52 is an untouchable number, since it is never the sum of proper divisors of any number.

Finally I touched dry rock again. What a feeling. I’ve had 4 rest days partly due to rain but mainly due to my skin being bruised and thinner than Twiggy after 6 hours in the Sauna running on the treadmill. This morning it was finally in a state that needed to be in contact with rock. The weather wasn’t great and things were looking damp, so we waited until lunchtime by which point things were looking much better. Sara arrived last night so we headed out towards Roche de Milly in the hope of being able to get some climbing in. As we arrived we bumped into Neil along with a massive downpour from the skies. Suddenly the grey skies had unleashed and everything was thoroughly soaked. We wouldn’t be climbing anytime so I went to have a look at a project at a very small crag near Milly. Usually when I hear about projects they are either 1. Incredible but absolutely unclimbable (or at least 8C) or 2. Totally shit and not worth cleaning. Well, this project fell in between the two. It’s a diminutive overhang with a few pockets on it, leading to a cool looking and big move to a sloper jug. It’s not going to be a modern classic or anything but it’s certainly worth a look on a dry day. I expect it to be in the 7C+/8A region but it was hard to tell since it was rather wet as I looked at it today. I’ll report back with pictures when I do get back on it (or if Olivier Lebreton suddenly goes and crushes it out of the blue).

After hiding out at the crag under a boar hunting platform waiting for the rain to pass we finally made it back to the car and back to base camp. Although everything was drenched the sun had come out in force and everything was drying fast. I helped Neil out with a spot of Gardening (which isn’t the new climbing in any way) and then passed some time figuring out how my video camera wraps 24 progressive frames into 60 interlaced fields (don’t ask). Eventually dinner time arrived and we faced a choice between the wonderful smells of neil’s cooking and the wonderful feeling of dry sandstone against soft skin. Clearly the rock won and we zoomed off to Cuvier.

Sara got stuck in whilst I began to warm up whilst trying to be really careful with my skin. There was a big group of Hombre’s at the Carnage block so after a couple of very easy problems I headed up L’Abattoir, which as you probably know was the first 7A in the forest. It took me a couple of tries to do it which was amusing, and I ended up using a rather funny method, but it worked and I got to the top. It’s so great to think that a man climbed that boulder in 1960… the forest would have been so different, France would have been so different, Europe would have been so different, and the World would have been so different. It just took a man with some vision and some psyche to create the forest’s first 7A. Well, it certainly wasn’t easy, but it’s a nice complement to the other problems on the bloc. It has it’s elements of power (the last move to the helicopter jug), it’s elements of balance (the move across with your left hand), and it’s elements of technique (being able to stand comfortably on rather sorry footholds). By this point the lugubrious motion of the sun begun it’s decline so I packed up and rushed up to Rempart, leaving Sara down at Bas Cuvier ticking 6A’s.

I wanted to at least have a look at Gourmandise. I wasn’t sure my skin was up to pulling on but I felt like I should at least assess the situation. I unfurled my pad and quickly did the end sequence. Then I thought to try the moves from the 8B start. I pulled on and did the moves rather easily until I was halfway through the whole problem at which point I let go in surprise. I guess that’s a good sign anyway. My skin was not great, and the first hold was hurting my right hand but I felt like I had a couple of goes in me. My body certainly felt strong so I had no excuses not to give it some effort. My first go I climbed smoothly from the low start into the stand start, then kept going, feeling strong, light, and like it was on. I got to the last move to the hold from which point it’s finished and as I went to move my right hand it just greased off leaving me sat on the pad. I was slightly pissed but also rather shocked. I’d just done it until the last move on my first proper try from the low start. The sun was setting, casting a beautifully warm orange glow onto the tree tops which were contrast against a wonderfully blue sky. Conditions weren’t perfect on the rock, but the scenery was pretty magnificent, and I was just happy to soak it all up after being cooped up at home for 4 days. I only had enough time for one more go before it got too dark to see the footholds. I went to the back of the roof and set off once again, hoping this time I would finish at the top. Unfortunately I once again greased off at the last move. From what you’ve read it probably seems like this is the crux, or perhaps at least the redpoint crux. That may be so, but it’s actually not a hard move. I’m doing all the hard moves with ease, and falling off from an easyish move because I’m not using some alternative heelhook beta. I have my sequence which is wonderfully satisfying in it’s movement, but it isn’t the easiest way. Does that matter? No. I just want to get to the top and enjoy the process along the way. Am I doing that? Yes. However, I’m now absolutely sure that I will do it in my next proper session. So although I had two goes today and they both resulted in failure I am happy in the knowledge that they are two small steps bringing me much closer to success.

Alan Bean was the fourth man on the moon. You might not have known that, because not many people remember the 4th man to have done something rather momentous, but I’m sure Alan Bean still feels momentous.