Wednesday, 30 March 2011

I bid farewell...

It's 00:15 and I'm sitting in the table tennis room at Ile De Boulancourt campsite. Greg has gone to sleep but due to my commitment and passion I've decided to stay up and give the people what they want...another Operation Beastmaker update!
The amount of e-mails I've received from people saying that their life has been a wreck since we never posted last week has been staggering...I'm truly sorry and I hope we never pay so little disregard to the quality of your life know who you are.
Right, I'll continue from where Greg left off last time.
So, we were camped up at Les Prez and had an amazing campfire going. Three men sitting around a campfire, drinking beers and eating biscuits.
There is something about fire that really awakens the primeval side. I noticed the same sense in Greg and Martyn. We stared at the flames, watching them dance around the wood (that Martyn had gathered) gingerly...slowly drawing the essence from it and leaving the charred remains in the afterglow. Not much was said but we listened to the fire and it seemed to read and answer your thoughts.
It was a perfectly clear night and we could see the various constellations in the heavens...a unanimous decision was made. We decided we would sleep around the fire like they did at the dawn of civilization...hopefully no burning embers would fall onto us while we's not easy getting out of a sleeping bag under the easiest of circumstances.
I awoke the next morning covered in frost...after the fire had died out the moisture condensed then froze on top of the sleeping bag. There was an eerie thick fog hanging over the open field where we had camped...but the sun was out and the frost had no choice but to retreat. That was probably the best nights sleep I had in years!
We eventually left the campsite then headed to Bas Cuvier.
After warming up I headed to Biceps Mou (7B) a classic boulder problem and after meeting and chatting to Oli (who gave me some beta - see climbing jargon page for definition) from Finland I found myself climbing over the top. Sweet!
I heard a beast scream echo through the forest and after a few minutes Martyn came over and said he had done L'Helicoptere, his first Font 7A! Excellent news as L'Helicoptere is probably the most classic 7A of the forest (it's my personal favourite). It's a pity we never got any footage.
I then headed over to La Balance (7C) and got very close to completing this. I then tried La Berezina (another problem I want to cross off my list) but got spanked. I then headed to Aerodynamite (7B+) and found myself falling from the 2nd to last hold several times Argh! We then called it a day as darkness was closing in and the car park "activity" would soon's best not to be around when it does.
The next day (Thursday 24/03/2011) Martyn and I head to Cul De Chien to get footage of him climbing the roof. It was a boiling hot day and we didn't have much battery. After warming up we headed over to the famous roof and I set the camera up. Martyn botches the first attempt...we have a minute remaining! Lucky he gets it second go. Just in time! See the video footage below: 

We then head to another problem I'm trying which was first climbed by the legendary Fred Nicole. It's 7C+ and is situated in the same roof as Arabesque and Eclipse. In true Fred Nicole fashion it has a truly massive, dynamic move to the lip of the boulder which takes almost my full span to reach. I link all the moves quickly to the crux, which is the dyno. It's just so far and with my tips being destroyed from the previous days session it looks too much. I decide to move on but I know I acquiesced to defeat before I even tried...idiot! I will have to go back.

The following day we headed to L'Elephant for Martyns last day of climbing before he left the following day. It was a rest day for Greg and I so we were just boulder caddies for the day. Martyn climbed the classic Elephant before heading further down the beach. We met Edward from Italy who joined the posse heading towards the giant "potato boulder". Edward is in his final year of Uni studying towards being a doctor (good luck with your final exams bro!).
Martyn climbed this problem cautiously but it was never really going to give him any trouble as there were big jugs going up the centre of the boulder.

We encouraged Edward to jump on. He was clearly nervous as the boulder is intimidating (It is about 9m high) but he overcame his fear and topped it out in decent style. It brought back fond memories of when Greg and I had first climbed it a couple of years back...we were just as scared and climbed up and down it many times, slowly inching our way up. Good times!
The rest of the day was spent doing what adults do...trying to catch lizzards (or sandwalkers as they were dubbed)! The beach is full of them and they all sit on the rocks absorbing the suns rays...not today! Today they scatter for their lives! Initially we weren't very good at catching them but as we embraced our hunter / gatherer instinct we started catching the little critters. In the end we managed to catch 6 of them and after taking some pictures we put them back on the rocks we found them on. The people who saw us running around chasing lizzards must have thought we were insane...and they wouldn't have been wrong.
That night we decided to have a bbq and we made some delicious hamburgers! They went down a treat! We just sat about chatting and drinking before calling it a night.

