Fontainebleau Trip, May 2013

by Heather Mack

Scary ‘just thrust’ top outs, squeezing in holes, sunbathing and silly games in Font…

Group photo at Canche au Merciers

Group photo at Canche aux Merciers

The second May bank holiday eleven of us attended an amazing trip to Font, expertly organised by Alison.

After eight months absent from Cambridge and the CCCC I was persuaded to get involved again by a well-timed trip to Font. Luckily I knew most of those attending from my days in the club, and enjoyed getting to know the others.

Three cars set off on Friday night, and after long waits for the tunnel, many wrong turns and a surprisingly comfortable (although short) sleep in a motel we all made it to Font and were ready to climb by 11am on Saturday morning. Although showers were forecast from 12 we were enthusiastic about heading out to find some rock. Paul Bolton, Graham and Johan started on a blue circuit in 95.2, the rest of us took one look at the slimy hard blue routes and went in search of an orange circuit. After much confusion and wandering around the rest of us found a few fun orange routes, and even tried a blue traverse, between the heavy rain showers. Although we seemed to spend most of the day playing around in caves, sleeping on the mats under overhangs, and seeing who could fit in the smallest holes, we were all happy with our introduction to Font. After a very grumpy shopping trip (me, Tom and Ben hadn’t had any food all day) Alison and Dave cooked a delicious meal, Ben however was too tired to eat anything and went to bed at 7, and Tom almost fell asleep in his dinner. Most of us were in bed by 10, it seemed to me like this was going to be a remarkably quiet and sensible club trip, oh how wrong I was.


On Sunday the weather was beautiful: sun, with a few clouds to cool us down, and after a good night’s sleep we were all ready to get some serious climbing done at Canche aux Merciers. We again split into the good (the two Pauls, Graham and Johan) and the not so good, and started our way round the blue and orange routes respectively. We all had an intense but successful day with most of us getting most of our way through our chosen circuits. On the orange circuit there was just one horrendously polished traverse that none of us attempting the orange circuit managed, and a scary highball problem which only Pete and Pierre braved. All in all though, a lovely spot, although a bit polished in places. Satisfied, but tired and hurting all over we headed back to make a serious start on the 10 litre box of wine.

We all enjoyed a lovely dinner, cooked by Paul, and started to sink in to a food and red wine stupor – it looked like we would all be in bed by ten again. But refusing to give in I finally persuaded Alison to try my new circus trick. After a few hilarious attempts we decided her standing on my shoulders was not going to work, after many more attempts we realised me standing on anyone else’s shoulders wasn’t gonna work either. (I did do it with someone else earlier in the week, honestly!) But at least we were all up and lively now, next was Ben/Graham’s bottle game (a must for future club trips!) basically one person (preferably the larger and stronger of the pair) must hold themselves in a press up position with their feet behind a line whilst their partner climbs over their back and places a bottle, upright as far from the line as possible.

At first it didn’t look like much of a competition, as Alison and Dave practised, and others commented it looked a little intimate to try with anyone but their partner, but with my usual lack of inhibitions I volunteered to climb on anyone who was willing. My first few attempts with Pete were only mildly successful until Graham stepped in and offered to show us how it was done, this is how I came to be backwards straddling a 50 (?) year old, ‘it’s like an unexpected bucking bronco’. After trying out all the partners available to me, me and Pierre were the winning team, beating Alison and Dave by a good six inches, due only to our extra height.

The next game was a slightly safer version of the traditional bottle game (played with a couple of small logs instead), basically the idea is to place one log as fair from the line as possible, and make it back behind the line with the other log without touching the floor. By this point we had made so much noise, and looked like we were having so much fun, that the three groups camping closest to us had come to join in. Many techniques were tried, my genius idea of duct-taping one log to my foot supposedly didn’t count, so it came down to balance versus height, Paul Bolton managed to long jump an exceptional distance back to the line, and a Finnish guy who joined in impressively hopped back to the line whilst holding the log on to his foot. I believe it was roughly equal between the two.


Despite all this excitement we were still up bright and early Monday morning, and headed off to Bos Rond. We all started off much too hard and ran out of energy very quickly, not helped by the beautiful sunshine, however we ploughed on, with Alison achieving a couple of very impressive overhangs, and Paul Bolton managing not just one, but two 6a’s (his target for the trip). Graham, Paul Baxter, Johan and Pierre had to head home at 4 but the rest of us were lucky enough to have another day. Despite our lethargy all day we managed to climb till around 7, finding some lovely routes including one up the side of a pillar, with awesome exposure but a slightly dodgy descent route. We had a nice, but late meal out and all had an early night.Unfortunately, although we didn’t need to head off till Tuesday afternoon, the weather was pretty terrible all day, so we killed the day doing touristy things on the way back to the tunnel. We checked out the impressionist mosaics in Barbizon (turns out we aren’t exactly great art critics: ‘it’s a monster’, ‘no, it’s a witch’, ‘it’s definitely  a dog’). After a delicious but pretty damp picnic we checked out the underground tunnels in Arras, which, much to our confusion, were filled with flowers. After deciding the French use the most ridiculous and confusing diversions possible, heading North, South, East then West to get to the  tunnel, we then made up our own diversion to get on the M11 and got even more lost. Hours later than we hoped we all made it back to Cambridge achy but in one piece. Thank you Alison for a brilliant trip, I hope I can come again next year.

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