met on this one, George, had agreed to meet us in Spain in September but bailed at the last minute, forcing us to take drastic recruitment that worked out for the best anyway) but without this one, we wouldn’t have gone to Albarracin, then Val Daone, which is all the more important for other reasons.

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