The next day we had to wake up early to drive Martyn to the airport. The time had gone so fast...we just picked him up the other day. We said our goodbyes to the man and headed back to the Roche car was so quiet without him. No more crazy scenarios or pleasant "surprises" to behold...haha!
We rested on Sunday but encountered the usual "phenomena" of the "Extreme Walkers". Extreme Walkers are the vigilantes of the walking world (coined by Greg)...they are incredible to watch. The traits associated with Extreme Walkers are:
standing in the middle of the road in the car park, not moving out of the way of traffic (cars have to go around them and it seems they don't say anything because EW's are very intimidating), staring at Greg and I (with their Cosanostra eyes...we're convinced they have ties to the Mafia...), wearing lycra, brandish ski poles, disapprove of other EW's (gang warfare???) and most disturbing they try and push trees and boulders over! I'm not lying! They all pick trees or boulders and try their best to push them over (other people say they are stretching but they don't know anything...I've studied these people for weeks now), the forest is littered with fallen trees...the evidence speaks for itself.
We pretty much lazed about in the sun, playing guitar and reading (which we do quite regularly as the temperatures have been so hot we cannot climb. We normally head off in the late afternoon).
This is pretty much what we've been up to this week.
With the temperatures soaring and friction disappearing it seems that hard bouldering is becoming a lot more difficult. Our fingertips are in the worse shape they've ever been because of this and we are having to change our approach to climbing our current regime is not working.
We will give you a further update on this next week...
It's 01:30 and I have double vision from fatigue so I'm going to sleep.
Here is a video we edited of me climbing my hardest Font problem yet. I hope you enjoy it as it took us a while to edit as our software kept playing tricks on us.
Probably worth watching for the comedic moments in the end! Haha!


Until next time!

P.S When Martyn says cakes all round he means you have to buy your own cake...unbelievable! Who is this kid?

Betamax arrives!

The past week has seen the arrival of the third member of Operation Beastmaker. This being Martyn “Betamax” Eales. Martyn is a good friend of ours and it was great to see him and catch up with him.  

Last Monday Chris and I were parked up at Franchard Isatis and it was decided that the day should be spent relaxing as we were both feeling a bit done in. The night before we had got talking to Bruce and Chris who had come via the alps as they had been away for the skiing season, and had planned a brief bouldering holiday on the way back to their home town in Cornwall. It turned out that both were very well travelled and once we had explained our itinerary for the trip they proved to be very knowledgeable of Switzerland and the Italian Alps.  

The day was really sunny and I put the slackline up after breakfast and continued to work on the “core” muscles (I will have those Bruce Lee abs godamit!). It wasn't long before said rest day turned into a day of training and few circuit training stations were set up by using miscellaneous items from the van (a 25 litre water drum is now being used quite regularly for side raises and shrugs- although this can give you the illusion that you are becoming fantastically strong as the water is drained from day to day use).  Before setting off to collect Martyn from the airport in Orly we went to Gorge de Houx to check out a problem called Gargantoir. Numerous people we have met advised that we check it out, so we thought we should see what all the fuss was about.

As we started walking into the main area we came across the “Dosage guys” again (they must think I’m stalking them) and they pointed us in the right direction for Gargantoir.  Despite this we still managed to get lost and after finding our way back onto the main path and walking a bit further down we found the “line”. It was located in a cave area and at the back was this amazing overhang. It was wet at the time but Chris and I have decided that it would be worth going back for.

Next stop. Orly airport to collect Martyn.

Upon arriving at Orly it soon became apparent that it was not the small poxy airport I was expecting and after negotiating a maze of spaghetti junctions and height restriction barriers we managed to get to the pick up point. Martyn was waiting and poised to make a quick transition. With no parking space available a brief stop in the through lane was made and he jumped into the front of the van... seamless.

