Saturday 24 October 2009

Lookout - egg chefs!

I spent last week in Fontainebleau with a few friends and the weather was perfect, too good in fact. A full day's bouldering can be hard on body and skin - five in a row is debilitating. The first two days were spent at rather open crags enjoying the warmth of the sunshine, doing the kid-in-a-sweetshop thing which is hard to resist. With conditions on the fine-grained sandstone are less temperature and more humidity dependent than on grit, it was plenty grippy enough to get on some fairly hard problems. 

Back when I was an impressionable twenty-year old, I went to Glastonbury festival. Despite the rain and the mud, it was better than I could ever have hoped. Even so, I remember at some point feeling I was missing something, and left my mates and the big-name acts to go off alone in search of 'the vibe'. Font is a lot like that. Its very easy to get blinkered into only paying attention to the headline acts, despite my best memories always coming from seeking out the sideshows.

But day two saw me wasting rather too much energy failing on Rubis sur l'ongle, for which I'll use Daniel Woods' excuse of it being 'my anti-style'. The it was onto Hotline, which should have been better suited, but by the time I'd exhausted the other options and resigned myself to the only hard move being a disgusting pull on a tiny crimp, I was goosed. Consequently there were few beans left in the bank come colder weather at the end of the week... after climbing poorly at Isatis and Bas Cuvier, I got my mojo back at Cuvier est by finishing a 7a+ arete I'd tried last year, and then flashing Watchtower up at Rempart.

On the last day I finally got to climb at a couple of the best venues - Rocher Greau and Buthiers. Had a great day doing some superb highball aretes, pretty much all second go; frustrating to miss out on the flash though. Attention Chef d'oeuvre was one that got a team tick, though no one could translate the name - I've used one suggestion as the post title. On the ferry home I happened to be reading a review by Will Self, he of the giant vocabulary, where he happened to use the phrase chef d'oeuvre and the context made the meaning clear. Oeuvre doesn't seem to have an english translation - we tend to use the french - but I guess the closest would be genre, but as applied to an individual or group's body of work. Chef is simply chief, so the chef d'oeuvre is the chief of the genre - the one masterpiece that embodies everything about the genre. Applied to the boulder problem - a true classic of the forest - it makes perfect sense. I doubt I'll be lucky enough to find a new problem in the Peak worthy of the equivalent name - Uber classic alert maybe? I can imagine some dirty block in a woodland near Birchover becoming Lookout, egg chefs! though...

Thursday 8 October 2009


The November issue of Climb is now out with my Grand Capucin article as the headline feature - including Caff on the cover leading the second pitch. I'm pretty chuffed, its pretty much the most you can hope for after a trip, but was a bit surprised as I would never have picked this out as a potential cover. The main reason being, I suppose, that although its a tough pitch he's actually on fairly steady E1/2 terrain. Plus its pretty much the first climbing shot I took on the trip, and in my mind a classic 'out of options - shoot arse view from belay'. For comparison, the one I had got down as having the most cover potential was this one :

Judge for yourself! My choice ticks all the standard boxes - dramatic, mid-move, on crux pitch, good (hard-won!) high camera position. Though looking closer, there are obvious problems such as shaded face, and perhaps more importantly, none of Caff's three points of contact to the rock are actually visible. Climb's choice of course doesn't suffer from these, which just goes to show how hard it is to be objective with your own shots, and how much of my judgement is affected by the factors at the time the image was taken, and not just the image itself...

Its also nice too see how little of the image is obscured by copy - a consistent criticism of mag's nowadays. Although Climb's new look allows for more info to be placed on the border of the cover, I think the editors are actually making an effort to try to clean up the covers a bit - bravo!