In which I take a photo every day that I'm 50, and post it here on this blog, with a bit of related blurb.

Monday, 29 September 2014

Day 289 - Evening Light

too much?!

I nearly forgot to blog today, amidst a load of other distracting head stuff, so we went for a stroll down the lane looking for photo-ops in the deepening gloom of dusk.

I managed to catch a surprising variety of interesting (albeit only vaguely) shots...but mainly I learned that it's not that easy to get good shots in low light...or maybe it's just not that easy when you don't know what you're doing?!

Another thing I learned is that you really do need to tweak the photo's afterwards...and this in itself is something of a gamble...sometimes it produces great images, other times it just looks over-processed and a bit rubbish. 

The one above is a crop from a much larger photo, but otherwise doesn't have much processing other than a bit of (admittedly aggressive) contrast...I can't decide whether it's too processed (yeah it probably is...), but I quite like the depth.

This one was taken 10 or 15 minutes later, and the evening had clearly settled in a bit more...

cotton candy sky

This one isn't cropped - I decided to stick with the original I'm looking at it thinking I should have cropped it...doh!

I have tweaked it a little for contrast and colour...although I don't really know how to do that, so it's a general colour tweak to try to bring out the pink, which was quite vibrant in reality.

no eye deer

This one isn't cropped either, but was the naturally nicest of around ten photo's I took of these autumnal colours on a 5m strip of set-aside (or whatever) down the edge of this field...there was a deer of some type hiding in there, possibly a muntjac, but I didn't manage to get a shot of him.

In any case, the image is still tweaked a little for contrast and colour...and the light is so much better than the previous shot...if only I understood why that is!

new-ish moon

As we turned for home, the waxing crescent moon presented a rare opportunity...invariably when I notice an interesting or even simply a clear view of the moon, the camera is nowhere to be conveniently grabbed...but tonight, it was right there in my hands!

I've tweaked this a smidge to try to bring out some of the detail on the surface, and cropped it down too.  I think the out of focus foliage gives the shot some context...especially as the moon wasn't super bright and detailed.

Finally, a flock of seagulls flew overhead...

flying v

...and not the 80's New Wave band, much to my great relief...nobody needs that.

I think conditions were all wrong for a wildlife shot like this, but I took my chances anyway to see what would happen. 

I've cropped this, adjusted the contrast, and sharpened the image a little too.  

Still not a great photo, I grant.

But, it's a new species for the ongoing Bird Species of South Warwickshire Series, which threads its way back through this blog. 



Sunday, 28 September 2014

Day 288 - BSOD

blue screen of birth

I spent half of today trying to fix one of the oddest PC problems I've come across in 20 years of building and fixing PC's. 

Failed...ho hum...

But I did make some progress.  A few days ago, it just suddenly refused to boot up, giving the old Blue Screen of Death.

blue screen of death

The error message itself is of the something went wrong type...some unknown error occurred.

Windows didn't even know what was wrong with itself... 

All self-repair attempts failed...

Replacing various bit of hardware, and unplugging everything not absolutely necessary failed to reveal any faulty parts... 

Swapping out RAM sticks, as it was increasingly looking like a hardware issue fixed nothing - it's not a memory issue...

Yet it will boot in safe mode...does that add more weight to the hardware fault theory, or to the software error theory?   It's not clear!

I was about settled on the hardware fault theory, and was going to suggest replacing the motherboard, but at the last minute decided to run a test.  I installed a new hard drive, newly formatted, removed the existing one, and installed a fresh copy of windows.

Works perfectly...

So, it's not a hardware issue (unless it's the hard drive itself, which seems unlikely).

It's a software issue, probably driver related, or some odd corruption deep in windows somewhere...but as all diagnostics show no errors, it's going to be pretty much impossible to identify and correct the error.

So I need to reinstall windows, preferably on a new drive...but then I have to work out what needs transferring/reinstalling from the old's going to be a bit messy, but it'll save buying a new PC, at least...

