The car was scarcely out of Wimbledon when Mike piped up “I don’t have my passport”, Alex then chimed in “actually I don’t have my passport either”. Simon and Bea looked at one another and shrugged their shoulders, not falling for that one. Without slowing they pressed on towards Folkestone and the border. Mike then calls Petra, his wife, at this stage the front of the car are beginning to sense that perhaps this isn’t a joke. Still at this hour France is closer than North London where the missing passports are so they decide to chance it. Arriving at the Eurotunnel terminal in good time for their departure they check in still unsure whether there will be 4 or just 2 of them on the other side of passport control. Anticipating a less than smooth passage they forgo the promise of food (well burger king anyway) at the check in building and head straight for the moment of judgement. Driving towards the British border things aren’t looking good the booth is manned and the guy looks like he is checking. They prepare the passports they have, their excuse and all the charm they can muster. Two passports are offered as the official enquires where they are off to. They are in luck on telling him they are off to font the border guard confesses to being a climber and having been there too. So far, so good now for the French side. The lights are on but nobody is home, time to get going while the going is good. The full complement of 4 make it safely to France and on to the campsite.
Awaking late on the Friday morning, thankful for having made it the group make coffee and plans for the day. Canche aux Merciers is decided on as the place to go, offering a range of grades and being not too far from the campsite. The place was near deserted and the weather very favourable, ideal conditions. Most of the group having climbed there before so it is decided to start mid circuit and they quickly knock off a good number of blues before lunch. The afternoon proceeds in much the same way with more blues crushed and a smattering of off circuit problems tried and failed, before they decide they’ve ticked off enough problems for the first day. Driving back to Milly they pulled in at the big dog pub only to find that it was under new management, it still undeniably has a big dog but the new one didn’t seem too keen to play.
Saturday’s playground was Gorge aux Chats, having first popped in to Milly for croissants having missed the bread man. This was probably the first time any of us had spent a full day climbing there rather than using it as a conveniently close destination to the campsite to get a half day in when the weather is looking a bit marginal. It doesn’t really offer enough problems to fill a day I think in future we’ll keep it for damp days. Having drunk their wine supplies dry the previous night they had another quick shopping trip before returning to the campsite for dinner.
Sunday seemed like a good day to visit L’elephant, it’s a bit further away from the campsite than some of the more regular areas but offers a lot of really good problems. Many of them are quite highball although not on the same scale as the nearby La Dame Jouanne with it’s 12m boulder where a rope would probably be of more use than a mat. Starting as is near obligatory on the Elephant a lot of fun bouldering was done with the group finishing the day cheering Alex on as he tried a highball problem the rest of the group didn’t much fancy. This distraction left them leaving the bouldering at getting on for 7 and wondering if they would find anywhere open to get food although plan B eating out was already beginning to take seed. Fortune smiled upon them as the small supermarket in Milly was still open and they managed to pick up meat and supplies (of wine). The meal preparation was going smoothly until Bea’s gas stove sputtered and went out, leaving us with just a Trangia and an MSR. Formerly MSR’s have had a pretty good record as attested to in Stovewars, beating off strong competition from Nick’s beloved coleman multifuel but Mike’s burner couldn’t even bring water to the boil so it was relegated to the job of hotplate while the real cooking was handled by the Trangia.
Monday arrived with nobody suffering from food poisoning as a result of undercooked food so the group set off for Fanchard Isatis a much visited favourite and always worth going back to. A fun half day was had here and as the fingers were beginning to give up time ran out and it was time to head back to London. There was however the small matter of the two missing passports. Arriving at the tunnel in good time they made it past the dozing french gendarme unchallenged but their luck was finally to run out with the final check on the British side. Singled out for bad behaviour the car was direct to the naughty step where they waited quite some time for passport details to be checked before receiving a stern warning not to forget their passports again. Lesson learnt, F*wit nominations submitted.