Thursday, 24 February 2011


Good evening folks! This is our 3rd installment since being on the road and unfortunately, as the title implies, it hasn't been a very good week. We have managed to climb 2 days in 7...shi-times!

Friday 18th: Leave the campsite (wet day) and head to Carrefour to do a weekly shop. Buy stockings (thermal underwear for myself - feel Super-manly). Spend afternoon in McDonalds surfing net and eat 3 burgers each. Get to L'Elephant and park up in the evening. No climbing done.

Saturday 19th: Wake-up to wet conditions. L'Elephant has soft sandstone so we respect the rock and don't climb. Walk around Dame Jouanne area and make notes of potential boulders to be climbed. Erect tarpaulin (badly - see illustration). Have portable Beastmaker session instead (work on the guns) and watch people drive passed in disgust at informal settlement on the side of the road...laugh at said people.

Sunday 20th - Wake-up to very wet conditions at L'Elephant (rained the previous night). Walk around looking at problems that are going to be destroyed if and when the rain stops. Rain does not stop...contemplate the universe instead...figure out Einstein is wrong. Black Hole's only exist when you fall into them...if you could have seen it then you would have avoided it...

Monday 21st - Wake up to sunshine. Finally! Get climbing gear and start warming up on easy problems at L'Elephant. Climb 3rd problem (L'Elephant itself) when rain falls. Get super-angry, throw toys out of cot and decide to go back to Roche Aux Sabots. Get there mid-afternoon, erect Beastmaker and have session in the car park under a well erected tarpaulin (see illustration)! Feel quite wrecked after session and walk around feeling smug about how cool our tarp looks.

Tuesday 22nd - Wake up to sunshine but don't get too excited (see previous days entry for justification). Sun sticks around so mad dash to get climbing done. I end up climbing Jeux De Toit Direct (Font 7B), Unnamed Font 7A+ next too L'Oblique and fall off last move on Les Jeux Assis (Font 7B) 4 times! Argh! Greg climbs his first Font 7A of the trip (L'Oblique) and Jeux De Toit (Font 7A/ 7A+). Meet some good people from Manchester (Cliff and company).

Wednesday 23rd - Wake up to usual overcast conditions. Get climbing when rain starts. Film Greg climbing L'Oblique. Film me climbing Unnamed Font 7A I flashed. Greg repeats this and is very satisfied as conditions aren't great...I feel the same when I climb Les Jeux Assis. Beast scream is given which echoes through the forrest.

Thursday 24th - Back at campsite, showered up and feeling human again.

So that's pretty much it in a nutshell...not the most action packed of weeks but we knew we would get times like this (it won't be the last) and it just emphasizes how important it is to take advantage of the weather when you get it.

We hope to get more climbing done this week, with more pictures and video. Hopefully the rain goes back to England so we can get some work done...haha!

If a certain someone is reading this...then please smile so we can get some good weather!

Here are 2 videos of our ascents:

L'oblique (Font 7A) Greg:
La Barre Fixe (Font 7B+) Chris:

Stay classy San Diego,


Thursday, 17 February 2011

"To climb steep hills requires a slow pace at first"

 Morning at Roche aux Sabots carpark

I guess the title quote is quite appropriate for where I am at in this journey so far. After the first week I couldn't help but feel a bit despondent. It seemed that I had been waiting to start "working" the classic problems that I had envisioned in my mind for so long, and as soon as I set foot in the first climbing venue I damaged myself. A week of boredom followed and the torture of looking at the boulders from the distance of where the van was parked. Nonetheless, no need to cry over spilled milk and all that! After the red lights of Bas Cuvier we decided to try a new spot to set up camp, as the shifty looks from people entering the carpark were making us feel a little unnerved. The choice was Roche Aux Sabots carpark. We were surprised to find that there was a working water tap here and would therefore be able to stay until our next "pit stop" at the campsite in Bouldancourt (the following Thursday). It was also very quiet and surrounded by forest which was a bonus. At the time of writing no "dogging" activity has been glimpsed.

The first day here, for me, was very much the same as the days of the previous week. More reading books and not much else. Thankfully we have brought a small library with us that consumes a good percentage of the roofbox so there is always something different to read. On Friday the sun was shinning. Not only physically, but also in my mind (how poetic). The finger that I had strained the week before felt much stronger and I was certain that I could cautiously get back onto the rock. Although this was not a day of "crushing" the big numbers for me it was just amazing to have the feeling of being "back".