(By the way Andy, I found a spare 500GB SATA drive if that's any good to you?  Let me know...)

Ah well, back to work tomorrow, where I don't do any of that techy PC stuff any more...actually I've never done a huge amount in a work capacity, although I've always had strongly technical elements to my role...but now I'm 100% management, 0% technical. 

Not sure where that ratio's going at the moment, to be honest...

Finally, the astute amongst you may have noticed that I sneakily squeezed a climbing rope, a guitar, and an electric drum kit into the top photo...

At least the photo's not 100% technical!


Saturday, 27 September 2014

Day 287 - Segway to Go

segway master

Today's adventure was so interesting and unusual that I wish I'd put it on my list of challenges for the year...maybe I'll do that retrospectively....shhh, don't tell!


I've been intrigued by the Segway for what seems like years and years...I remember there was several years of pre-hype, when this revolutionary product known as IT (or alternatively by the codename ginger) was announced, but no further details.  Speculation was rife, and rumour had it that this thing was going to be bigger than the internet.

When it was finally unveiled in 2001, it was thus a bit of a disappointment, seeming not that different from the Sinclair C5, which had promised so much but delivered so little.

However, ignoring how much use it was, it did look like a much better all round product than the C5...and I've wanted a go on one ever since. 

So when someone at work offered to organize something, I couldn't refuse the chance to participate in a Segway Rally Experience, an organised event at Kingsbury Ski Centre.

three amigos

Of course, being such a litigious society these days, the Health and Safety rules did their best to sap as much of the fun as possible out of it, and ensured that any use of the word adventure was purely metaphorical. 

Mostly, the rules simply mean that we all have to look a bit silly whilst we have fun.

The Segway itself is an interesting beast.

shoal of segways

Here are a dozen or so of them awaiting their riders...of course, such intrepid adventurers wouldn't want to risk the kind of life-threatening danger that can occur at the frankly insane speed of 14mph, so they were all limited to around 8mph. 

I did manage to sneak a go on an unlimited one (the instructor's), and the difference was stark...unlimited is so much more fun!!

We had two hours of training, games and a short sojourn around the lakes (to justify the use of the word rally in the advertising)...the games were essentially relay races, with a variety of random difficulties thrown in (slalom, do a 360 around a cone, that sort of thing).

It didn't always go according to plan, as I think this photo demonstrates...

and that's f#*tkin' teamwork

This is, however, very reminiscent of my experience at work...the boss on her own off to one side looking on (in despair?!)...a few people that almost appear, at a casual glance, to be vaguely working together...and a significant number of outliers who are off doing their own thing, sometimes innocent, sometimes mischievous...

And there's me, taking some time out to grab a photo of the mayhem for my blog. 

But anyway, that aside, I did get a certificate which proudly proclaims that I have Mastered the Segway...

So, you know, that was nice....


Friday, 26 September 2014

Day 286 - Half a Hole

no entry

The ongoing saga of the hole in the hedgerow has reached new levels of drama of late, with the mysterious semi-blocking of the hole itself.

You may remember I have posted a series of photo's of this hedgerow...

The first, way back in January, depicting the chill of the winter...and the early daffodil shoots giving maybe the first hint of a Spring that will not really arrive for another couple of months...

The second, in April, showed Spring fully sprung, with the foliage going into jungle mode, to the extent that you can almost see it growing in the image...

The third was in late July, showing the dry brown of Summer...Spring growth is well and truly over and the great die-back has commenced.

I cut the hole myself a couple of years ago, and it's proved very useful ever since, being used in a variety of ways through the year...the workmen dealing with the drains used to get through to the section that lies off -property...I use it to get to the other side of our hedgerow (for instance, when tackling the triffid-like bramble that infests the hawthorn)...on the rare occasion that one of the cats disappeared, it's a handy way into the field to look for them...and we often took the dogs through it straight into the wheat field after harvest - they really loved a newly-harvested field, for reasons I never quite understood.

The only other way into the field involves walking 100m down the lane the lane, climbing over the gate, then walking the 100m back up to the house.

