It was Monday the 28th of August, and a mildly hungover Camp Crush was stirring in the beautiful morning sun in Fontainebleau, Paris.
I'd just spent a week alone in Paris exploring its nooks and crannies, so it was great to be met at Fontainebleau–Avon the night before by some familiar faces in the form of Alkis, Haider, Gordon, and Ali Berridge. After grabbing a rather gourmet burger which Haider assured us "was definitely made out of squid ink", we drove to La Musardière campsite, where we caught up with Megan, Joe, Leam, Lydia, Alex, Frankie, Alkis, Joseph, Will, John, Agata, Rogelio and a few newbies over some cheap Font beers. Leam showed us how to open the beers.
After a long summer of travelling just about everywhere, it was great to see my old climbing chums again, and to know that nothing really ever changes. After a few card games and being told about some of Haider's rather sketchy antics (see meme below), we hit the hay. Unfortunately, I had left my sleeping bag in Paris, and so I was looking at a rather chilly night under the stars. However, for reasons unknown, there were several bouldering pads unclaimed for that evening (obviously there were some amateurs amongst the group who didn't yet know that pads make fantastic mattresses), and as Alkis was opting for a night in his hammock, I found myself under a tarpaulin roof with a few down jackets for insulation.
It was Lydia's birthday the next day, and so everybody made the effort to get out of bed and have breakfast together. Some people were keener than others to head out climbing early. Thanks to Megan for cooking me a hearty chocolate-filled breakfast.
A small group of us set off to the local crag, Gorge Aux Chats for a quick morning session. Walking back to some familiar problems through the beautiful ancient forest (literally) felt like a breath of fresh air. I was pleased to send Dallain, 6C (soft) on my second attempt, with Ali Berridge getting the tick a few days later. Thanks for taking some cool photos Joseph!
In the classic Font way, it was then humbling to get shut down on a 5+ on a nearby problem. Ticks were recorded by Megan and Joe.
After a productive yet mixed morning, we walked back to camp where a plan for that evening was assembled. To celebrate Lydia's birthday we decided that a barbecue was the best course of action, whilst Joe organised a camp-wide chess tournament. Armed with a shopping list the length of one Alex Honnold's forearms, we set off to the "local" Carrefour.
If you've ever been to one of France's Carrefours, then I'm sure you'll be able to appreciate how exciting it is as a first-timer to visit one of their stores. The things are like small villages, and complete with boulangeries, bouchers and delicatessens [GCSE French shining through strong] you can find just about anything you want there. Gordon was particularly excited by the pizzas and cakes on offer. Fruit-flavoured wine was on 2-for-1 offer, so at €4.50 a bottle, it is safe to say that el vino did flow (even before we got back to the campsite).
The rest of the afternoon went at a much slower (inebriated) pace, with some amazing Font cooking going on, including "Pain au Sausage" and "Brioche a Nutella plus". Joe continued to question people's chess playing abilities, Haider chatted even more sh*t and Lydia and Will played about on the slackline. I personally enjoyed chatting to Will Evans, who we sadly don't see as much anymore since he moved to Brighton.
That evening we walked up to Cul de Chien and lit up the barbecue under the roof of Cul de Chien*, whilst Gordon worked and eventually sent the classic roof route. Well done Gordon. Alcohol flowed and many a spicy sausage was shared around the group. With such a lovely bunch of people, everyone was in high spirits, and the perfect day was topped off by a game of rounders under a mind-blowing sunset. Thanks for such a great time everyone, see you next year.
*Of course this was only a metaphorical barbecue, as they're banned from being held in the Forest.