Friday was also an excellent day for Chris. After parting our ways in the morning so that Chris could work the harder problems he ended up meeting a person who has subsequently helped him to see the light... well at least show him the importance of using good footwork. The chap in question is one of the local "Bleausards" called Fabrice. He evidently took Chris on a whistle stop tour of the classic 7a's in the area and showed him the tricks and techniques needed to conquer them. I met up later with Chris and Fabrice by which point Chris had ticked off 7 of them, 6 of which were "flashed". Impressive stuff. It was at this point that I considered it might be good for my own development to shadow the all wise Fabrice. With his direction I was able to drag myself up a 6c+, which I was happy with given that I was no where near 100%. I hope that this isn't the last we see of Fabrice, not only because his knowledge of the area is staggering, but he is also a very encouraging and enjoyable person to climb with.

During the rest of the week we went to Apremont, 95.2 and Elephant but spent most of our time at Roche aux Sabots. We got chatting to a German couple (Christian and Anya) who were also doing the traveling thing and who were living out of an old Mercedes van. Anya told me that the van had been previously used to deliver cement and the sign writing of the previous owner was still visible on the van. Quite a novel touch. I was well impressed with some of the ideas that she had put into the conversion and hope to implement some similar ones into the Beastmobile. Christian and Anya were also living out of Sabots carpark and so they became our neighbors for a couple of days. Their company was much welcomed and it was good to be more sociable for a change. Hopefully we will continue to meet people like them during our trip.

With respect to our diet we are now slowly diverting away from the "tin can, throw it in a pot", mentality, to the more experimental, hmm lets chop some veg up and boil some rice one.... Scratch that. Chris has just interrupted me whilst I have been writing this post saying that he has accidentally started cooking the tinned Ravioli when he had already started to cook rice! Tonights dinner was meant to be chili con carne, but would appear now to be rice and ravioli! "Plonker".

As there is nothing really for me to mark up as any particular achievement, so far, here is a list of the climbs that Chris has notched up over the past week.
  • Le oblique 7a (Sabots)
  • Graviton 7a (Sabots)
  • Gravillon 7a (Sabots)
  • Le jeu de toit 7a (Sabots)
  • Jet set 7a (Sabots)
  • Les yeux 7a (Sabots) 
  • and 4 further unnamed 7a's (Sabots)
  • unnamed prow 7a (95.2)
  • Le Couer 7a (Elephant)
  • La Barre Fixe 7b+ (Elephant) 
Today we arrived once again at Boulancourt campsite and have allowed our skin to touch hot water after a 7 day restriction. More hand washing of clothes, cleaning and tidying the van and surfing the net has consumed most of the day. It is always nice to have access to the Internet so that we can communicate with friends and family and update our blog.

We are becoming more eager to use the HD video camera now so hopefully in the next installment we will be able to post some videos of our most memorable climbs to date. Looking forward to a good, dry, sunny and productive day at Elephant tomorrow. Fingers crossed.
Watch this space!


Thursday, 10 February 2011

Week 1 - Injuries and dodgy dogging antics in Bas Cuvier, France

The" Beastmobile" 

Greg sock washing 

  Chris melody making

Bon jour everyone!

This will be our first Operation Beastmaker update since we've been on the road.

We left Greg's parents house, in the late afternoon, Friday 3 Feb 2011. This was due to the car not starting! Good times! We managed to get a jump start from Greg's parents friendly neighbour and after allowing the battery to charge the car was running fine again. We are not sure what caused this (could be a dodgy internal light that may have been on...we're not sure until it happens again). We then had a problem with our camera tripod which decided to malfunction...unbelievable! We drilled a hole through the dodgy fitting and secured a bolt through the shaft so it would be more secure. Jobs a goodun...we were just waiting for the 3rd problem however the didn't materialise.

We arrived at Bas Cuvier, Fontainebleau, late in the evening and decided to park right beside the boulders for some early action. After stocking up on supplies (and sneakily checking our e-mails in the local electric store: Frenchman, "Do you want to buy that Apple Mac?" us, "No, we're just looking.") we headed for our first climb.

We decided to get on the Red Circuit which is apparently of medium difficulty...yeah right! We both got flawed on problem 3. Luckily a local Bleausard came to the rescue and showed us the way. 20mins later we both made the ascent.

Roll on problem 4. We both jumped on this and after pulling on the holds for the first time Greg walked away wincing. Clearly something was not right and it soon became aparent that he had strained his left middle finger. Sadly that was end of play for Greg but I continued on to the next problem but the falling sun soon dictated that I should stop also.