Also, I'm quite fond of it - it's like a little hidden gate straight through into the wider, wilder world beyond our borders...most of the time you can't even see it until you're just in the right position, and facing in the right direction.

So I was somewhat taken aback to find the hole partially filled in, oddly, with foliage that's been cut back from somewhere (perhaps from the hedgerow itself?)

I've no idea who did it, or why...I can't imagine the landlord (or his agents) would care about the hole in the hedgerow, and I can't think who else would think they had the authority to do that to our hedgerow without even consulting us. 

One thing is for sure - it's got to go!  October is nearly here, which means it's time for the final part of the Hole in the Hedgerow series, the Autumn Edition

I can't have it spoiled by a blocked view for the final chapter of this little story. 

Got some more barriers to break tomorrow, then...


Thursday, 25 September 2014

Day 285 - Jumping Frog


I met this little chap when out mowing the verge today, and he was kind enough to pose for a short photo session.

He's a common frog (rara temporaria for the ecology geeks (cough...Anna...cough)), and he was hiding in the long, wet grass of the verge...he was fortunate not to be mowed down (literally), as I found him hopping around where I'd just passed through with the mower...

The grass was overdue being cut, and it had rained overnight, so it was quite heavy work...but I felt better for it, after a few days of inactivity. 

I had to stop when I saw Freddy here, of course, but I was eager to get on with it, so shooed him back into the safety of the ditch...

As long as he doesn't venture onto the road, he should be ok...and the verge is nicely mowed now, so that's a good job jobbed...

It won't last, of course, but still the physical activity was helpful (if not much fun).  

Climbing tomorrow, I think!


Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Day 284 - Old Fart

black and white

Even the copious amounts of caffeine delivered via this lovely, big, new mug don't seem to be enough to stem the tide of lethargy and sleepiness that has overtaken me this week.

I've still got the low level lurgy/chest/sinus infection that I carried throughout our trip to Font, and I'm sure that hasn't helped...but since getting home at the weekend, I've really struggled to find the energy to do anything...or at least, anything that doesn't consist in large part of sitting in my chair (and maybe dozing off now and then).

I've barely unpacked (note to self - finish unpacking!), and haven't mown the lawns (which need doing), or been climbing (we had plans this week for some climbing challenges, but haven't had the energy, and now the weather is against us)...

Mostly I've just sat around editing video and xboxing, and apparently being distant and Anna, it appears that I'm depressed...I'm not, everything in life is good and looking better, and I'm optimistic on many fronts - new dog, new house, new job...

But I do feel flat, and as the old saying goes, like my get-up-and-go, got-up-and-went...I just feel very, very tired, and permanently sleepy (early mornings excepted, of course).

Anna did a quick bit of internet research and it seems feasible that I am, in fact, fatigued, to some degree. 

My job has been fairly relentless over the last 18 months...these days, I'm always logged on to my work account between 7.30-8am, and from then on it doesn't stop until 6pm or so...

None of it is directly very stressful, and I don't feel stressed as a rule...but it does involve a constant and steady stream of demands from every direction that, over time, has led to me feeling drained and out of reserves.

My sleep has been all over the place for months and months now...I can't stay awake mid-evening, and have fallen asleep through many a film of late...and yet I'm often awake between 5-7am, and end up getting up at this time even on the weekend.

I do push the envelope pretty hard, as you know - I climb often, do other exercises at home, and rarely shy away form a physical challenge such as driving to France, climbing all day every day for 6 days, then driving home again.

And importantly, I am, you know, a bit of an old fart...

Still, the good news is that a good step towards improvement of all this is to stop eating everything that I eat and drink (because they're what I like to eat and drink), and simply replace them with all the things I don't currently eat and drink (because I don't like to eat and drink them).

So that's, ya know, awesome...



Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Day 283 - In the Doghouse


This is possibly one of the worst photo's I've used on my blog, but I quite like it all the same.

