Most climbing trips start with seeing a picture or video of a crag, finding out who’s been there and asking them questions. That is usually followed up by buying a guidebook, booking flights and a last minute car hire. This trip was different… apart from the car hire.
Fontainebleau has been a common hang out for the whole of the After The Send team for years now. We have learnt so many different things from that forest- technique, surviving in cars and vans but for me I have learnt that I just love sandstone! It is such an incredible rock to climb; a bit of creativity and body tension is all you need. So when Pymn and Connie came back from a trip to Europe with a new guide book to a sport crag in Luxembourg boasting sandstone sport (!!!), it wasn’t long until I was planning a trip there.
Recently, we have started climbing quite a lot with a local climber, Chris Weedon. He has been climbing for best part of 17 years and is still psyched! He convinced Pymn, Tom and me to head to South Wales, the Gower, for a quick weekend away and some seriously steep sport. It was an awesome trip full of amazing rock, beautiful beaches and hard climbs.
I am guessing you guys know how much we love Fontainebleau? A lot!
Over the May bank holiday Emmie and I headed out there for 60 hours in the forest, unfortunately it rained for the first day but the second and third it was glorious.
Do you recognise any of the problems?
In true After the Send style, we got to the airport with five minutes to check in. In this short space of time, Pymn went and bought some drinks at the most expensive bar in the world (yes, the airport bar), Tom waited with the bags and I went to get my Euros. We had just about finished our drinks as the queue to get on the plane died down. We were lucky that Ryanair didn’t seem to be checking the size of your hand luggage as our three giant rucksacks filled with climbing and camera gear were not going to fit in the test slots, and we breezed through.
Each year it gets harder and harder to leave Font!!!!
Fontainebleau is an accidental annual trip for the ATS crew. It started 3 years ago when Pymn, Taz and I were invited by Seb to join him and a few mates out there for a long weekend. It was a wild weekend of cheap energy drinks, doing shots out of a grenade case and our minds being blown wide open to the world of climbing. On the long drive back home we were already planning the next trip.
The second trip 1 year later, Pymn and I headed out to meet Taz and Beautiful Joe for a little longer than a week. This trip was going to be a quiet one. Little did we know, Pymn asking for a go on someone’s slackline would lead us to moving into their camp and getting shown around the forest by experts. The slackline was owned by Dennis, a seasoned Fontainebleau climber with Guru Knowledge of slacklining, Fontainbleau climbing and life. Along with the Dutch Guru, we also met his great ‘Dutchie’ mates. These guys are all about the complete experience of the woods and can make a lean-to fit for a wedding out of a bit of tarpaulin and some freshly cut trees. We also met the ‘Northerners’ (they are from Derby but anyone above Bristol are Northerners to us). These guys crushed! They were all under the age of 19 and two of them were sending 8a! They blew us away and helped us a huge amount understanding the rock. Best of all, they were great at egging us on, and they still do.
Our third trip in 2014, we had been in touch with everyone and planned out trips to coincide. We met them in the campsite to make the mother of all camps! Our campsite family had expanded from a group of 12 to a group of 18. This year we had pretty much the full ATS crew, apart from Angry Angus (although we did have Northern Angus). The Northerners had brought a few more guys this time as they had just started Uni and Dennis had added to the Dutchie team. It was great to go back with new guys since we had gained such great tour guides the year before. This trip flew by as usual and the ‘Projects’ started to pile up ready for next year.
We couldn’t wait for our annual summer trip and headed out for a cheeky session over the May Bank Holiday. Whilst out there, we had the intention to make a film with our mate Joss Wild, who decided to feature us in his Film School final piece. Unfortunately, it was very wet, but in between showers we managed to add a few more moves on some projects.
So for our fifth trip in August, Emmie, Tilly and I turned up 2 days after Pymn, Connie and Evie and Tom, Harms, Will and Mike arrived 2 days after us. By the time we arrived, Dennis had fully transitioned into a forest man and he had befriended Christophe, a friendly French man who we managed to talk to either through Tom or through extremely bad French and hand symbols. The rest of the ‘Dutchies’ turned up throughout the week. The ‘Northerners’ had turned up in mass with 25 Uni mates and had been there for a quite a while before we arrived. A few days into our trip, a lot of the Northerners went home except our original crew and we filtered back down to a smaller group of annual climbers plus some great new extras.
Down to the climbing! WoooooHoooooo FONT!!!!! Oh…
Fontainebleau knocks you down for sure! The heat sucks out your energy, the grades stress you out and everything feels impossible! It takes a couple of days for you to understand the rock and maybe even longer for your body to. The open hand strength and trusting your feet on the glassiest slabs is mind boggling. Coming from Limestone crimps to Sandstone slopes feels harder than learning another language and you only have 11 days to become fluent.
This year, we worked out a new system. Climbing between 11-3 was too hot so we decided to have 2 sessions a day- morning and night. During the day we mainly eat and siesta. We also decided to put down the guide book and choose our climbs based on looking at the rock and finding lines which we wanted to climb. That’s it now, you are involved, crack out the cheese and wine and Font has fully settled in.
