After returning from Switzerland I was determined to get out on the grit before leaving once again for France. I genuinely enjoy grit climbing but for certain things the conditions can be so fickle that it makes it a frustrating experience. After many days eating lots of festive food and a couple of fingerboard sessions (because I was too lazy to do any climbing) I decided to try and capitalise on what looked like great conditions so after a morning feast of American style pancakes I set off for Stanage. I’m not sure why, but I genuinely expected to have a quiet day in the peak district, just enjoying the climbing and the solitude. Only when I realised that everyone was off work and undertaking their sworn boxing day duty of walking dogs, that it made sense as to why it took me 1h30m to get to Stanage car park. But in the car park, like a saviour welcoming me in, there stood Lee. A lucky coincidence I thought, but perhaps it was fate that brought us together. His spotting CV and my climbing CV would hopefully coincide on this day. I really wanted to try The Ace and it was something I’d put off because I was fairly sure it was hard. I’d tried to campus the Joker in my trainers on a few occasions but I can’t recall ever having tried The Ace.

The freezing conditions that I expected were thrown out of the window as we arrived at the pebble sweating, with Lee seemingly more concerned about whether he’d brought the SPF 30. Nothing to do but sit around and wait, with the hope that it would cool down as the sun set. It did begin to cool and I began to warm, and when the earth turned away from the heat I started trying. Lee took a whole lot of weight off so I could try the first and second move. It didn’t feel too feasible, but I didn’t feel totally warmed up either. Within 30 minutes I’d managed to do the first move, into the second move, and was going for the top. I was genuinely surprised but pretty happy. I’d gotten the grasp of the body position fairly quickly, and in no small part thanks to seeing Stu try it as well. The move to the top seemed like the obvious crux and after some more goes I didn’t manage to link it all together, again falling going for the top. Having waited for it to cool down meant the window of opportunity was fairly narrow as darkness descended on the plantation rather rapidly. It was really beautiful though, with orange light bathing us, dark blue skies above us, and suddenly freezing temps numbing us. It reminded me why I love climbing on the grit quite so much. It was days like this that made it all worthwhile and keep me coming back for more. Had I succeeded, I probably wouldn’t have gone back for more, but perhaps that is why I failed, so I can return and enjoy another beautiful day! Lucky me! It’d been a long time since I’d been on the grit, certainly over 12 months, but I felt alright on the rock and certainly didn’t feel bad enough to warrant any feelings of mislaid magic grit skills. Whether or not I had any to start with is another matter, but I certainly didn’t feel like I’d lost much/any. I felt a bit annoyed that I was leaving for font the next day, as when I return from font it will likely be far too warm to have another go on The Ace, which means another 12 months without any grit climbing. I guess I can hold on to the hope of a cold spell at the end of March to welcome me back to Britain. It’s also comforting to know that I’m going to a magical forest full of the greatest boulders that I have a massive desire to climb! That certainly softened the blow of leaving!

Now I’m on the way and probably somewhere over international waters (if there are any between England and France?). I’m somewhat apprehensive about the next couple of months in font as I have my own standards set in my mind and I also have the standards of my previous trip. I have to, in my mind, exceed the potential of my ability that I utilised on my last trip. Last trip I pushed myself close to the limit of what I could have climbed but as we all know the limits are constantly changing. I have my huge lifelong wishlist and then I have my short term to do list. I want to maximise my time there and get the things done which are at the top of my priorities list. In fact, I’ll probably end up numbering the boulder problems I want to do and then ranking them in priority order. Very high on that list is Gecko as in my mind I have already done it, but I need to return and top the things out. Also Class 1 priority is the sit start. It’s a hard problem and without having tried the moves I can’t say whether it’s definitely on or not. I certainly think it’s a possibility and to do an 8B+ in the forest would be another dream come true. Dune is equal in it’s numerical allure but not equal in its potential climbability. Dune is 1 move that is at or perhaps beyond my limit. It’s been 9 months since I left font which means I am 9 months stronger and more skilled as a rock climber and I hope that I can transfer those skills on to this trip and onto the things I want to climb. I feel like going to try The Ace was the start of the trip because I’m now starting off with a good feeling. My mental state of my own comprehension of my current ability was not set, but The Ace was like an approximate marking zone and I now know roughly where I’m at. Had I gone there and puntered it up I would have known that I need a week of acclimatisation in font. Conversely, I know I can’t be climbing badly to feel so good on The Ace so I might not do the usual routine of a week or two of easy boulders in font. I might try to make the most of the current immaculate conditions and get on some of the harder things I aim to do. This is somewhat against the grain of what I think is best, but it could be the best risk-reward play.

So tomorrow the blog will arrive back in it’s spiritual home. Good days.