As you all know, I’m currently residing in Maisonbleau and spending my days climbing in the forests of Fontainebleau. I try to recount any interested tales on this very blog, so I thought I should warn the readers of what is about to come. If you want to hear tales of crushing beautiful blocs, then turn away now. In fact, if you want to hear any tales of rock climbing then head somewhere else, because yesterday none of this took place.

Yesterday I entered a vast hall, full of many, many people. There were no rocks in sight, only giant upside down spider like constructions that people were gathered around. Where was I? What was I doing here? Well, the weather wasn’t looking so hot on Saturday (not in a good way) and so I thought that a change would be as good as a rest. How wrong I was. Perhaps a more accurate statement would be that the change was as far as you can possibly get from a rest. I’d heard wind of a bouldering competition going down and the allure of perhaps winning some money was strong. This is just some small time local comp after all… it’s unlikely there will be any strong climbers there… right? Wrong. Kevin Lopata (8B+ beast), Olivier Lebreton (8B+ beast), and Vincent Pochon (8B beast) were all there. These guys are the people who I regard as the font beasts, along with the slightly more old schoolers like Sebastian Frigault and Julien Nadiras. Hopes of winning were somewhat scathed, but I was here now so I’d be giving it a good go.

I really had no idea what was going on, but after getting registered and having someone translate the rules, we were off. I should preamble this with a statement about my general levels of session fitness. At home I train as much as I can, and it’s rare I hit 2 hours. Out here in the forest I normally spend 2-3 hours maximum trying something and at the end I’m either physically finished or my skin is totalled. This didn’t bode well when I found out that there were 29 problems in the qualification round. 29 problems is a hell of a lot for someone whose forearms balloon to the size of Popeye’s after doing more than 8 moves. I decided to try and shadow Kevin as he’d won the previous year so I thought he’d know what he was doing. This plan went well for all of 4 problems at which point I fell off something and he disappeared into the crowds! Luckily for me, this wasn’t a flash based competition. Qualification was a 4 hour window of suffering, but as long as you got to the top of a boulder then you could tick it off your scorecard. This was definitely better for me as I’m not particularly good at flashing boulder problems. The other thing that was very handy was that the problems were numbered in order of difficulty, 1 being the easiest and 29 being the hardest. The 4th problem that I’d tried had been number 28 and I should have realised that I wasn’t warmed up enough. However, I had another attempt which only served to tear my left pectoral, then grease off, at which point I spent 10 mins stretching. Not the ideal start, but I figured I’d get stuck in to the other problems and leave this one for later. I tried to keep and eye on Olivier and Vincent so I could see how they climbed each problem and gradually I’d ticked off a fair few of them. Then we all arrived at number 27. It was clearly hard and everybody was falling off, but it looks very basic and very school like. The crux involved a long jump off a wonderful pinch, which you got my doing 2 burly undercut moves. Unfortunately for me, there was a sneaky toehook that someone discovered (damn you!) which meant that nobody was doing the burly undercut moves at the start. Nobody except for me that is. I wanted to make a statement by doing it a harder way. I’m Jerry Moffatt. Wait a second. I’m not Jerry Moffatt, but I was using the guy as my inspiration. It took me a few tries but I made it to the top after missing out the toehooks, then campusing the top section much to the crowds dismay. Statement made, that’s how we roll in England. I continued to tick off the easier ones up until I only had 2 problems left, 28 and 29. I returned to number 28 and thankfully some new beta had been found eliminated the huge span that had ripped my pec. The new way was far superior and I cruised to the top of it which was great. 29 was too hard and I knew no one would do it, so at this point I realised I would definitely be in the final.

Things weren’t all rosy however. My left forearm had begun to cramp and as I was doing my shoelaces up for one problem my thumb retracted into the palm of my hand, accompanied by a small yelp of pain and surprise. I prised my thumb out of that position, but something was very wrong. My left forearm was tightening up like crazy. I needed fluids. Luckily I wasn’t there alone. Neil, Chris, and Thomas had come along and Chris was nice enough to nip down to decathlon and buy me some magic drinks that fixed me. It was a shame that Decathlon didn’t sell magic skin growth formula as by this point I was having to go and stand outside wafting my hands like crazy to stop the water pouring out my tips. Then I’d come inside and have a go, immediately followed by another trip outside.

