Fontainebleau, 2018

Fontainebleau has become a bit of a favourite destination for us over the last few years, we try and escape at the start of the year while it is still cold here, and is just starting to warm up there. This year was no different, and we went across for a week at the end of April. As always the location brought a smile to my face, how can you not be thrilled to see so many accessible boulders in perfect condition in a lovely woodland setting? We were there with two friends, Mark and Paul, which turned out to be quite fortuitous.

Bouldering is not my first choice of climbing styles, I am fairly lousy at topping out, and I don’t really like being so high above the ground without a rope, but with so many manageable size boulders I usually get into the swing of it fairly quickly. So on day one we set off with enthusiasm to the Trois Pignons area full of self belief in our ability after a winter of bouldering indoors. Of course our confidence was smashed in about 10 seconds when we got on the first boulder! Now we know the grades are hard at Font, but should a 2A really feel so difficult?

By the afternoon I was warmed up and ready to try a 5A, I didn’t have much expectation of topping out, but I wanted to get the top hold and then drop onto my nice big mat. It didn’t quite go to plan. I did the first tricky move which I was very pleased about, but didn’t catch the next hold and went flying down onto the mat. That should have been fine. Except “onto the mat” really means one foot on, and one foot half off the edge… ouch! In fact… OUCH! I collapsed in a heap as my ankle rolled over the edge tearing the ligaments as it went. After a few minutes of suppressed swearing (it takes more than injury to make me swear out loud!), I decided it wasn’t broken, but obviously sprained. So I spent the rest of the week hobbling around on a makeshift crutch (fortunately a forest is good at providing walking sticks), and became the chief videographer for the trip. So we have far more video footage than usual on these trips, my way of taking part without leaving the ground.

On our final day, after 5 days of freezing my foot with ice and cold bandages and not quite as much rest as it should have had, I managed to get my foot back into a climbing shoe. I found a 1B problem and decided to give it a go, after all, it is only 1B! Hmmm… It is very, very, scary going up a slab on an ankle that can only bear weight if used in a certain way! But I managed to get up it, using a high step onto the bad foot which was surprisingly the most effective and pain-free move that could be done. So whilst my big achievement on this trip was a 1B, Jon, Mark and Paul all had the usual Font mix bag, falling off grade 3’s, but getting up 6A’s.

Eight months on and my ankle no longer stops me climbing, however it is still painful at times. When I got back from France my physio told me it could take between 6-12 months, and of course I thought that was pessimistic, and it would be absolutely fine in a couple of months. But ligaments have a long recovery time and so I just have to be patient, keep on doing my exercises, and be glad I don’t have to cover it in ice anymore.

Trois Pignon and Cuvier
Rocher Guichot
St. Germain (Bois)

I hope you enjoy the blog and videos, let me know what you think in the comment box below.

— Gaynor

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