The satnav has a knack of sending us in the wrong direction and unfortunately I am allowing this to overrule my better judgement. Therefore it wasn’t that surprising when I saw that we were entering the dreaded Boulevard Périphérique. A couple of changes of direction later and my stomach rumbling saw us parked up at a Buffalo Grill. Martyn had already eaten but we were more than happy to order the biggest steaks available on the menu and some amazing desserts followed. This was quite a treat for both me and Chris as it made a welcomed change from the fish and rice meals we have been eating the past weeks.

The following day we went to Carrefour and did our usual “big shop” for the week. Martyn was introduced to the Malt chocolates spoken of in previous posts, and he was curious to see what it was that almost took Operation Beastmaker off the rails. The sun was shining and so we made to Roche aux Sabots for the blue circuit as we suggested that this would be a good way for “Betamax” to become acclimatised. This was quite an easy days climbing for us all and after wasting myself on the infuriatingly tricky “surplomb de frelon” we called it quits.

On Wednesday not much had changed. The weather was still good and we continued were we left off. In fact the only noticeable change was that the packet of malt chocolates that Martyn had bought the previous day was greatly diminished. Ha ha, I sense an addiction starting!  The extra calories must have been doing him some good as he was making good progress on ticking his first Font 7a crushing through the initial moves on a challenging sit start. After wasting skin on Jet Set 7a for some time and coming to the conclusion that the holds were not in condition I moved back to Surplomb de Frelon. After seeing Chris do the sit down start I figured out the beta and eventually hauled my ass over the top.

 We then moved to Cul de Chien and after Chris had warmed up on some easy problems we moved to “the other roof”. This one hosts the well established test pieces of Eclipse and Arabesque amongst others. Chris jumped onto Arabesque as he was making good progress with it the previous week. His first few goes were halted by not getting the “knee bar” in correctly but once he had worked this out he found himself on the lip and moving to the finish holds. After putting a gutsy effort in and sticking with it he was standing on the top shouting the place down. Nice one Chris... keep up the crushing! I tried the conventional knee bar method but was getting nowhere so tried a less commonly used heel hook, and by crikey this worked a treat. I had nothing else to give but was happy that I had worked out the move. Sometimes it’s winning the small battles that are the most rewarding! Martyn went off to try the Cul de chien roof as he had been denied this on a previous trip.

Upon getting back to the van we found a box from one of the local bakeries left on the windscreen. Thinking our luck was in I thought perhaps Bruce and Chris had left them for us (they had been telling us how much they liked touring the local bakeries). Chris and Martyn weren’t so sure and attempted to effect my composure with cries of “It’s a bomb, an IED” whilst running away. Realising that I was some miles away from the current battle zones I opened the box (which had been wrapped up with ribbon) to find a load of wet leaves. Unbelievable, expecting to find some delicious cakes my mouth was pre-empting by salivating, only to find a load of leaves and to hear chuckling coming from a red van parked nearby. It didn’t take long for us to twig that Bruce and Chris had punk’d us in the worst way! Fair play lads, you got us this time.

It turned out that an even worse fate had befallen them, as not long after they came up to our van saying that whilst they had been climbing someone had got into their van and stolen their food and money. I would say that this was poetic justice but seems a tad unfair.

On Thursday Martyn had a rest day and accompanied Chris to watch him work his project Symbiose in 95.2 and I went to tackle Satan H’habite. This was quite a productive day for me as I was able to work out a couple of difficult moves.

Friday came and we all chilled out in the morning and early afternoon. Later on I moved to Roche aux Quiseaux to see if I could unlock my project. Chris and Martyn came to offer support and Martyn ended up doing some climbing also. After a handful of failed attempts to complete the problem from standing I nailed it. Awesome, now to start working the sit start. If I can get that done and linked then that would be my first 7B in font.
On Saturday I rested, as did Martyn. Chris meanwhile went on a crushing spree. We followed him to the problems that he was working to offer encouragement and a spot if needed. First up was Symbiose. This is in the guide as a 7C+ problem. After filming a few false starts Chris DE-stroyed the route and let out a beast scream.  This kid is on fire! Check out the video to see the story unfold. Next up was Sans Dessus Dessous 7B+ a sweet arête problem. Chris sent this after a few goes.  After this we went back to the van and proceeded to the small town nearby and stopped in a small Bar/Tabac for some celebratory beers. In hindsight neither Martyn nor I offered to buy Chris his beer which seems uber tight fisted. Considering he had just sent his hardest problem to date. Sorry there bro, we’ll make up for this minor faux pas, I’m sure.

