Since Fontainebleau time has flown by with a mix of different venues, some successes, failures, micro epics, bad weather, and all the lessons involved with relearning to sport climb after bouldering over the winter. Its been a slightly different kind of trip for both myself and Will: in the past we’d always train for a specific trip to one area, but since this trip is so long, 4 months, and since it started off with 3 weeks bouldering and the training involved for that beforehand, we were almost starting from scratch fitness wise, so we had to approach the crags a bit differently, and build up from the beginning.
First up was St Leger, which was only a brief and unplanned stop off, but it proved to be a worthwhile one, if not the most successful in terms of grades. I had been to St Leger for a week a couple years previously with Martin and Carl, and remembered it being amazing. It didn’t disappoint. The goal for this part of the trip was just to get a bit of fitness, so we forgot about performance, which is crucial in training, and set to doing laps. It was interesting to be able to climb without worrying about performance, though I did sometimes, and certainly got annoyed a my lack of fitness on some days, or got annoyed at myself for worrying about performance which resulted in a less effective training day. After a week in St Leger I felt like I’d gone from being at about 10% of my previous best fitness, to being at about 35%, but I was still not climbing as well as I’d like, and was not very relaxed. St Leger then, was an interesting and humbling experience, where, although there were some minor failings, which can all be accounted for, there was also significant gain, and those failings have, I think, developed me more as a climber, as I can now better handle failure and have learned how to benefit from every attempt, regardless of the outcome. It was this mindset of trying hard and persevering that I tried to carry forward to Buoux, the next stop on the trip.
Buoux is the birthplace of hard sport climbing, home of some of the most classic hard sport routes, some of which were the first of that difficulty in France and the World, and it has a reputation to match. We could have stayed here for months and not have even come close to climbing all the best routes here, largely because they’re all pretty hard. It was annoying, though, to be surrounded by some of the most historic hard routes in the world and to lack the fitness and power to do them. So I had to settle for some of the easier routes at Buoux, all of which were brilliant, some of which were a bit painful, one of which was the hardest fight I’ve ever had, and it certainly wasn’t my hardest route, I even screamed a bit, and I almost never do that. It was a good lesson in learning to try hard, and in how long you can actually hang on before you physically can’t – I find that many people, myself included, often ’let go’, because they think they should have fallen. Unfortunately, we could only stay for a few days, so we barely scratched the surface. I can’t wait to return when I’m at my best so that I at least stand a chance on routes like Le Rose, which I tried a bit but wouldn’t have been able to do it in the time I had, and Agincourt, Le Minimum, and so on.
We had arranged to meet some friends in Gorges du Loup on Easter Saturday, but before leaving Buoux we went to a little known crag called Lourmarin, which, in the words of Mark Busby, is like Terradets on steroids. We did a few routes here, and tried a route which we thought was supposed to be 8a, but misread the topo and ended up on what we think was an 8b+, one which I’m very keen to go back to as it was awesome climbing and suited me perfectly; power endurance on edges.
On the way to Gorges du Loup we stopped off briefly at Chateauvert to have a look at another 8b+ called, ‘Are you ready?’. We didn’t stay long, but discovered enough to realise that Chateauvert is a great wet weather venue and that Are you ready? is definitely one to go back to on another trip. It goes up an immaculate, gently overhanging wall, through a series of sculpted scoops and dishes, with involved and interesting climbing.
Gorges du Loup has been a return to normality, and fortunately time seems to have returned to its normal speed for the first time this trip. We’ve been fortunate enough to be able to stay in a house with friends for the week, which has been a pleasant change from camping, and its been great to climb with a bunch of mates; encouraging each other to success on our various routes. Gorges du Loup has been the first stop on the sport climbing portion of the trip where I’ve began to felt like I’m really getting into it, and now, as this portion of the trip draws to an end, I feel like my fitness is beginning to get up to a level where I can begin to approach climbs with a bit more confidence, and where I can think about trying some harder climbs, or do slightly easier climbs faster. So far then, it seems like training at the crag has been working: I started off getting boxed lapping 7a’s, in Loup I was lapping 7c’s and 8a’s, so hopefully in the next stage of the trip I can focus a bit more on performance. Next stop, Gorges du Tarn!
Apologies for the lack of pictures. I left my camera charger in Fontainebleau!