After the previous day, lengthy walk ins were off the table; in fact, our first port of call was to head in to Font and go shopping. I’d been trying to find a healthy blend of climbing and non-climbing activities for us to do and wandering around the town seemed a good option.
Our walk didn’t actually take us into the town proper but we did have a very pleasant and sunny walk around the gardens of the chateau. I’d only discovered them thanks to my friends Ben and Charlotte in 2014 or 2015, i forget and they are somewhere anyone visiting Font should go and explore.
The afternoon was then spent at Cul de Chien. We met Gabe and Marie, took only the large Petzl pad, cut out a lot of the unneeded crap and basked in the sunshine on la plage sans la mer as i like to call it.
More low-grade climbs succumbed, all thoroughly enjoyable and one rather terrifying top out, and while i went and glanced at l’Autre Toit it was not a sensible place to head. Instead, we made the short walk over to 91.1 to try another couple of projects from trips gone by.
Flipper sds 7a+ had been agonisingly close back in 2016 when i’d tried it last, had people on it this time and was there for the ticking. A few attempts brought the beta back, a fired up American completed the stand and then told me to fuck off when i suggested the sit start – not as bad as it sounds, but enough for it to stick in my mind – and i was on it, ready and determined.
We're back from our #font #bouldering trip and in #climbing terms, I didn't really manage anything – possibly because I kept trying I've failed on in the past… This is Le Sous Plomb and Flipper, both 7a+ at 91.1. I got a lot closer on the latter but didn't leave myself enough time and managed to tear a flapper on my left hand. Turns out #boulderingwithababy is harder than I thought! #fontbouldering #Fontainebleau #rockclimbing #climbing_is_my_passion #climbing_pictures_of_instagram #climbing_worldwide Photo credit to @emks93
But then i ran out of time again. One last go means three last gos and on the second, i slipped, dropping the first couple of moves and felt it would go on the next attempt until i looked at Em, shuffling her feet and looking at the way home. Then i glanced at my left hand and the large flap of skin hanging off my palm and knew i’d have to leave another one.
By this point, i was pretty demoralised about the whole climbing thing. The goal had been a couple of 7as or 7a+ and hopefully a 7b during the week. So far, i’d managed none. With one climbing day to go and my standards evidently lacking, i was not feeling very good about myself.
@edwards.pete checking out a previously unexplored crag – JA Martin – this afternoon while Rosie looks on (or ignores him & plays with some toys)! Our few days here are already coming to an end & while Pete didn't tick so much hard stuff & the weather was quite bitter, it's been great getting out & away from the norm of home for a bit! . . #babyatthecrag #font #climbing #bouldering
Time for a change of tactics. If you can’t climb new and hard, just go for new and while ticking off easy stuff at somewhere i’ve been many times doesn’t do much for me, exploring a new crag certainly seemed like a productive use of the day! At least if i didn’t climb anything, i’d have somewhere else in the bank for the next trip.
Buoyed by this new strategy, i looked through the guidebook and selected JA Martin. While eating pizza on the previous evening, i’d noticed a signpost to local crags and smiled as i read through, audibly saying “been there” to almost every one. Suddenly i was keen to visit the missing ones.
The obligatory hour-and-a-half wait at the vets to allow Tess to come home killed early enthusiasm but after we were finally done, we headed off to investigate somewhere new. Gabe, Marie and Lorenzo were having a rest day so we pretty much had the place to ourselves.
Now that we're back, I'm facing the inevitable question: how was it? My answer so far has been that from a family perspective, it was great, showing my daughter around the forest, spending some relaxing time with @emks93 but from a#climbing point of view, it lacked. But last night I got chatting to a friend, @justwaltr who was in the #forest for the same week and it slowly dawned that actually, it was a fantastic experience. I've always dreamed of having a family who would come and join me in #Fontainebleau and if that means sacrificing some grades, it was totally worth it. #fontbouldering #bouldering #boulderingisbetter #bouldering_pictures_of_instagram #grimpeur #escalade #climbing_is_my_passion
Straight away i cheered right up, thrilled by the look of the awesome roof Le Surplomb Pete-Couilles and it’s variations, ranging from 5- to 6b. All fell pretty quickly and were thoroughly enjoyable. Vent Couvert (racourci) and (droite) both 6a+ followed, were both enjoyed, before i wandered off looking for a good 7 to try.
I couldn’t find one within sensible walking distance so instead finished the climbing week on Signature 6a and Bille en Tete 6b, satisfied with the day’s efforts, if not entirely happy with the week’s climbing.
With pads buried at the bottom of all of our other stuff, climbing on the last day was simply too much a trial. Frankly, it wasn’t worth it and after four days of dragging poor Em around the forest, having a day doing more conventional touristy activities was the least we could do.
We took a quick trip into Milly la Foret, getting a souvenir for Rosie from a fantastic little boutique that i frequent often – i had no idea they spoke English there and had been conversing with them in my poor French for years! Actually, i’m really grateful for them allowing me to try and for being patient and welcoming to me. It is called Derriere la Fenetre and is in the main square near the market stand. Please visit on your next trip, an ideal place for gifts for those back home.
Last night we ate out; nothing fancy, we were at a fabulous #pizzeria in Arbonne la Forêt that only came to my attention a couple of years ago and is now a regular haunt. I dare say anyone who's been to the #forest often will have driven past, I'd encourage anyone to stop by, lovely people. As well as free Wi-Fi, they've also got this really cool #signpost with a host of local crags (and @rockcityskatepark for reasons I forget) and I smiled as I realised I'd been to almost all of them. Almost all. That needs remedying so today we're off to JA Martin. Really psyched now! #Fontainebleau #font #fontbouldering #bouldering #boulderingisbetter #rockclimbing #climbing #climbing_is_my_passion #psyched
After grabbing some food, we headed back to Fontainebleau, said a quick hello and goodbye to Gabe and Marie, wandered the town searching for a sticker and a pin (the latter of which we didn’t find so if anyone can send me one, i’ll be phenomenally grateful) and eventually headed off for Barbizon and a quick walk before our long drive home.
Barbizon is a lovely, tranquil village, steeped in art history and worth an afternoon of anyone’s time. It is also very close to some lovely walking which Tess was doubtless very glad of before being cooped up for such a long time.
After a pleasant walk finished under a mild shower, we bid farewell to the Forest, stopped briefly at the large Carrefour for supplies and then began our long journey home.
The Inevitable Question
Once home and back at work, i faced the inevitable question: how was Font? With a paltry list of ascents, i must admit, i was a tiny bit despondent. How was Font? In climbing terms, pretty shitty to be honest.
7a is what i regard as my bread and butter these days, rightly or wrongly. Any less than that and to be honest, it doesn’t even register. Whether i should be like that or not, that’s just how i think, given the standards i’ve achieved and currently operate at.
BUT, and this is the crucial thing, as a family trip, time away from home, time spent with the love of my life and my absolutely wonderful daughter, the perfect opportunity for Tess to get some time, experiences and stories, it was brilliant. I didn’t get any hard climbing done but i did get climbing done and, as i’ve said several times now, with an infant in tow, that’s an achievement in itself.
Em also reliably told me she really enjoyed being in the forest and is keen to go back. At first, after getting home, i was a bit head down, fed up, desperate to go again and perform as i know i can. Then i got chatting to Jam; the same friend who had been there when we were but who’s path we hadn’t managed to cross. We got chatting about things, about how it had gone and over the course of the 45 minute conversation, i realised that grades aren’t everything. That indeed the whole week was one big win.