By Nick Kemp
Imagine living in a land where everything works perfectly; you know the clichés such as finding just one cosy table free in a crowded bar or having train doors that open right by your position on the platform, well such was the latest MMC trip to Fontainebleau.
Font and other French trips have a rich and illustrious history of forgotten passports, crashed or broken down cars. However the three gnarled veterans of numberless previous trips were on hand to guide the group through these schoolboy mistakes – and for whatever reason God or the Devil smiled benignly on the six Bleausards this Easter.
The holiday began with Nick and Kasia managing to get the same train from Cannon Street with just enough time to make their salutations at Sevenoaks before Simon drew up in his capacious Mondeo. And thence to Folkestone where Chuck had similarly scooped up Damien and AG prior to boarding the Shuttle.
Fast forward to the next morning and a rosy-fingered dawn greeted the team as they emerged from their sleeping bags. As the coffee brewed, Damien appeared with fresh croissants and baguettes from the campsite bread queue. Even Nick’s eloquent Gallic exhortations a couple of days earlier had been successful in that a reservation was waiting for us in a campsite that was extremely busy as a result of a late Easter and a good weather forecast.
But to the climbing! Circuits are graded at Fontainebleau by colour with orange being Assez Difficile, blue Difficile and red Tres Difficile. Not so long ago the hard men of ‘bleau (AG and Simon) would think nothing of knocking off the red circuit before breakfast and then going off for a punch-up with some of the more aggressive ‘professionals’ that hang around Bas Cuvier. However time and lack of training has now tempered their appetites and Simon, AG, Damien and Nick were content in picking their way through the more pedestrian blue circuits.
Meanwhile Chuck and Kasia marched through the orange circuits enjoying the rock and picturesque forest setting. It should be noted that the blue problems are often very close to the orange ones and discipline is required to stick to the strict line. When Nick was criticised by the hastily assembled ‘Kangaroo’ ethics committee (Simon and AG) for straying off route the term ‘Blorange’ was coined and henceforth any hint of slacking brought forth a vitriolic accusation of Bloranging.
So Friday morphed into Saturday, each day was followed by another with bread being bought, problems climbed, lunch eaten and dinner prepared in a couple of decent-sized pots each evening, washed down with superb French wine bought for a pittance. On Saturday we were joined by Clément, who despite having never been bouldering before, found great pleasure in topping out on problem after problem.
The bouldering areas visited will mean little to the uninitiated but for the record they were, in chronological order, Canche aux Merciers, Bois Ronde, Diplodocus and Roche aux Sabots – and in each one blue or orange and blorange circuits were gradually despatched.
Eventually on Monday thin skin and fatigued elbows drove the team into Milly-la-Foret for a valedictory coffee before trundling north to Calais and a renewed acquaintance with the tunnel.
Thanks to Simon for organising another memorable trip to Font. And yes, it really did all go as smoothly as that.