My days in England were spent mainly being entirely gluttonous but I did managed to force myself into my board for a wonderful session. It was wonderful for many reasons, but the two most important ones are the fact that I remembered why I love training and the second was the rekindling of my desire to do hard moves. Route climbing is amazing, but hard moves still seem to have a special hold over me.

Getting back on my board was nice because it’s a great benchmark to find out where I’m at. However, trying to utilise a benchmark assumes ceteris paribus, but that wasn’t quite met since it was a rather hot and humid evening when I found myself in there. It didn’t help that I was using some chalk which I found in a chalkbag that I hadn’t used for over 5 years…

However, all variables aside, I found that I wasn’t too weak. There were some noticeable areas of weakness, like my small hold ability but that has been a long time weakness so it makes sense that it is the first thing to slide. I haven’t pulled on any small holds for a long time, and whilst I could still just about do the problems in my board, I was having to crimp and slap rather than stay open and float. I’m not too worried or concerned as I know the strength will flood back to my fingers as soon as the deadhanging and the bouldering starts up again.

The following few days were enjoyed in Fontainebleau as Neil and Chris of Maisonbleau were having their (somewhat delayed!) wedding party! I’d just spent 4 days in England doing nothing but eating and now I faced another 3 days of the same. Luckily I was also only a few km from the best bouldering in the world. I have some sort of deep love for Fontainebleau as it fills me with some odd feeling of belonging whenever I return. I don’t think it’s somewhere I’d necessarily choose to live, but it’s certainly got a very special place in my life. We all headed down to Buthiers and I did a couple of easier problems that I’d always wanted to do, but never tried.

That is the curse of spending only the colder months in Font. On a perfect winter day, with temps hovering around 0C and not a single wisp of a cloud, it’s difficult not to go to a harder problem. I always tried to make the most of any day with great conditions, and this inevitably means you miss out on what are arguably the best problems in font. I’ve long stated that I think the best problems in font are the 7th grade ones (and this is perhaps the greatest drawback of Fontainebleau), so facing temps in the high twenties, it suddenly became easy to head out and do some wonderful 7’s. First up was La Ligne Blanche, 7B. I had a few goes, but it was only when James joined in that the beta was found, and he made it to the top with consummate ease. Whilst this is a great problem, it does have one sharp hold at the start, and my skin wasn’t liking it at all! I decided I needed one go to get to the top, so long as the pain in my left index tip could be overcome. Luckily pain is both transient and mental, so I got my ass to the top without consummate ease but with a big smile. This problem reminded me of why font contains some of the best moves around… it’s so much more than pulling on a ladder of holds. It’s been said a million times before, but Font is a perfect concoction of strength and skill which is why I think it’s so great.

Next up was a visit to Sablibum to finish off a problem I tried last year. Pierre, Feuille, Ciseaux is a highball 7B+ that I’d had to back off last year because the top had been too sandy to press on in any sort of safety. This time I had 2 advantages; a rope, and James. He abed down it to clean all the holds and then set off up it with a sequence seemingly figured out… He passed the crux and then all of a sudden forgot was he was doing and fluffed a relatively easy move (easy when you have the right beta that is!). I’d had 3 goes, but my knee scum method wasn’t working too well now that I was wearing shorts, so I had to change the beta. James had another go and despatched, using a heel hook instead of my knee scum. I’m not a fan of heelhooks at the best of times, but when you’re high enough to break something (in an uncontrolled fall) I like them even less.

Romain Hoqcuemiller putting in the heelhook

However, it was the only way to save my knee from bleeding so I simply committed to it, trusting that James would be able to catch me if I slipped (wishful thinking!). Luckily it went down without incident and I got through the crux. Once on the top section I suddenly got a left arm pump, my foot wouldn’t get on the foothold, and I began to fall apart. Fortunately for me I had James, as he stepped up and took control of my remote. If I can hear someone shouting specific beta, I will often be able to stop thinking and just climb by instruction. It’s happened in the past when I’ve been sure that a fall was inevitable, so this took place once again. I stopped being in control of my body and let James’ every shout be my instruction. I followed his shouts to the letter, although I was slapping between the holds rather than reaching! I guess it must have looked very sketchy from the ground, but I wasn’t really feeling the fear… until I reached the safety of the top and realised that I had come close to falling off. Good thing I’d been there with James as I not only trust him completely, but he knows my ability better than perhaps anyone else.

Coming down I remembered just why I love highballs. Doing good boulder problems results in a great feeling, but doing them high up adds so much to the experience. The feeling of success is much deeper and much more satisfying… I can’t recommend this problem enough, but if you want to go there then I suggest taking a rope so you can clean the top of it. It doesn’t receive too much traffic so there is often a coating of sand, leaves, and spiders on the holds. It’s high enough that you’ll want a double layer of pads… we had a big metolius pad on top of two normal size pads. That was plenty enough to make the descent comfortable… although not recommended. Follow this link to watch a video of Romain falling off lots, but then despatching it with slightly different beta to how we did it.

After eating too much and climbing too little, we decided it was time to get back to Innsbruck. The roads were fairly clear and we made it back in a surprising 7.5 hours which was a welcome relief. This morning the routine was recommenced and we hit the road for a run followed by a bathe in the river. The rest of the day was spent battling the editing with the good news that light is appearing at the end of the tunnel. Tomorrow we climb.