The second week of March was spent in the wonderful forest of Fontainebleau. We left home with a strong group of 10 Gloucestershire based wads and wadesses. The weather for the week looked bad and on the evening before we left all of the Ferries and the tunnel were closed due to severe weather in Northern France. The advise was not to travel unless absolutely necessary. We deemed a week of bouldering on the finest rock in the world absolutely necessary so we set off. The journey on the English side was smooth, the ferry went by without a hitch but arriving in France all was not as it should be. There were huge snow banks on the road side and abandoned vehicles everywhere. whilst driving south on the A1 we observed a 200km traffic jam going the other way. There must have been over 50000 lorries nose to tail in a stand still jam. They must have been there for days.
With regards to the climbing; I have been primarily bouldering for the last month or so and am feeling pretty good, I was hopeful of some good results. The climbing project I have spent the most time on in my entirelife is Eclipse at Cul de Chein. With over 300 goes over the last 7 years I was keen to finally see this demon off. This boulder problem embodies my three weaknesses in climbing. The first move is steep, the second move is footless and the last move is dynamic. On the first day it went down quickly in fairly poor conditions. (A good sign of things to come.) I was over joyed to climb this problem and I believe it heralds a new era in my climbing ability.
I had probably my best day of bouldering ever at Bas Cuvier. It started with Hypothese in a few quick goes. This is another problem that I have dreamed about climbing but never got on before. The rest of the day included ascents of La Gaule, Controle Technique and L’Aerodynamite. An absolute dream of a day.
Also at Bas Cuvier Phil Rose and I had ascents of Neverland 8A. This is a really funky problem involving knees, heels, compression and power. The real joy in climbing this problem was that we had no knowledge of the moves. We spent some time sussing the beta. The problem went from feeling holdless and nearly impossible to fairly do able in about an hour. After climbing this boulder I felt a deep satisfaction in going through the whole process of the ascent which is sometimes lacking when you are just given the beta and dispatch the problem with relative ease. Neverland was also my first boulder graded 8A and, although grades aren’t everything they certainly help me to measure my progression and to push my self that one step further.
On a side note: Neverland was the last piece I needed to complete the climbing triple eight challenge (having climbed E8, 8a before and no finally 8A). A future goal for me is to achieve this in a single day.
I returned from Fontainebleau very happy, with by far my most successful week of bouldering under my belt. I cannot wait to get back out there. There should also be a video of our trip knocking about at some point too, so keep your eyes peeled.
After returning I was straight down to Plymouth to set the Plymouth climbing centres First Birthday boulder competition. This was an event organised and sponsored by Mammut. I drove down on Friday morning and arrived at Midday to be greeted by a totally blank boulder room, a canvas for our setting imagination to run wild. The Saturday was filled with many different competitions including boulder, speed and dyno. The Mammut team were also busy all day running coaching Master-classes and trying to impart some knowledge. The day was pretty full on and great fun for all. The highlight for me was the boulder competition finals set by myself and Ethan Walker. We had a good variety of funky and challenging boulders for the top climbers to go at. Hannah had an amazing day and qualified for the finals with an amazing effort on the final three challenging blocs she came second.
On Sunday the weather looked ominous but myself and the other Mammut boys were keen to get out on some local stone. We headed to Burrator reservoir to try Mikey Clevedon’s mini classic; Jungle VIP. The problem we had come to climb was the only thing dry, luckily. A bit of arm waving to warm up and we were ready. The easier version or this problem is called King of the Swingers and was dispatched in quick style by all involved including a flash from Ethan (nice work!). Next up Jungle VIP. It is a brilliant problem with one cut loose move proving most of the difficulty and some funky feet first toe hooks to top out. Ethan Oli and I climbed the problem quickly with each of us just taking a couple of goes. The collective team psych must have done the trick. I do have a little bit of video from this and will get it out soon.
Back home I have done a bit of climbing locally (despite a little finger tweak). The Prince is a micro route at Avon which was put up in the 90s by Ian Vickers and is something I have wanted to try for a while. On a lovely sunny but cold day I got on it expecting it to feel nails, but despite having to use your nails on the tiny little holds I managed all of the moves first go.I lowered to the ground, had a tactical shoe change and with the no edge technology managed to climb the route second go. I was well chuffed.
The route starts with a big rock over/mantle on a long but thin rail and is followed by three moves on very small holds before easier climbing is reached. On UKC it is described as having three British 7a moves in a row, I am afraid I do not quite agree, but then this style seems to suit me down to the ground.
A week or so later a group of us went back to the Prince with about ten pads. I managed to climb it second go of the day, just before the sun stopped play. It is a great little route/problem to do if you have enough pads and a steady head for the top.
Over all it has been a good month or so and I cannot wait for this finger to heal so that I can get crimping on some lovely limestone sports routes!