The following day I thought I had woken up in the middle of a festival! The landscape had changed from the empty car park of the previous night to one that was full of cars, people and noise. When I did muster the strength to get out into the cold and see what was going on it was clear that some form of meeting was happening. After bewilderingly looking out at people of all ages dressed in tight fitting running/cycling apparel I focused, through bleary eyes, on a flag saying something about Orientation. It dawned on me that we had inadvertently pitched in the middle of a national Orienteering meet.  God only knows what people thought of Martyn who was asleep outside the van under the tarpaulin...ha, ha, hectic.

After getting ourselves together, Chris and Martyn headed off to Cul de Chien where Martyn was going to attempt the roof. I went in the opposite direction to work the sit start of Satan H’Habite. Some time later Martyn and Chris met up with me. The “Betamax” had made short work of the roof and Chris was eager to get involved with the problem that I was working. After giving him the beta we both started to “run a train” on the line. Both of us were getting tantalisingly close to the finishing moves but not close enough. After a brief break we went back to it and Chris sent it. By this point I had spent myself working out the moves most of the day and had nothing left. Sometimes life just aint fair! Oh well I will look forward to sending it when I am well rested and have grown some skin.


Yesterday we were meant to book into the campsite but after a late start and a flat van battery from the cold weather we went into the town of Fontainebleau and took to the tourist trail. We looked around the palace and devoured some cakes from the bakery. "Give him cake!"

Whilst in the palace Chris was busting an elbow lever on a stone bench and just as I had turned off the camera he spectacularly fell off and onto his arse, priceless. Such a shame we didn’t get it on film.

Today we booked into the campsite and had our first showers in 9 days; I can’t describe how good it felt. No hand washing of clothes today, they were just launched in the washing machine, albeit they appear to have come out dirtier than when they went in.  The camp fire is crackling away now and hunger is calling me.


Saturday, 12 March 2011

Hindsight is always 20/20

As my lacerated (although recovering) fingertips press against the keyboard I begin to reflect upon a hard week of climbing had...

Saturday started off promising (we had a days rest on Friday, as we had checked into Boulancourt Campsite after climbing most of the previous week) as we pulled into l'Elephant car park. The tips were still glowing but there were "layers" of skin and so we assumed it should be okay to climb if we just taped them and took it easy. We figured that this would allow more skin to grow so we could possibly be at full strength (and full skin) for the amazing weather forecast for the rest of the week. After wrapping up the fingers we grabbed our bouldering pads and headed onto the beach of  l'Elephant.

We started easy enough, taking in some lovely blue circuit problems before stepping it up to the black circuit. The problem was the tape was being shredded from the coarse sandstone and inevitably, the tips. We forged on (as you do) not thinking to much of it.

We ended up meeting up with our friends Felix and Keith who were in Font for the weekend for Keith's Stag Do (Congratulations Keith and all the best for the future!). It was great climbing and chatting with them. I repeated Le Lepreux Direct (7A) and left Greg and Felix to continue working out the sequence and headed to a highball problem Keith was trying (left of Black 12).

I asked what grade it went at just to manage my own expectations and he said the guide gave it 7B. He jokingly said I would probably get it first go and I promptly said I can't flash 7B's! He gave me the beta he was using and I set off. I got to the crux and decided to power past this move to what looked like a good sidepull. It was good and before I knew it I was floundering on the top out. Not wanting to fall 6m backwards was good incentive to make sure I did top out and finally I managed to grab a decent hold at the back and climb up and out of danger. PHEW!!! Greg came over and started to work this problem and when I left (to move onto another 7B) he was making good progress.