We managed to get to a lot of new areas this year and some old favourites. A few of my new favourites are Apremont and Rocher Saint-Germain the blue circuits in these areas are awesome with a fantastic range of technical slopery routes alongside some great powerful climbs too.
Of course, we visited a lot of project problems as well. One project is a climb that I have tried every time I have been to Font called ‘Le P’tit Toit’ and this year it went down second attempt which was a massive confidence boost for me. This led me on to a massive day at L’Elephant smashing every project I had there including an 8 meter highball, a 6a, a few 6b+’s, one 6c and even sending my first 7a called ‘La Traversee du Gruyere’.
That day made it my best climbing trip to date. I celebrated the next day in Fontainebleau with a coffee and cake not expecting to climb much for the rest of the day just popping up to Bas Cuvier for a chilled one. As we walked around trying to find some nice climbs for Emmie’s DOUBLE sprained ankles to find their way up, I spotted a climb which drew me in. It was a slopery arête with one obvious break half way up. After checking it in the guidebook it had a sit start symbol and the grade of 7a. I said to Emmie ‘I will have a quick go as it will be a good project’ and the first try went very well so I had a few more and somehow managed to get it in 5 or 6 attempts! It was called ‘Langousta Royale’ and it fitted my style to perfection.
Fontainebleau Forest is so hard to leave each time but it gets even more exciting to go back!
Winter is pretty much here and ready to destroy our dreams of climbing after work… but wait, what’s this magical candle you strap to your head!? Yes, it is time to get your head torch out!
So we haven’t posted much recently mainly because we have been out climbing as much as possible. With the long nights we don’t get in till past 10 and if we have head torches in our bags later.
I have been mainly climbing on Portland working my way through the Top 50’s with Emmie. Some to note if you are coming to the island ‘Burning Skies’, ‘Walking the King’, ‘Portland Heights’ (not yet clean) and ‘Too Wish The Impossible’ my first ever 7a onsight!
I have also added a few new climbs to my project list one being ‘Kendo Nagasaki’ which next time we go there I should get and also the amazing but big project ‘Zinc Oxide Mountain’.
Hope everyone is enjoying the sun?
A ‘project’ is a climb that you haven’t yet competed clean yet. Completing a climb clean means no falls and make it all the way to the top like there is no rope on you. There are tons of climbs I haven’t done clean and I don’t care about that but completing a ‘project’ is different…
My first 7a was called ‘Haute Cuisine’- it’s an awesome climb!!! It has to be one of my favourite climbs of all time as it’s very technical with precise moves and delicate feet. Pymn and I had tried this climb over and over for what must have been the best part of 6 weeks; going down to The Cuttings, warming up on something much easier, then getting the clip stick out and working out every move. Pymn got it before me but when I did get it WOOOOOOOHHHHHOOOOOOOOOO! It was amazing! To be honest, it was well out of my grade at that point so the sense of achievement was huge. It felt even better because I placed all the gear on the way up.
But then what?
We headed to Coastguards to find some more climbs we could ‘project’. The climbs are taller there averaging about 25 meters. We got on some great climbs but nothing stuck with me until a local called Natalia asked if we wanted to top rope a climb she was on called ‘Superfly Guy’. The beauty of climbing is that 99% of climbers are nice (more so out on the rock than in the gym) and they will happily share good routes, beta or any advice with you. So I had a go on top rope and managed to read the puzzling, pumpy section at the bottom quite well but then I struggled through the middle before I worked my way up the delicate slab arête to the top. That was it- I was hooked!
I returned to Coastguards several times over the next year but never really concentrated enough on it as the crag doesn’t offer many climbs to warm up on. I always felt bad dragging people there so I could have a go as well. I got over that feeling a few weeks ago and managed to get Connie to come and belay for me on a Thursday and managed 2 full leads on it but each time I got stuck on a tough crimp with very particular feet. My next attempt on lead (although making the same mistake) was much better and I knew what I had to do to get it clean, but unfortunately we started running out of sun and arms.
For some reason I ended up climbing the next 4 days straight- which was amazing and included a trip to Dartmoor. On the Bank Holiday Monday, I dragged Pymn and Connie back down to Coastguards and we played on some other routes. One route was a super hard 7b and then we decided to hit up ‘Superfly Guy’. Pymn went for it first already having it clean from a while ago; he just missed out on a couple of feet this time but put the gear in for me. I went through the pumpy bottom section using Connie’s new beta and headed for the crimp and awkward feet- got it in one! Now it was time to have a little rest on the jug to move on to the slab to the top. I knew I had done it once I hit that jug as the slab has never been a problem, yet I was very careful and took tons of time making sure I didn’t make any silly mistakes and I got it!
‘Projects’ are one of my favourite parts of climbing as you achieve something you didn’t think you could do and you spend time and effort thinking and learning a route and it sticks with you. What do you get from it? A fist bump and congratulation from your belayers- what a great climb!