We have just arrived back in Sheffield and our 6 month long trip has come to an end. The last couple of weeks in Font were brilliant – the weather really picked up and it was dry and windy for almost two weeks which is pretty rare in the forest. No rain at all meant that the conditions were perfect, it didn't even need to be that cold because everything was so completely dry.
Around the time the weather picked up I managed to injure myself a bit. I was trying a problem called Pancras that involves (with my beta) doing a pretty burly move on a two finger pocket and when I went for it something when rip in the region of my forearm (nearer my wrist) and I felt it into my ring finger of that hand. Rubbish. I didn't climb for a few days and then began to slowly test it out on some easier climbs. I was surprised (and happy) to find that it wasn't too bad. It is an open hand injury so as long as I keep four fingers on (preferably at least half crimped) then it is fine and I can pull as normal. The things I couldn't do without pain were holding a pocket (two or three fingers) and random things like opening the van door (!). I took it easy for a bit and had to make some changes -like not competing in the CWIF. This was a tricky decision as it now forms part of the selection process for the British Team and I have already been away for almost all the trainings this year. My finger may have been okay but in a competition situation, with the adrenalin and the atmosphere, one always pulls a bit harder and I decided it wasn't worth the risk. So, decision made, I stayed in Font.
This turned out to be a huge blessing. I had basically given up on my remaining projects as I thought I wouldn't be able to try them any more but as my finger improved I thought maybe I could have a little go at some of them. We had six days left of the trip and day one after some rest I revisited Hotline (7C). This is a beautiful high block that is technical and burly at the same time, with a committing throw at the top. I had tried it earlier in the trip and Kook had successfully done it when the conditions were a lot worse. I had not yet made it to the last move and was a bit nervous about it -it is big and committing and you are pretty high. So this time, mindful of being a bit injured, I took a rope to have a little go at the top in safety. The moves were surprisingly okay and after a short practice on the rope I came down and did it first go from the ground -very pleased!
Day two of the last six I went back to Vague Patatras (8A). I had had one previous session on this and was feeling really positive about it, the only problem was whether my finger would be okay on one particular key hold. I went to join two friends Scott and Micky who were trying it and getting very close. My first go was just a tester to see if I could hold the hold still but it felt fine and I got further than I expected. Psyched now, with all three of us getting close, we took it in turns. On my fourth go I found myself at the last move and then topping out the boulder, very surprised! The others didn't quite make it that session but Micky went back and finished it on his next session. Here is a video:
Day three we went to Petit Bois. This is a lovely little crag but it is often damp so this dry spell was a great opportunity to go there. I climbed La Baleine which I have never done before and is a brilliant 7a! I then went to try a problem called Paddy. This is a stunning block, font in a nutshell with a very slopey top out! It was originally climbed by Dave Graham and he gave it 8A but it has since been downgraded by a few people to 7C+/7C. It is a crimpy start followed by lots of slopers and blind foot movements. I think I was lucky to find a good sequence and surprised myself by doing it in four goes, I my mind it can be no harder than 7C.
On day four we went back to the Eclipse roof at Cul de Chien. Kook has been trying Total Eclispe and getting very close but this time he decided to try the low sit into Nouvelle Vague. He pulled it out of the bag very quickly and it got me psyched to try to do Nouvelle Vague (7C). I had tried it before and found it very hard to hold the slopers but this day the conditions were so good that it was like climbing a different problem. It took me quite a few goes but eventually I managed to finish it (with a very undignified grovel at the end!).
Photograph by Antoine Veillard
On day five I returned to Megalithe (7C) at Rocher Greau. I have tried this on previous trips and had no luck but this trip I had tried it once and managed to get past the crux (to the break) and then bailed off because it is high and scary and I didn't know what to do! So this time I was determined. I knew I could do the crux and that the top wasn't very hard – just scary and committing. When I got there I switched my brain off and just climbed without thinking about the potential fall and luckily I topped it out!
On day six, our last day, we went to Rocher Canon and bumbled about in the sunshine, although Kook did some crushing by sending La Baleine (different one) (7C) and another 7C climb there too.
After probably my best week ever in Fontainebleau we set off home, back to reality and to friends!