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So it seems a little ironic that after a post about Endless and Anxious waiting, it’s taken me an age to post anything about being away…

I said in my last post that i was worried about forgetting “that crucial ingredient between a good week away and a week of troubles and misery” but it turned out to be very much the former. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t entirely plain sailing but that made for the better.

We had car trouble, helped another friend with car trouble, had failures over and over and had some rain to contend with and yet, every problem was overcome with relative ease and it made the successes all the sweeter. The fact i didn’t get chance to write a thing while i was away is testament to how good a week it really was – i haven’t even got any retrospective posts to publish!

The hardest part was certainly being away from Em for such a long time. We’ve become so close in such a wonderful way so quickly, gelling like we were made for each other that she ran (or more like sprinted) around my mind for the entire week. Knowing this would prove to be the case before we went, on that last day, she looked at me and told me to go get stories. We certainly came back with plenty.

And so, now that i’m back and beginning to get settled, i’ll write a series of posts to document this trip as was; telling you the stories i was tasked with getting. One post would just be too long or lacking in detail and considering i’m now resting anyway, there’s not a lot going on to report on! Even Em has now gone on her own travels.

 

The whole thing had been riddled with stress and faff from a long time before i departed so finally getting on the road was a relief in itself. With Tess curled up in the car, we made good time heading south and got the ferry without issues, sailing through Paris entirely by memory. The problem was at the toll, i’d misplaced my wallet and was a touch paranoid i had somehow managed to leave it there. With it being Sunday, i was also super conscious of getting any food, having not eaten on Saturday either.

Not able to check in or go to the supermarket without a wallet, i opted to nip over to Rocher aux Sabots to let Tess out and find the blasted thing. Thankfully, it turned out Tess was just sat on it – a clever ploy to get to have a look around the crag. To be fair, i was keen to investigate conditions for later in the day so we had a walk in. It looked damp but either which way, it looked amazing – it was good to be back.

So, wallet found, food was purchased and camp was set. A quick nap that barely felt necessary and then off to collect Simon from the train station in Avon. We called in to Rocher d’Avon on a scouting mission, both agreeing to being too tired to bother getting the pads out.

It looked ace; a crag i really should’ve checked out before now! Le Danseur 7b looked awesome, Si took a shining to a highball crag who’s name escapes me, and i scoped out Freak of the Weak 7c+ and Basta 7a+ which both looked awesome but brutal. Then we wandered down and saw the immense prow of Master of Puppets 7b. It looked so good, but we were sans pads and knew that rest was needed, so headed back, intending to come back.

Bless him, my awakedness now waning, Si cooked dinner and we chewed the fat and caught up before eventually going to bed much later than i’d intended. Despite not touching chalk at all, it was a great first day and we were chomping at the bit to get out again.

Intent on visiting new places and trying new lines, and after a nice relaxed start, we packed up and headed out to Franchard Hautes Plaines. Only there was a problem: my trusty Land Rover suddenly sounded like an American muscle car. I popped the bonnet and instantly spotted the problem: the exhaust’s top section had slipped from the engine manifold once again. I quizzed Simon, who’d borrowed the “truck” to get pastries in the morning, and he hadn’t noticed a change in volume. It must have been the bumpy road around the campsite that had meant it had slipped. Memories of Germany and Austria came flooding back.

But i’d sorted this problem several times recently so they quickly drifted away. A week before i came away, i’d replaced the middle and rear sections of exhaust at work, with a little help, and knew that if we loosened off the join between sections, we could easily persuade it back up and into position. I also knew that i’d driven it plenty before in this state without too much damage or trouble and we were itching to get out. So with Franchard not being far from the site, i opted to earmark Tuesday morning to fix it and we headed out.

It turned out, looking back, to be very fortuitous to do so! We walked in and suddenly bumped into the impressive block containing Lapin ou Canard 7a and Ah! Plus Facile 7a+ and stopped to have a go. Almost straight away, two people appeared to join us. We asked, as is usual conversation, where they were staying and found out Norbert, the guy, lived locally and quickly invited us to the house to join him! After we had worked the problems and both myself and Norbert had ticked both lines, we exchanged numbers and agreed to meet up with them soon. Si then finished off Ah! Plus Facile with a third varying style, differing wildly from both mine own and Norbert’s beta. While he rested and kept trying, i quickly ran into the forest in search of the crag’s stand out line: Deux Faux Plis en Plats Reels 7c.

It looked so inviting, sat in the perfect setting, the line looking so good there was no way you wouldn’t want to try it. So we did! Not that we got very far though, as with battered bodies and thinning skin, we were forced to retreat, vowing to come back to this one too, as well as the nearby Pulp Friction 7a+. Psyched but exhausted, we packed up and headed back.

But then, just coming back into Franchard Isatis on the way back to the car, i spotted a block that i had to check out. We wandered over, captivated to find a double dyno called Canonball 7a/b (depending on who you listen to). The line of Spongebob 6c to the right looked equally inviting.

[NOTE: the nature of the forest being so vast, with such history, means it is documented in many places. As such, there is often discrepency between the grades of problems. It seems odd but grades of the same line can very wildly between different guidebooks, making reporting on ascents slightly tricky. For this trip (and hopefully beyond) i have taken grades from the reliable bleau.info website]

Canonball fell for myself, with a superb looking running start, the start proper being left for another day. Chuffed with our efforts, we headed back to the site, tired but happy and wiled away the evening with spirited debate. The next morning we’d make an easy fix on the car and head out to Isatis. Or at least, that was the plan.

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