Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Font Spring 2011 By Luke Tilley

For the past 3 years I have made a pilgrimage to Fontainebleau for a healthy dose of bouldering. Organised by Dan Bradley through his company Up to Summit I have gone with a group of psyched young climbers from the Nottingham junior team. Each year I have learnt more about the art of climbing on the intricate often deceptive sandstone. As ever the best conditions are at this time of year, just when I am in my base training phase for summer competitions, hour long circuits and 24 route endurance sessions are not the best preparation for a week of bouldering. However it does make the trip a very welcome break and breathe of fresh air from dusty climbing centres and dark circuit boards.

Photo: Paul Phillips

For the first time I managed to restrain myself from trying anything too hard on the first couple of days and rushing to do as many problems as I could. This was pretty difficult as Ben was super keen as ever and straight away started blasting a desperate 7b+ we worked out the crucial beta and before long he ticked it. Not bad for the first day! Still I was determined to try and ease myself into it. I was happy to get a 7a flash and try lots of technical easier problems.
Photo: Paul Phillips
The next day I was not quite so restrained and spent several hours on a super classic 7b+ “Arabesque” crossing a huge roof, one of the biggest in the forest. I was getting frustratingly close. Relatively easily doing the 2 half’s of the problem but burning out on the last hard move. In the end I had to end the torment (and the pain from a powerful knee bar move) and leave it for another year. It will go easily some day I can feel it!

Photo: Paul Phillips
Tuesday I was feeling somewhat dubious about progress after an in-depth wine tasting lesson the previous night. On the walk to that day’s area I was blown away by the beauty of the forest, the sun was out and the dappled light made the 14 red Alpkit mats shine bright as they bobbed their way through the trees. I couldn’t help myself thinking that right then there was absolutely no where else in the world I would rather be or with any other companions. I became more energised as we wound ever closer the rock. I now knew this was going to be a good day. Warming up on a few technical face climbs, I quickly decided to get on a problem that had defeated me the year before, a burly 7a+ rounded arête. Ed discovered some sneaky heel toe beta and after a quick tick by Dan I knew this year it was going down. Two more goes and it was mine, what a start to the day! Ben and I then wound our way to a recommended 7c (the easiest in the forest according to Dan… along with several others.) It only took 5-6 goes for me to tick it and I was ecstatic. Slight downer when we checked the new guide book to find it has been downgraded to 7b+ but still really pleased!

Photo: Paul Phillips

I decided 3 days on was as much as I could cope with without a rest and the rock was in poor condition due to slight showers so Wednesday I chilled, slack lined and spotted Dan on an incredibly high 8a problem. Typically it rained on Thursday and climbing was off, I was somewhat frustrated but went on a run in the woods, visited Millie the scenic town nearby and had a very quick slack line over the mill stream that flowed past the gîte, cold!

The last day was good weather and I did as many problems as possible, spend ing a while doing problems on my own which was a very different and enjoyable experience. No pressure, no noise, no waiting just you and the forest and the rock. The great thing about font is that whatever you feel like doing, whether a whole day of easy climbing, projecting right at your limit or just relaxing, it is all there at a superb quality and you can do it all again every day in a brand new place. Superb!

A big thanks to Up To Summit (Dan) for organising the trip and cooking up amazing grub each night, Paul Philips for the photographs. My sponsors Beyond Hope (Evolv, Metolius and Prana), Alpkit, Pulsin and Mountain Hardwear.

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