We are really missing having dogs around the house, and for some weeks now we have been getting increasingly desperate to find a new dog. 

However, our requirements are quite stringent, so finding the right dog is proving to be something of a challenge.

Our high level plan is to get a dog of medium size and middle age as soon as we can.  We need it to be safe with cats, have a calm and gentle energy, and not be an escape artist.  It needs to be fairly comfortable with being left at home during the day, and of course it needs to be fundamentally house trained...any further training or reconditioning, we're happy to undertake as necessary.

Something like a golden retriever would be perfect, although we'd also be interested in labs, flat-coat retrievers, spinone or similar...maybe even a bearded collie or a rotty or something like that...

Next we'd like a bigger, younger dog, and finally maybe a small dog with a big character...some sort of terrier, most likely. 

Of course all these plans are subject to immediate change with no prior notice, upon finding the right dog of any age, size or breed!

Anyway, we had some time today so decided to pop to the Dogs Trust and have a look.  We weren't too confident that we'd find the kind of dog we're looking for but wanted to see for ourselves. 

It was sad to see how many of the dogs in there have issues...some just lie in their crates, clearly depressed...others spin round in circles, frustrated and stir crazy...yet others still just bark and bark at passers by...a few are friendly, and one or two have lovely soft energy and a nice slow wag, but often even these seem somewhat cowed by their circumstance.

The saddest thing of all is that we feel like we can't help any of them.  We think we have the knowledge, the calm energy, and the patience to bring them back from the dark psychological places they're floundering in...but with full time jobs, we just don't have the time and attention that they'd need to turn them around. 

Maybe one day, when we have a calm, stable pack, we could think about taking one of these poor mutts home...but for now, we're going to have to look elsewhere.

We're in touch with the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association (whose breeding centre is just nearby), and we've had a good word put in for us by our (and their) we're hoping to get on the list for a failed guide dog of whatever breed...

We're also looking for any adult dogs for sale that fit our specification.

So it's all a bit of a waiting game...

In the meantime, it was nice to have a moment's connection to this dog at the shelter today...he and his little Jack Russell buddy had been dashing frantically between their indoor and outdoor rooms, over-excited about all the activity in the centre, and no idea what else to do with it...

But he stopped long enough to briefly enquire of me what I thought I was was kind of painful not to get skin on fur - it's such a natural way to communicate with a dog - but lovely to get the momentary psychological connection, at least.

In other news, check out this impressive website that my daughter has just launched...if you know of anyone getting married soon, do point them in the direction of Pingle Pie...they won't be disappointed!

I'm so proud!


Monday, 22 September 2014

Day 282 - Video Diaries


The problem with taking lots of video when on holiday, is that you then have to do something with them when you get home...

In Font, we took over 70GB of stills and videos, but of course they mostly contain about 30 seconds of interest surrounded by a couple of minutes of nothing much...and they're all helpfully named 20140919-123745.mp4, or similar.

It seems to me that the only way of getting these hours of media into a form that is even remotely interesting to anyone else, you need to edit (and edit some more), and cut (and cut and cut even more), in order to reduce it to something palatable and digestible...preferably, there needs to be some sort of story...and humour...and action of course...ideally some sort of drama...and appropriate music. 

If this all sounds complicated...well, it is - it takes a great deal of time and fiddly effort to produce even a short video!

The first problem, when faced with masses of media like this, is to find an engaging do this requires a solid familiarity with, and understanding of, the source material.

So I like to start the whole process by taking my raw video files and cutting them up into snippets with actual content, and naming them appropriately.

The folder in the screenshot above shows a series of such snippets, each representing a single little most instances here, each video is a single climb of a single boulder, but there are some contextual shots too.

We obviously didn't take many contextual shots on this particular day, which is a shame - nobody wants to see climb after climb after climb, so shots of the forest, or local flora and fauna, are very helpful for adding variety and interest.

Fortunately I have at least one story to tell of our holiday in Fontainebleau, so that will keep me busy for a couple of days - and you for about 15 minutes, if you can stomach it.

