Saturday, February 24, 2007

Climbing in Fontainbleau, France

I don't think I have ever been so scared about doing something. There I was, 15 ft (yes that's all) up a rock balancing nicely on the top and stretching out in front of me was a 3 foot gap that I had to bridge across. It took me about 45 minutes and a lot of sweating, coercing and nervous energy whilst teetering on the edge of, what seemed to me, oblivion.

Finally coerced across I felt I could take on the world. What a great end to a days climbing in the top class bouldering arena of a Fontainebleau forest.

I have to ask myself; 'Why am I here?' I have suffered terribly from vertigo, even when tied on with a rope, my arms are as spindly as daddy long legs and as for clinging on to things with your finger nails � forget it!

To be honest, I seem to have developed a slight passion for climbing. It is such an exhilarating experience, a real challenge of mind over matter (I can cling on with my finger nails, and no I won't fall and die) and body over rock. Over the past year or so I have been going to the climbing gym honing the skills of the heel hook, the crimp and the hand jam.

Font, as us seasoned climber's call it, got me using all these skills and when they go wrong you end up crashing to the ground hopefully landing on the mat squarely and being kept in balance by your spotter. The spotter is the person that you will see under a climber teetering on the edge of the rocks, ready to support him should he fall but also there to offer that all needed encouragement up get up the rock, convince you you can bridge the three foot gap or generally laugh at you when you come off an apparently easy climb. Obviously, the spotter did the climb before you.

It's this great comradery, the encouragement to do things you don't think you can, overcoming the fears that you have instilled in yourself that make climbing the sport it is. Add to this that most rocks are in beautiful locations such as the Lake District, the Peak District or towering above the oceans of the world you can see why I have developed a slight passion for it and put myself through the most scary moment of my life bridging a three foot gap fifteen foot off the ground.

Go to Font, it is a beautiful place, just south of Paris, an hour by train. Fontainebleau is also a fascinating old town, with beautiful cobbled streets reaching out to interesting and ancient buildings, most of them holding delightful cafes and restuarants, ideal for the very European pastime of sitting outside watching the world go by with a coffee or some wine.