Qualification ended at 19h20. Finals were due to begin at 21h. I had time to chill out and try to recover as much as possible. I spent the time walking around, stretching, and watching the strangest dyno competition I’ve ever seen. Teams of 3 people had to do the same dyno as many times as they could in a minute. Imagine a sort of dyno train. It was somewhat ridiculous but I guess it was a crowd pleaser. This seemed to take forever though and people were waiting on results. One thing was clear, finals wouldn’t be started at 21h. After what seemed like an eternity results were announced and I was in the finals with Olivier, Vincent, Jerome Chaput (the organising club president – hmmmm), and another 3 randoms. Kevin hadn’t made it through which was a real surprise, but problem 27 had been his Achilles heel.

We trapsed off to isolation and my skin was pouring with water. I was constantly wiping them on either my t-shirt of my trousers, but in a matter of seconds the flow would resume. Nothing I could do about it except chalk up and try to hold on. It was nice to be there with Olivier and Vincent. They’re both really nice guys and did nothing but help me out by translating, telling me where to go, and having a positive attitude towards each other. We were told to warm up and 15 minutes later we were warm. Then the waiting began again. On it went, longer and longer. We didn’t end up starting until 23h30! It was pretty ridiculous as everyone was tired and getting a little fed up.

The problems in the final were hard, considering I’d already done 28 problems and had been climbing for hours. Perhaps too hard in my opinion, as the crowd doesn’t like to see competitor after competitor fail to do the first move of a problem! The 3 randoms failed to make it to the top of anything, although perhaps this is the way it should be (I have no idea). In the end, Olivier was crowned champion with Vincent in a close second. I thought I might have taken third but was usurped by an exceptional performance one on problem by Jerome (bravo!). I settled in to the 4th place, with which I was neither happy nor disappointed. I’d had visions of coming out to the finals and destroying every problem, standing atop the podium, and screaming to the crowd “I did it for you Jerry!”. I wanted to follow in his footsteps, come to France, and crush them. It would have been a funny thing to do, but in the end I’m just not good enough. Although, with competitions it’s always more accurate to say that I wasn’t good enough on the day. I lost to people who I regard as better and far more prolific climbers than myself, which is why I’m not disappointed. I’m not happy because I know that I had it in me to win. I have the strength, the technical ability, and the desire. I just lacked (in a BIG way) the session fitness. My crazy thumb-forearm cramp was a big reminder of this.

As to whether or not I have a real interest in doing well in comps, it’s something I’m kind of on the fence about. My ideal situation is to get better at comps by climbing on the rocks and to gain fitness by doing power endurance or routes. I don’t want to start doing proper comp training because I don’t think that is as beneficial to rock climbing as other forms of training. At the end of the day, I’d rather be an amazing rock climber than the winner of some world cup. Just like Jerry said, if you want to find out where he was in 1993 go and try The Dominator (without the heelhook!).

On the topic of Jerry… it seems that since he’s published his book everybody has jumped on the bandwagon of “I love Jerry”. I’ve loved Jerry since the start and I want to say a hearty welcome to all the newcomers. The big man has enough charisma and strength to inspire us all. I don’t want/need him to myself. Let him inspire you too, but if you dare disappoint or fail to crush in his name then you will forever be glancing over your shoulder… I should say no more.

This morning I woke up and felt to sore that I sent myself straight into the bath, which made me feel like a million dollars and I thought my aches had disappeared. Unfortunately this only lasted for about an hour at which point they all came back. I’m hoping that I can get back on to the rocks within a day or two as I have a ridiculous amount to do and only 11 days left. Just writing that has made me realise I can’t do even half of the things I want to do, so tomorrow new list will be made and if it’s not raining I’ll be at the rocks. I could stay an extra 5 or 6 days but there are some things that are more important than climbing and aren’t worth sacrificing for climbing. For that reason I’ll be leaving on the 20th.

After so many words (as usual), now some more pictures from the comp;

From here;

to here;

to here (Jerome in action);

Strangely enough, I managed to do this one!