Anyway, watch this space...


Sunday, 21 September 2014

Day 281 - Lazy Day


I've had a lovely lazy day today, watching the Grand Prix, sorting out video's from our Font trip, and even playing on my Xbox for the first time in months.

At one point I had to take a break from all this sedentary activity to go and sit in the sun for a few minutes with Anna and the Cats (there's that band again)...

Loz took up what has oddly become her usual position - under the kitchen window, just next to the drain chamber, in the mud of the border.

She looked so chilled basking in the sun that I took the opportunity to take a quick snap of her on my phone (the decent camera is still packed!)...or at least, I intended to - then the sun went in, prompting Loz to open her eyes, stop looking quite so chilled, and start looking annoyed at both the loss of warmth and at being disturbed by me.

So I just got this photo instead.

In keeping with today's theme of idleness and inactivity, I'm going to leave this one right there...

More tomorrow, of course...see you then!


Saturday, 20 September 2014

Day 280 - Proportionality


Long journey home today...once again we were delayed for several hours at the channel tunnel...

Having been up since 7.30am to pack and clean the gite, we'd managed to get away in good time (for a change!), with around 40 minutes of slack to get us to Calais for 2.20pm.

We'd checked on the internet before leaving and found that the Peripherique (Paris's equivalent of the M25) was clear...sure enough, the traffic was flowing, we got off to the north of Paris, and as we started to pick up speed, we figured that the worst danger of being caught in traffic was past.

This lasted for about 1 mile (literally), before we hit a traffic jam that cost us an hour of time. 

Once free of this, we were 15 minutes behind schedule, so picked up the pace.  Within half an hour, we were back on schedule as we went through the toll some 60 miles north of Paris.

Unfortunately, at this point none of us were really paying attention, and the satnav started recalculating, as it was wont to do, and confused us (ok, confused me) no end.

After a while we realised we'd missed a significant exit, and would now have to take a longer route, and would again be 10 minutes late.

We pushed on, and managed to make up some time, such that we got there at 2.24pm, just 4 minutes later than the "last check-in" time for our 2.50pm train.  We weren't too worried, figuring they'd just put us on the next train...

But oh no...

"You're late!" said the ticket machine.   

I tried to respond with, "A climber is never late, and nor is he early...he arrives precisely when he means to...", but the machine wasn't listening, and instead informed us that we could have a slot on the 4.35pm train if we wanted...

Seriously?!  For being four minutes late, we're punished with an extra two hours delay?!

Of course, the two hours turned into two and a half, and subsequently we were much later home than intended.

At least the 11 hour journey was a little shorter than the 12.5 hours it took us to get there...but it's quite a trek for what is, at most, around 7 hours driving. 

Anyway, as we (eventually) pulled onto the train, I remembered I'd need a photo, and quickly snapped this as we drove along the upper deck of the train...I quite like the reflections of the brake lights in the otherwise slightly gloomy interior. 

So now we're home, which is quite a relief.

Only thing is, I really fancy some bouldering...

Anyone up for a trip to Font?


PS bonus internet point for anyone who gets the relevance of the title.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Day 279 - Adieu a Fontainebleau

orange for orange

So today was our last day in la foret, and despite all the niggly injuries, we all wanted to use up all our remaining reserves in one final day of bouldering.

We went to a place called Rocher Guichot (where you can drive a little way into the forest and park right next to the boulders), in order to maximise our available climbing time.

There's an Orange circuit there with exactly 30 problems, so we set out on a mission to climb them all in one day.   They're of a grade where we mostly get up them on our first go, and rarely find any impossible for us. 

In the photo above, Anna is setting off up the final climb of the circuit, of the day, and of our holiday here in Font...

Despite being fairly short (the climb, not Anna! (although Anna too...)), it was the hardest problem of the circuit at 4B - the steep, slippery slab Anna is stepping onto has almost nothing to use for hands or feet, except the odd little depression in the rock, a vague bump, or a tiny flake a mm or two deep that you can just about get a little purchase on if you push your fingertips painfully onto them. 