I made my way to Voie Du Flirt which looked like an easy highball 7B with a sketchy landing (how wrong was I to be about the difficulty!). I tried it a few times and realised, although the hand holds were good, there was very little in the way of footholds (as it was overhanging) and you couldn't really see where to place your feet. I began getting frustrated so I had the "brilliant" idea of campussing (see Climbing Jargon page for definition) to the big hold further up. I tried this and missed and subsequently landed on the boulder I thought I had protected with a pad. It took a fair bit of skin off my left upper thigh (ass) and I was in serious pain. It could have been alot worse!

Keith came over and started to spot me (see Climbing Jargon for definition) and after many attempts and different sequences I finally figured it out. On my last attempt of the day I did the problem and earned the half a beer that was waiting at the bottom for me...I was unbelievably tired but thankful that I got it done. Thanks Keith for your patience! I really appreciate it!

Greg came over and he said he managed to do the other 7B I did earlier without a spotter! RESPECT! This marks Greg's first 7B in Font and is excellent progress. BEASTING!

We then headed to La Musardiere campsite to have some beers with Keith, Felix and the crew.

The next day we woke up feeling wrecked and the fingertips were not looking good. It seemed we had over-exerted ourselves the previous day (something that we promised not to do!). I thought I could still get some climbing done and stupidly headed to La Gorge Au Chats. Greg wisely decided to call it a rest day and did exactly that.

My head was not in the right place and the result was me falling off a boulder and landing on a tree root (on my other ass-cheek!)...not good. I should have called it a day after this. I then decided to test fate further by attempting La Pure Dessus (7A+) which was an overhanging problem with another sketchy landing (another boulder conveniently located at the most intense part of the problem...if you messed up there was consequences!). I worked out all of the sequence but the top-out looked very menacing. I didn't want a repeat of yesterday and I knew this fall would be worse.

Luckily Greg arrived as I was about to have a go at the completing the problem and he spotted me to make sure I didn't break my neck. Knowing that I had some reinforcement I managed to fully concentrate on the climbing and after struggling through on small holds I was standing on top of the boulder. Big relief!

The rest of the day was spent sacrificing my fingertips to the bouldering gods of Font and boy were they pleased! I tried a 7B+ problem for a 1.5 hrs then a harder 7C problem (with a boulder designed to knock you out) for 1hr and then tried (what I thought was another 7C with a "better" landing) a 8A problem for 30mins...I was keeshed (South African slang for shattered) and despondently packed my bag and headed to the van.

Monday and Tuesday were rest days for us and we spent the time reading and did some grocery shopping.

On Wednesday we decided to definitely do some easy climbing and made sure of this. We climbed at 91.1 then headed to Cul De Chien. We were quite chuffed that we didn't try anything difficult...until I decided to take a look at a problem I had put down on my wishlist...Arabesque (7B+).

After arriving at the massive roof, that houses such classic problems, I had to give in to my primal urges and found myself putting my climbing shoes back fingers and body were screaming "NO!!!", but I ignored them and started trying anyway.

After a few goes I was getting to the crux and eventually I failed one hand hold away from glory! I decided to leave it at that and we left the forrest with sun the going down and the stars beginning to take their place in the heavens.

The following day we got up for another hard days climbing. Greg headed to Roche Des Ouiseaux to work the moves on his project called Satan M'Habite (7B). I headed to Roche Des Souris to try Yogi (7B) and hopefully complete the 7B+ project I was close to completing at 95.2.

After completing Extraction Terrestre (7A) (with Bernhard from Germany) I then  headed over to Yogi. I soon realised this problem was better suited to taller folk and without a spotter it wasn't worth attempting.

I then met two of Bernhard's friends (Mo and Marco??? Sorry if I've got your name wrong) and we decided to head to 95.2 to try Simbiose (7C). Mo was looking strong and had the potential to do the problem very quickly however his fingertips were thin and this prevented him from completing this classic. I on the other hand have a few more weeks so it could go! Haha!

I then abandoned them and headed to the 7B+ I was trying. The crucial toe hook would not hold and I found myself getting extremely annoyed. I decided to leave before getting to worked up.