Sunday was a new day and would hopefully offer fresh hands for Greg and better weather for both of us. To our annoyance this was not the case, Greg's finger was still "tweeking" and the sky was the worst shade of grey. We both resigned to the van and whiled away as much time by reading, going for walks and checking out the soaked problems that we hoped we would be standing on top of in the future.

Monday saw the second injury. Whilst Greg spent some of the morning finding a suitable, secluded part of the forest to take his first "bush crap" and christen the latrine shovel I continued where I left off the previous afternoon and worked my way through red 6 to red 12.

Here was where a scene of grotesque bloodshed unfolded. By this point Greg had found his way back into the main area after his excursion and was able to provide much needed spotting for the high ball (my definition of highball would be a boulder problem which is taller than 6m). The incident took place on my first attempt. I intially made some decent progress however my poor technique let me down as I began to flounder near the top. I got my left hand onto the round top (not much to purchase on sadly) and decided to take a chance and throw wildly with my right hand, to what would hopefully be a good hold.

Unfortunately this was not the case and half a second later I was falling. My feet landed on the boulder pad and Greg slowed my descent slightly however I still fell off to the side and managed to drive my right knee into my face. I bit my tongue quite hard and immediately the taste of blood filled my mouth. After spitting out as much blood as I could I decided maybe it would be a good idea to have a look at the top out. There was a good hold for the left hand but not much for the right. Doubt began to creep in and I thought maybe I should just call it as I only had one wasn't worth the injury. When I got to the bottom the thought of giving in was too much, I didn't want to deal with the shame of not trying at least one more time. So I set off again and messed the sequence up and jumped down safely. I tried one last time and after using my feet a little more I managed to climb to safety, albeit in terrtible style. I just felt relieved to be safe and to have pushed the fear into the back of my psyche.

Yesterday we headed to Apremont where we just tried to climb as much as possible for conditioning purposes. Greg climbed 2 problems and decided to call it. His finger is still troubling him, which is not good. I continued on and flirted with some more highball problems which ended up bringing me to a good looking problem which is graded Font 7a+ (For info on grades see Climbing Jargon page). It was quite high but had a very dodgy landing. After several attempts I found myself in unfamiliar territory and once again had to put the fear aside and commit. This time all went well and I found myself on good holds and managed to complete the problem. Greg said if I had fallen from the last hold there wouldn't have been much he could have lucky that wasn't the case. We have this on film so we can share this at some point.

Our diet has certainly not been anything special over the past week. It has been a far cry from the restaurant standard food (well almost) served up by Greg's mum. Dinner has consisted of whatever tinned delights were bought at the local Carrefour and whatever was brought with us. To give you an idea, last nights meal was a tin of dauphinouise potatoes perfectly balanced with a tin of Branston's Beef Raviolli... Bon appetit!

This brings us to the final topic...dodgy dogging antics, in the evening in the Bas Cuvier parking lot!
For those who are unaware, Bas Cuvier, is one of the most famous bouldering destinations (world class) in the world and is set in a beautiful forrest however it is blighted by being a red light district (forrest), so to speak. Walking amongst the boulders you will stumble across used condoms or wrappers which is evidence of the previous nights is a sad reality that visitors have to come to terms with. There are no bins around so they cannot be discarded and I don't believe they are ever picked up, usually buried by leaves or carried away underneath someones shoe.

Now, due to Greg and I sleeping in the Bas Cuvier car park for the last several days we can attest (and detest) to this behaviour which was initially quite humorous but has become less so. It is quite a strange feeling to be washing your dishes and have people "wandering" about in pitch black (there are no street lights) darkness around you. They can see us but we can't see them, quite an animalistic feel really. We have our head torches on so our eyes aren't adjusted to the dark so when we hear a noise we're immediately checking to see if someone is approaching. The worst thing is, there seems to be more of a "male" presence about, which makes it a little more unnerving!

The other night, whilst we were busy reading, a car decided to reverse and park next to us even though they had at least a hundred places to choose from. A gentleman sat next to Greg and just stared at him for about 5mins before driving off. Greg was a little perturbed. Better him than me! The following evening Greg got out the van to take a piss and had someone flash his lights at him, from the other side of the car park, not good ! Greg was quite happy to ignore this unwanted attention!

I suppose we could change our surroundings but the inconvenience! I suppose we have to think of our safety at the end of the day.

I need to buy that baseball bat I spotted at the decathlon.

Anyway, I hope everyone is well.

Till next time...!!!