We were very pleased then, to finish our brilliant trip here with a last great day in the forest, climbing the boulders amongst the trees, alongside the various flora and fauna that abound.


For instance, this little chap was bimbling his way up a very steep rock face, all resplendent in his big yellow climbing pants, and his posh red tail. 

That said, despite his obviously advanced climbing skills, his route-finding left a little to be desired...

he's got the look...but not the brains

He's clearly going the wrong way...and what's he doing on an Orange circuit anyway?  He's clearly capable of significantly higher grades than we play about on.

Anyway, there it is...a great holiday in the magical and majestic Foret de Fontainebleau draws to a close...tired, weary limbs and minds...sore fingers, knees, shoulders, arms, legs and elbows...cuts, bruises, scrapes, scratches, grazes, bites, lumps and bumps everywhere...

It's been brilliant!

We've unlocked a whole bunch of Achievements - Jezz did his 40@40@Font...Anna and I completed a fantastic circuit we started last year...we all climbed our first Font 6A graded boulder problems...we completed an Orange circuit in a day. 

We climbed around 100 or so boulder problems each, and we video'd most of them - so you've got that to look forward to!   ;-)   

Haha, only joking, I won't inflict them all on you...just a few, maybe...when I've had time to process and edit them...I promise to cut out as much of the dull climbing stuff as I can bring myself to!

We've had great fun, supporting and encouraging each other up climbs that were hard for us, and we've all found huge personal satisfaction in our endeavours.

And of course I've got a big tick for my list of challenges for the year - Go to Font!

Big thanks to Jezz for his (contrived) sexy man pose, Anna for her (natural) sexy woman pose, and both for all the top spotting and good laughs, and putting up with my random foibles...we've all survived intact, and I think it's safe to say...we'll be back!

But tomorrow we'll be up early for the long drive back to Blighty...

Pour maintenant, c'est au revoir de France, vous voyez en Angleterre demain...

Au 'voir!


Thursday, 18 September 2014

Day 278 - Balls

summary of the day

All in all, today didn't quite go as planned!

I suppose we set it up badly...after the curious incident of the locked door in the night last night, we didn't finish our dinner until gone midnight, and it was nearly 2am by the time we got to bed.

Unusually, I managed to get back to sleep after being awake at 8am, and eventually awoke suddenly to the sounds of Jezz and Stef (our landlord) standing just outside our bedroom discussing the bedroom door...only to find we'd slept until nearly 11am!

Feeling bleary and behind schedule, and realising that my lurgy (which had been receding) was back with a vengeance, we got up and got on with the day.   It was a really hot morning, high 20's, and Jezz wanted to pop to Decathlon to get a singlet (which he's suddenly developed a bit of a penchant for) before we climbed.  

We headed a few miles north, and grabbed a few items of hot weather clothing...I got some shorts, which I'd stupidly not brought to France with me.

By the time we got to La Foret, it was nearly 2pm...we changed in the car park and wandered in to the boulders, which all looked really high and scary. 

We were at a place called Bas Cuvier, which is one of the earliest climbing areas in the forest, with documented climbing dating back over a century...consequently, the rock is very polished, and the climbing is generally much harder than you'd expect.

On the walk in, the immense power of my middle-aged belly proved too much for the press-stud on my new climbing shorts, which promptly fell apart...

(note to self...stop pretending that you can get into size Large clothes, and just accept that you're eXtra Large)

So I trekked back to the car to change my trousers, whilst Jezz and Anna prepared for the first problems.

Immediately, the climbing was quite tough...for the third of the day, I chose Blue 10, which turned out to have quite a committing, dynamic move up to a high, poor handhold.  On my third attempt, my foot slipped and I fell off from the dizzying height of about 2 feet.   

In an episode eerily reminiscent of when I broke my leg falling off a low boulder at Cratcliffe in 2012, my right toe caught the rock as I went down, forcing my weight into my heel, and consequently bending my foot upwards from the ankle much further than it was really happy to bend.

