Another Day, Another Disaster

It seems a little extreme that i’ve written nearly 3000 words and we’re only up to Wednesday morning but that’s the sort of week it was – eventful, unexpected and amazing! And it was about to get amazing for Simon in a very different way.

When he had travelled down to meet me in Font, he’d done so by train with an American lady he had recently begun seeing, named Kim. Kim had been staying in Paris and was to come South to meet up with us, come for a climb for the day and then the two were to spend the night in Fontainebleau proper for some time without my incessant babbling and nonsense.

I’ve gotta be honest, at this point, and say i was immensely envious and gutted i didn’t think of inviting Em to do the same; especially as i was really starting to miss her by this point. Nevertheless, i was certainly pleased for them and was keen to meet Kim; Simon having spoken so highly of her. And i didn’t have to wait long either, as we rose slowly as usual, packed stuff for the day and headed straight to the station.

Simon was right to be smitten: Kim is lovely, charming, well spoken and friendly. It didn’t take long before the conversation flowed well and after a quick stop off at the supermarket, we headed out to Bas Cuvier as was the plan.

Straight off to the Place du Cuvier as a base, lose sight of the dog who went in search of stick throwers and was subsequently hounded herself for a change by a small boy intent on chasing her, and we found a little problem for Kim to get started on. It’s the biggest asset of Fontainebleau: there are always problems for someone to get on, always something quality at any grade. After a tiny bit of snippet coaching from myself, i left them to work the project and wandered off, ending up stood underneath Cortomaltese 6c+.

It is a BRUTAL 6c+, utterly, and spanks off so many people – myself included on every other trip to Font. Norbert was there that day, also at the Place du Cuvier (which seems to have renamed Bleau Job Square by a large wooden sign, seemingly as a reference to the hookers that frequent this particular crag) and called over to me to get my left foot higher. I tried it, made the ambitious slap up and BOOM! stuck the move! I made a meal of the topout, and am incredibly grateful to the nearby climber who shuffled the pad and offered a spot but ticked it off! It’s been years since i’ve been so stoked to get a V5.

I went back to see how the others were getting on, still working the same little project and so i let myself get distracted. Distracted by the obvious and probably inevitable, the one thing i did not want to try and part of the reason i did not want to be back at Cuvier: i went to try Carnage assis 7c.

When i ticked Carnage 7b+ in 2014, i thought that, as it had gone quite quickly and with relative ease, i should try the sit but resisted, not wanting more time under that same piece of rock if it didn’t go quick. When we were there last year, i again resisted for the same reasons (although being ill and asleep on a pad helped). This time around, i gave in.

It was going very well to be honest – the moves linking the sit start very easy compared to the problem proper and was on course to get it in a session. When my left foot started twisting in my old, stretched shoes, i reasoned if i got the Futuras from the car, it would relent and then, at least, i wouldn’t waste any more time here. So off i toddled back to the car park to get my other shoes.

Just as i closed the door of the Landy, i thought i’d heard my name being called. Now, i occasionally imagine this but i always check and this time, it was a friend from back home, also called Simon, who happened to be in Font and whom we happened to bump into the day previous at Isatis. That day, we’d regailed him proudly of the tale of our unexpected mechanical prowess. Now the tables had turned.

He’d driven into a small post and his radiator was, in a word, broken. Like really broken. Water was poured in and poured straight out through the enormous section that was missing from the rest of the radiator. What’s more, and we didn’t realise this at the time although i did spot it, the radiator had been pushed back away from the front bumper.

Simon was screwed – there was no way he could drive back to his campsite with it in this state, let alone back home. However, he did know a garage that had sorted him the year before. The only problem with that is it was about 20km away. He looked at me with hopeful eyes: “tow?”

I’ll be as honest now as i was with him that day and tell you i really didn’t want to. I didn’t want to tow anyone. I didn’t want to drive all that way and take up the rest of my day. And i really didn’t want to stop trying Carnage assis as i was so close!

But you can’t just help people when it suits you. To leave him would be to leave him stranded and friends just don’t do that. After a few more unsuccessful attempts, i packed up, arranged with Norbert to take Canadian Simon and Kim into Font that evening and set about attaching the two cars together.


Simon had a towing bar, which had alleviated some of the worries of towing such a distance but there was an issue in how to attach it to the back of the Land Rover. For want of a simple shackle, we were almost stuffed! Thankfully, Welsh Simon’s bag of uber-cable ties came to the rescue and it seemed secure. Enough anyway. As a back up, we also attached the end of my tow rope, tied off, in case the cable ties failed.

And fail they did. Every single fucking roundabout. With Simon slowing more than me, the bar twisted around it’s housing and popped out, several cable ties breaking each time. After every roundabout, we were forced to stop and reattach the bar – and they were plenty of them.

It’s good that i seem to be (partially) born of an older generation. Most people these days do not know universal arm signals when driving, such as waving a straight arm up and down to signal to slow down but thanks to my dad, i do and thankfully, so did Simon. With him acting as the brakes and me acting as the accelerator, i quickly realised i could put my arm out of the open window and signal to him when we were to slow down or speed up. This soon saved us a lot of time and probably a lot of damage.

It took an hour to get to the garage, followed by a hotch-potch conversation of various languages and gestures, after which i took Simon back to his campsite and briefly enjoyed a beer. Then i left, intent on heading back to the site, feeding the dog and collecting the lantern and going straight back to Cuvier to finish this thing, once and for all.

But as i reached the site, tiredness kicked in and by the time the dog was fed and the sun was down, i was beat; my resolve dipping to the levels of energy i had left. Instead, i opted to be sensible (for a change) and cook some food.

Now, i am in the unusual position in life where i can recount the two best night’s sleep i have had. These were, for the record, a night in a multi storey car park in Tromso at number one and a night under a park bench in Western Germany. The reason for these? Necessity. On both occasions, i was exhausted and desperate for sleep in a lying-down position. On that Wednesday, i was so exhausted and hungry that it has now undoubtedly become one of the best meals of my life.

Granted i reckon it would’ve been pretty tasty regardless but it was only pasta bolognese – mince, chorizo and onion with a sauce. Nevertheless, after my nightly phone call to Em, i lay down in my tent, alone but for the dog, and smiled a little contented smile at just how good that meal had been. And just how good the week was being. And quite had good my life has recently turned out to be.


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