Wednesday, 30 March 2011

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.


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