I was heading back to the van when I saw Zee Germanz who encouraged me to climb one last 7A. How could I resist...I really didn't want to but they said it was easy so I put my climbing shoes back on...I almost got it first go but shoddy footwork foiled me. Luckily I got it second go.

I managed to get their e-mail addresses so when we head to Switzerland and Austria they may join us. Hopefully this will be the case as they were great people and very enthusiastic climbers.

Greg and I arrived at the van at exactly the same time...perfect timing! We traded war stories and he told me how he met Randy Puro and Beth Rodden (from the Dosage series of climbing videos)! How fortuitous! He also said he got shutdown on Satan M'Habite...and I echoed a similar tune. We both looked absolutely shattered. The climbing had taken it's toll and we needed a proper break...

On Friday we substituted climbing for reading, slacklining and practicing hand stands.

And that folks, is pretty much what we've been up to this week. It's been intense and we have learned some extremely valuable lessons.

1) When the fingertips and body are saying you need rest then YOU NEED REST!!!

2) You can't climb effectively with a broken body and DE-stroyed fingertips.

3) Rock has more "energy" than you...endless ENERGY.

4) Rock will quite happily sit there all day allowing you to climb it while you waste your energy. You will leave frustrated and disappointed whilst the rock sits there doing what it does best...looking solid.

Hindsight is always 20/ we have the benefit of hindsight maybe we can use this to ensure we don't allow such unnecessary destruction in the future.

He who is unable to learn from his mistakes is doomed to repeat...

On another note...Our friend, Martyn "Betamax" Eales, will be arriving on Monday, so we will have a 3rd member of Operation Beastmaker which will be good. Another victim to be sacrificed unto the climbing gods of Font!


Greg on an overhanging problem in L'Elephant:

Chris on L'Elephant:

Later Folks!

P.s I've just updated the Climbing Jargon Page (on the right) which will give you definitions to all the words we use. You should find this very helpful indeed.


Friday, 4 March 2011

“Rub your shoes until they croak like a frog"

The last week has been our most sociable one yet. This has been good for both of us as it is amazing how quickly you start to miss the normal day to day interactions, discussions etc. with friends, family and colleagues. The previous week was quite intense for me as I was determined to get over the psychological hurdle of climbing a true font 7a, low and behold I proceeded to tick 3 off in 2 days. Therefore a lot of effort was expended, as was skin (from both fingertips and shins!).

Getting to know our newly found friends was a good opportunity for me to take the intensity of climbing down a couple of notches and pursue the bouldering as more of a group activity. I think my body is now thanking me for this.

On the Thursday at “Camping Ille de Boulancourt” I spoke briefly to a chap who introduced himself as Yann. I had a short conversation with him through broken French and English, although at this point I was unaware that I would be climbing with him and his friends the following day. The following morning I returned from completing my morning ritual to find Chris deep in conversation with James. It turned out that James was a friend of Yann. James was with his French girlfriend Jessica, and his fellow Ozzie friend Tassara. James suggested that we should meet up with them at Buthiers in the day. A couple of hours later we took them up on this offer and joined them.

It was a beautiful day and we had great expectations of what this area had to offer. Unfortunately, although there were some impressive looking boulders, the rock was either too wet or the climbs were to difficult. This was not conducive to climbing together as a group with people of mixed ability. We were met here by even more people. Yanns’ friends Helena, Anna and Marie.

An executive decision was then made to move to my favourite venue (Sabots), as it has a good spread of grades in a relatively localised area. The terrain is also very flat and navigating between boulders is not such a mission, as opposed to Buthiers. Here we got everyone onto the circuits. There was a really friendly atmosphere, despite most of us having only just met, and everyone was encouraging one another.

After this we moved to Cul du Chien as Chris and I thought that James et al should see it before moving on with their travels. During the short walk I got chatting to Marie and discovered that she had only just met everyone also and was making her way back home to Malaysia, after working and studying in London for many years. She was very widely travelled and had also lived for some years in America. I was impressed with her tenacity and courage to be travelling alone back to her home via Europe. She told me that she was going to be working for a couple of months on organic farms in France were, for a days labour, you get your bed and board free. At one of these farms the barn has been converted into a climbing wall, lucky Marie! She had finished a degree in Politics and filled me in on the details of world affairs. It was almost like having my own personal newsreader... So apparently Cairo is no longer the issue, and it is now all kicking off in Libya? Although it is probably something else by the time this is posted. Oh what a sheltered life I live.

