After a rest day spent travelling from Derby to Fontainebleau, I felt like it was time to get back in action. Whilst the climbing in the forest is always good, even in summer, the things I want to do are too hard for me to do in these conditions. Of course it’s possible to go out and do 7C’s (or possibly even the odd 8A) on even the hottest days, but I fancied doing something a little different. I suggested to Neil that we head down to Le Saussois and he was keen to get out the old harness.
I’ve never been down to the sport climbing in Saussois, but Neil assured me it was alright for a local venue. It turns out the crags there aren’t very tall but they are pretty cool with grey, white, and orange rock all mixed together in interesting bands. The grey rock tends to be pocketed and super hard, the white stuff more crimpy, and the orange stuff more loose. I wanted to try a couple of routes in particular as I’d heard lots about them and one is in fact a Jerry route. Chimpanzadrome, 7C+, and La Bidule, 8A+, both lie on the same buttress of grey pocketed rock and they look pretty cool from the road below. They’re not very high, but the buttress is rather cool as it’s comprised of a double Bombay of rock. A wave leads into another wave and then you’re at the top, at which point you can actually top out to glory!
We warmed up on a random line of bolts to the left and then decided to get on Chimpanzadrome. I’d commented to Neil earlier that I thought this route would be alright as it’s just under my height limit of hitting the wall of pump, so I was hopeful but not sure of success. I abbed down to put the clips in as the holds all looked rather dirty and I didn’t have a clipstick, so I went with a “better safe than sorry” approach. It turned out to be a good decision as most holds were filled with either bird poo or spider webs, so I went down cleaning them all and feeling what I could. Once at the bottom I pulled the rope and set off.
It’s amazing how different holds can feel when you’re climbing up rather than abbing down. All the pockets felt better than they looked, the distances between holds shrank under the tension of my biceps, and I climbed up to the second clip (out of 4!) at which point I got into a muddle. When climbing on pockets it’s very difficult to reverse a hand sequence. Once you’ve committed to a left or right hand first sequence you get stuck in the left then right movement for a number of moves, unless you’re strong enough to match on 2 finger pockets – which I’m not! I slumped onto the rope and worked out a sequence that worked but utilised a mono middle finger jam which felt more dangerous than hard. It was a left hand mono into a right hand mono, after which it was a selection of front 2 finger pockets all the way to the top, some beautifully sculpted, some sharp, and some slopey. I came down and sent Neil up the route. He went up the crux mono finger move and managed to find another way of doing it which missed out the crux left hand mono hold! Great! Unfortunately I didn’t know whether or not I would be able to use his sequence as he’s often too tall to offer me useful beta. After he came down I went back up and tried his sequence which was just within my reach, so I now had a sequence that was much less painful, which only provided me with more motivation to get the route done! I went back down to the ground and got ready for a redpoint go. Bish, bash, bosh, I was at the crux, Gaz Parry in my mind. It was a little dicey but I reached the right hand mono and the psyche outweighed the pain, so I pasted my feet on, and managed to reach the 2 finger pocket above. I knew from here it would be plain sailing, and I followed the left/right/left/right hand sequence up to the top. Apparently Neil didn’t seem to think it looked like plain sailing, but I was at the top and that’s what mattered! Great! I was psyched to get this route done and really pleased that I didn’t get too pumped or powered out. By this point the sun had worked it’s magic and we were feeling rather drowsy, so rather than try to ab down bidule to clean the spider webs and bird poo we instead opted for a drink at the local cafe.
Le Saussois is a really nice place, with a gently flowing river in the middle of the valley (which was filled with children most of the day!), outcrops of rock popping up here and there, and a very verdant feel to the place. The rocks certainly aren’t world class, but the Chimpanzadrome sector is definitely cool. It may be short, although the guidebook says 15m, but it is a rather nice piece of rock and I’d recommend it as a stop off tour if you’re driving south through France on your way to Ceuse or some other more vast destination. The rocks are only 20min from the motorway so it’s not a huge detour, and there’s easily enough rock to spend a day or two on good routes. The riverbank offers picnic tables and shade from the sun, so even if you’re not climbing it’s a pleasant place to while away the afternoon with a good book. Definitely a nice little crag to have within reach of Fontainebleau.
As for La Bidule, I might head back down tomorrow if possible; otherwise it will have to wait until I’m back up this way in late August. It definitely looked cool and being one of Jerry’s route it’s clearly over rated in my skewed ranking system, so I’ll be getting it done at some point this summer.