On a week trip like this, in Font at least, Friday is earmarked as the day for taking Tess to the vet.It’s pretty straightforward these days and so far, touch wood, i’ve never had a problem with her. The vet in Milly la Foret is excellent, on the Avenue du General Leclerc (directions here) and they have only ever been incredibly quick and efficient. That being said, while they are quick at sorting out me and my dog, the wait to get in can take quite a while. And of course, this being France, they’re closed for lunch until 2pm.
So we took the HUGELY unusual step on Friday morning to head out to the crag BEFORE we went to the vet. While this may not seem that incredible, anyone who has seen me in the mornings will realise how uncommon it is, and how much i really don’t like mornings.
Now was time to go somewhere different but the same: back to Franchard Isatis to try and get something of some substance done. So far, while i’d managed a series of 7a ticks, there was nothing above 7b – and even that was a solitary and speculative tick of <em>Canonball</em>. I wanted something harder to go home with and <em>Divine Decadence</em> 7b+ was the next one to try.
As we left the car, Simon had mentioned to me that we could probably do with some more chalk and, with the brown paper bag having a small hole in the corner, i picked up the large sample bag of Snap chalk to chuck in the chalk bag. Thanks to the hole, we threw the lot in. That ought to do it! we’ve got plenty now.
It was a severely stupid idea. Take my advice on this: when you’re working a hard project, don’t switch chalk half way through. With the new beta wired, i knew exactly what to do but when i threw my right hand onto the slopey dish, it simply slid off. It wasn’t the conditions, and it was obsessively brushed, it was just that my hand didn’t connect to the rock through the layer of chalk. It might just be me but i swear, i will never buy another bag of Snap chalk as long as i carry on climbing.
A young German climber arrived to try <em>Le Surplomb Statique</em> 6a and was in need of chalk. By the time we left him, he had filled his chalk bag up to overflowing…
In exchange, he offered his pad to save the harsh thump that had resulted in my brain rattling around my skull slightly. It made much difference and i owe him a vote of thanks for that!
So, with Simon resting, photographing and generally bumming around Isatis for the interim, i tried over and over on this little problem. At one point Si went to show our new German friend <em>Spongebob</em> and i’m sure they were probably hoping that when they came back, i’d have it done. Sadly, no such luck.
Then, after about two hours of toil, the feet felt good, i hit and stuck the right sloper, moved a left foot up and stuck a toe hook around the arete, reached out left and hit the giant white sloper. My feet pinged but i shuffled my hand, chucked in a heel hook and a few moves later was pulling over the top.
It made what had already been an outstanding week an unmitigated success. I’d now got my 7b+ tick and another monkey off my back – even if i do now need to go and tick the sit, in a manner not too disimilar to Carnage…
But that was a worry for Sunday. Now more pressing matters were at hand and we headed into Milly. After an hour, Tess was all good to get back into the UK and we wandered round for a bit of shopping. Milly is such a quaint little town that even for non-climbers, i would still recommend a visit. The iconic market shelter in the centre is highlighted on a brown “point of interest” sign from the motorway and is still used for it’s intended purpose today.
Gifts purchased, and a spot of lunch eaten and we picked up some sausages for dinner and headed back. Our decision to head out had been vindicated by the rain that began while we were in the vets, and continued while we wandered the shops and sat eating sandwiches and drinking beer but now it had stopped, we made a quick detour before heading back to the site, to have a wander around Rocher aux Sabots.
Simon, being Canadian, hasn’t had chance to explore the forest as much as myself, for obvious geographical reasons, and this was one of those crags he’d not been – but surely needed to! Classics of every grade, secluded but still a suntrap, easy access but not roadside and not overly popular with non-climbers, as we wandered round, i said to Si that Sabots is probably my favourite crag in the forest.
We weren’t there to climb though, the lure of sausages high on our minds, so i showed Si around, pointing out some of the stand out lines and some of the projects. I had a look at Smash 7b, thinking how i’d really wanted to try this but it looked SO much bigger than i’d remembered. We glanced at Graviton 7a (which looks desperate) and Sale Gosse 7c (which also looks desperate) and then headed home, via a small group playing around l’Oblique 7a. If nothing else, it was worth a wander.
Dinner was again excellent, if a little simple. Fried French sausages in baguette with some fried onions, it tasted absolutely delicious. By this point, we’d put the tarp up to give us some shelter from the slight rain and again, i’d realised how invaluable these small pieces of equipment are. It is something everyone who goes camping should chuck in.
Saturday morning came and we found ourselves perched in the same spot – under the tarp, contemplating what to do with ourselves. The rain had dampened everything but had seemingly subsided, so we were wondering options. Simon’s suggestion was to go to Karma: the local climbing wall in Font but i was very much opposed. I understood his thought process – we were there to climb so climb we should – but i was loathed to go inside unless absolutely necessary and even more loathed to part with money for the pleasure. Still, it beat my other suggestions, which didn’t quite hit the spot either and it would give me a first chance of the week to sit and do some writing.
Now all week, at this point, Simon had been regularly checking the weather forecast while i had thought it pointless. I’d merely come up with plans for each contingency but Si seemed to want to know. At one point he even checked the forecast to see what it thought the weather was doing at the very moment for where we were. Now, the tables had turned and i got my phone out.
We needed to be at the train station on Sunday at 11 o’cock at the latest. I’d then need to leave at around 7 o’clock myself to catch my ferry home. The forecast for Sunday? To start raining at 11am and stop at around 8pm… And that was the time i’d earmarked to go and finish off Carnage assis…
I didn’t even look up. “Let’s go to Cuvier. Now”
Simon understood and i think was quite keen to get on the selected project too. Once i explained, we were up and getting ready, packing stuff as best we could to speed up the next morning. After all, the longer we waited, the drier it would hopefully become.
Soon enough, we were parking up in the familiar spot. No wasting time on easy problems today, we went straight to the Place du Cuvier, straight to the project in question. As is usual, we weren’t alone and threw our pads down to add to the pile already there. It seemed a little bit of an odd way to warm up, given what was around me, but star jumps, waving arms and some Power Fingers were employed to get me going and then i was on.
There was a German guy who had met us at this very spot the previous year there also working the sit start diligently. I chalked up, cruised the first two moves and dropped going into the finger pocket/crimp. First go, can’t complain, chalk up again, be patient. I actually went and put my hoody on for some reason, even thinking as i did that i wasn’t really that cold…
Next thing you know, i’d stuck the first hard move, managed to get both hands up to the poor pair of crimpy slopers then was slapping onto the boss, thinking to myself how it wasn’t as good as i remembered… But i really didn’t want to drop it from here so gurned onwards to suddenly find myself topping out onto the top of the tall bloc.
Shouts of “Whoop!” and “Finally!” and even a “Six fucking years!” rang out from the top of the boulder, followed shortly by the familiar “We can go home now, Tess”. And as much as i was now firmly thinking about home, it did more crucially mean there was nothing else left for me on this boulder: Helicopter scaring the shit out of me so much i can barely bring myself to watch other people on it, Abatoir 7a being a bit too similar to be comfortable and Berezina 7c on the right not appealing at all, this was it, i was finally free of it’s alure. Granted, it had eaten up another three days of a week long trip but now it was done, it was time to move on. And that in itself made it all so worthwhile.