Both me and Chris wanted to climb the famous Cul du Chien roof, as we have both done so before, only for damp holds to scupper our chances of an ascent. We realised that it would be stupid to even attempt a climb as the roof is quite high of the ground and a fall at this point would not be welcomed. I followed the main group into the natural amphitheater that the roof is situated in. It is always good to see what kind of reaction this boulder gets from first timers, invariably being that of jaws on the floor.

After this we moved to the aptly named “snoopy boulder” where the last of our energy was sapped attempting a dyno onto the nose of “snoopy”. Chris latched the hold which was great to see. Walking back to the car park I spoke some more with Marie and I found that she had been a project leader for an initiative that is now commonly used in my line of work. At the carpark we exchanged details with everyone and wished Jessica, James and Tassara safe onward journeys and thanked them for a great day. As Marie was staying on until Sunday we arranged to meet up with her the following day.

The next morning the heavens opened and literally put a dampener on the day. Not to be put off Marie kindly offered us shelter in her cabin that she was renting at the campsite. The day turned out to be better than expected and Yann, Anna and Helena joined us for some lunch. A whopping 1 kg bag of pasta was cooked up and various pesto, cheese and fish combinations were prepared. It was a veritable feast! I could have continued eating but after my forth bowl I had to let my better judgement override my stomach. The rest of the day was consumed by Beastmaker sessions and surfing the internet. Marie hooked us up with which is a genius invention. I wont go into the ins and outs of it but if your intention is to go travelling on the cheap I recommend you check it out. Hopefully by utilising this Chris and I will be able to reduce costs for the year even further.

Afternoon turned to evening and Yann gave us a rendition of some traditional Bretagne music on his accordion. I was blown away. The guy has a talent, I can’t lie. I filmed one of his songs on our camera and he has given us permission to use it in our final video, awesome. After this we played some table tennis in the campsite “activities” room. A shortage of bats and an excess of beer led to most of us using DVD cases as improvised replacements which was interesting. Marie had a three person cabin and when offered if we wanted to sleep on the spare beds we nearly bit her hand off. It was so great to sleep on a proper bed that night. First solid nights sleep I have had for a while. Even with Chris' snoring! Marie was woken in the night by the noise however and recorded the "din" on her blackberry. Now we have audio evidence, ha ha. Thanks Marie.

The following day we took Marie to 95.2 (this is another bouldering area/venue in Fontainebleau). After initially warming up Chris headed off into the “bivouac” area leaving Marie and I on the circuits. It was quite refreshing “spotting” Marie (if you aren’t a climber spotting is basically watching that your partner doesn’t fall awkwardly), attentively looking up with outstretched arms staring at something other than Chris’ backside for a change ;) Here we got talking to one of the “locals”, and this is when I received those wise words : “When in Font it is important to keep your shoes very clean. You should rub your shoes until they croak like a frog”, ha ha, absolutely philosophical but so true. This led to a discussion concerning French cuisine and how frogs legs are considered to be quite a delicacy. I can’t testify but apparently they are quite sublime.

We caught up with Chris at the Retour aux Sources boulder. This problem Chris destroyed within a handful of attempts. For me his method did not suit my style and thus started an epic siege. I was so close to linking all of the sequence. It was also given a 7a difficulty rating which made me want it even more. I continued trying. I got into the mindset that I all too often adopt when trying to crush the difficult problems. I just kept throwing myself at it. It must be quite interesting to watch as it is almost a form of self flagellation verging on masochism. No pain, no gain I guess! Marie seemed to be quite amused by it all and continued to offer moral support. Some time later another climber came along and started working the boulder with me. Ultimately he figured out a sequence that better suited my style using less holds and performing more dynamic moves. After seeing this I got the problem done on the third go! “Frustrated” isn't the word. Despite this I was pleased to be on top of the boulder and my ascent was signaled by a loud primal growl, emitted from the beast within me. Lol. Marie seemed almost as psyched as me and it was good to share the moment with her. We then switched roles and I gave her some moral support whilst she got on to some problems herself. We later met up with Chris, after losing him and having a walk around the forest, shouting randomly for Chris at the surrounding wildlife. Upon catching up with him I found that he had a productive day also and after leaving us he went on to climb a 6c+/7a (Tentation) and a 7b (Les pieds dans la lune; eliminate).

