All is calm. Everything stops. The reality of life has been paused, yet I feel alive. More alive than ever. For this brief moment my mind is empty and I can leave behind anything distracting or weighing my thoughts down. No longer am I faced with the issues of work, money or the politics of the world we live in. How long can this moment of paradise last? The flow of movement is somewhat poetic allowing me to bring everything together in order to achieve success.
Whether you’re a climber, artist or musician you will experience this bubble of excitement and sheer focus where everything in the real world is left behind for that brief moment. This is one of the many things that has shaped my love for climbing: that it allows me to escape the monotony and problems of daily life. The freedom this gives the mind, the focus needed to notice every single intricacy of beta, ensuring you can place a foot perfectly or to place your body in the necessary position, perhaps making that ever so slight difference between success and defeat. Being able to engage in climbing in a way that shuts everything off is what makes it so special to me; having a tunnel vision mindset where I can focus purely on the enjoyment of it. Our most recent trip to Fontainebleau was a perfect example of this. The forest setting combined with the world-renowned climbing proving to be an idilic easter escape.
We roll into the car park, packed with energetic climbers gearing up for a day's climbing. Impatient as ever and overcome with excitement I’m out before the car is even stationary. Itching to get amongst the action we saddle up before consulting the guide book, relying on the delicately drawn maps to find our starting point for the day. Despite being so desperate to climb, the walk was steady. The overwhelming beauty of the forest began to set in, nostalgia of our childhoods reminding us of the many years spent back home in Yorkshire exploring and getting lost in the magical atmosphere. We walked down the well traveled path, mighty trees towering over us with rays of light breaking through the canopy, like spotlights illuminating small sections of the forest floor way below. Navigating our way round the many interconnecting paths, it suddenly clicked: We made it, we’re here. This why we’re here; to explore, soak in the atmosphere and immerse ourselves in the climbing that Fontainebleau is so well known for.
Arriving at the boulders we are like kids in a toy shop, rushing around between boulders picking out individual problems for the day. After researching the area we recognized certain blocs from photographs or videos but standing there in front of them, seeing them in the flesh was different. From our research we had no sense of the atmosphere whatsoever and so despite knowing the climbs and recognizing them, it was a whole new experience. Being able to stand in front of boulders knowing the history felt an absolute privilege and made our climbing adventure a lot more special. There was no hiding when it came to the climbing; heart breaking top outs and the classic lower grade sandbags quickly put us in our place but the pure beauty of the formations of rock emerging from the woodland was what made it.
We return home from the trip feeling absolutely battered. We gave it our all but somehow I feel refreshed. Getting lost in the Fontainebleau experience, climbing and embracing the aura of the forest seems to have cleared my mind completely. The journey home allows us to reflect on the trip and appreciate how lucky we are to share a passion for something that is so much more than just a sport.
Climber, photographer and creator from Northern England