It was late by this point and we needed to get Marie to Malesherbes train station so that she wouldn't miss her train. We jumped into the Beastmobile, tut sweet. Here we said our goodbyes and wished Marie happy trails.

On Monday morning we moved to Franchard Isatis and did some circuiting. I climbed a 6c called Surplomb Gauche and Chris climbed the low start that goes at 7a. Not bad considering we had destroyed our tips. Both of us were really impressed with the area and in the evening we did some more exploring, finding the classic 8a “Karma”. We noted a future project for us both called “Petite Folie/Misericorde” which goes at 7c/7c+. I am not exaggerating when I say that this is the most perfect line I have ever seen. Both of us were just awestruck. It must seem so strange to hikers/walkers who pass through the forest to find two boulderers just staring as if in a trance at a piece of rock, lol. Once you start to appreciate the beauty of a line or problem, this is a disorder that you soon become afflicted by. Upon our return to the van we were both of the mind that Franchard was our new favourite area.

After a false start on Tuesday at Apremont (too hectic to navigate without prior/local knowledge) we moved to L’elephant after a brief stop at Decathalon sports shop for finger tape. Our tips had taken quite a pounding by this point. Over the next two days we were blessed with blue sky and sunshine. It was a shame that neither of us were in condition to work towards our goals but it was great to do some more mileage and climb without t-shirts. Chris climbed a 7a called Le Lepreaux Direct and created a 7b problem on an overhang that he has named “Full Value” (see link). We got some filming done (see links) and plenty of stills (over 300!) and this was a good point to check the “form” that are bodies have taken over the last few weeks. Its amazing to see the difference already and the “waddage” (those who don't speak Neanderthal read “muscle definition”) that is pulling through. I guess the only thing at this time that could throw a spanner in the works for our quest of strength is an addiction to a particular biscuit. We have both acquired this addiction. The biscuit in question is known as a “malt chocolate”. These little bites of chocolaty, malt goodness I swear have been created by the devil. I have lost count of the times I have heard either Chris or myself say “yeah bro I could so easily just eat a whole packet”. Hopefully we will be able to kick the habit. At this time it doesn't look too hopeful, as we have already considered “stockpiling” them for our Switzerland leg of the trip.

One final thing worth mentioning is that whilst we were mixing it up with everyone, the Manchester lads that we had met the previous week told Chris that he was in a recent climbing magazine. Initially he thought they were taking the piss and had maybe seen someone who looked similar to him. Later that day they showed us the magazine and would you Adam and believe it there was Chris pictured on the Toll Booth boulder in Portland, sporting a glorious Movember tash. The picture was sent in by our friend Phil Belcher for a photo competition. For any of you who want to check Chris out he is in the February edition of Climber magazine.

I'm starting to feel a bit weak now as all this typing is making me tired. This post has been a bit of a mammoth. I reckon I should reward myself with a malt chocolate…

The weather forecast for the coming week is more sunshine. The tips are feeling good now after a couple of days rest. Time to step it up!


Greg on Black 31 @ l'Elephant:

Chris on Full Value (Font 7B):

UKC post:

We have just added a forum to UK Climbing outlining our new incentive based scheme known as "The Motivator". It is still in the early stages of development and we will write more about it in the next post. For now you can check out the following link, we would be interested to here your ideas: 


P.S. This week we have both been rocking the bloodstained trouser look (where else are you supposed to wipe a "blown" finger tip). Anyway we think it could catch on as not only do you feel hardcore walking around the crag looking like a battle hardened warrior, but you get some envious (curious) reactions when you go shopping for groceries.