For a few minutes, the pain was intense, and I thought that my climbing might be done for this holiday.  Fortunately, it turned out to be one of those injuries that quickly eases, and within about 10 minutes I was standing on it again, and prepared to have another go at climbing.

Then Anna announced that she'd felt a spot of rain...sure enough, immediately we could hear thunder rumbling faintly in the distance. 

As we attempted the following problem, the raindrops increased, and so we were rushing more than was turns out that there was enough time to injure myself some more!

Climbing Blue 17, I was trying to pull up on a thin crimp (that is, a tiny hold, maybe half a centimetre in depth, which I could just get three fingertips on), but it was getting increasingly slippery in the rain.   I pinged off it two or three times (probably rushing it), and wrenched my right elbow a little in the process.

Tomorrow, both my elbow and my ankle are going to be rudely complaining!

Anyway, to finally put the tin hat on it, the rain, complete with thunder and lightning, set in...

pleuvoir dans la forêt

Anna, who'd very much been up for some hard climbing today, was not amused!

We sheltered under overhangs amongst the boulders, and ate our sandwiches whilst wondering whether we'd get to climb any more this trip, let alone today.

I found lots of little puffballs, and spent a few minutes getting photo's after the worst of the rain had passed.

little ball of puff

Thence, we headed home, a little bedraggled, mildly injured and a little disappointed.

Still, we're off out into Fontainebleau for an evening meal shortly, and tomorrow we hope to get one last session in...more thunderstorms are forecast, but we're remaining optimistic that we'll find something climbable at some point during the day tomorrow.

Also, we found this spider doing some web repairs outside our gite when we got home.

henri le spider

Not the greatest photo, I couldn't quite get the lens combination right for the light conditions...and the critics amongst you will no doubt tut and sigh over the vignetting...

But let's see your photo of a French spider, huh?


Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Day 277 - l'elephant (part deux)


Having focussed yesterday on Jezz's 40@40@Font Challenge, today was our turn to work on one of my (and subsequently our) Font climb a problem graded at 6A.

Most of the climbs we've done this week have been in the 3' and 4's, so 6A represents quite a step up.   

Having said that, mostly we climb problems on our first attempt, whereas to climb something at your limit requires much trying, and failing, and working it out over a series of attempts.  This can be a frustrating process, as you can spend several hours (or days, weeks, months, or even years for the professionals), and never succeed.

So usually we go for climbing lots of problems that we can climb, but now and then it's good fun to work on a problem that initially seems impossible...the sense of achievement upon eventually getting to the top is immense, and deeply gratifying.

So we went to a famous and iconic climbing area of the Fontainebleau Forest, known as l'elephant...and by incredible coincidence, there's a large, elephant shaped boulder near the start of the climbing area!

I'm happy to report that we did get up our first 6A's!  There was some debate over how we climbed the first one, and whether it counted, so we added a couple of hard moves on the beginning (to satisfy the nay-sayers - you know who you are... ;-p ), and then did it again!

Then we tried another one, which started with a mono (a one-finger pocket in the rock) before climbing a steep face to a very sketchy (aka desperately trying not to fall off) climb over the top of the boulder...

Here's me halfway up...

hang in there

This may not look particularly hard, but I can tell you it was physically very challenging!

Of course, Anna flashed it (which means to climb a problem on your first attempt), whereas it took me about 20 goes...which I interpret to mean that Anna is 20 times as good as me...which seems about right, because, well, she is!

Anyway, I've just realised it's gone midnight, and I have yet to shower after a hard days' bouldering...we went out late and bouldered until it got dark, which was a lovely treat, but means we've been behind schedule all evening.

Oh, and in a further adventure, we got back to our gite to find that our bedroom door had mysteriously jammed since we went out at lunchtime.

After a significant amount of messing around trying to get it open, we had to call the landlord, who essentially advised that we break it down using brute force and/or a pied de biche (that's a crowbar to you and me).

We were reluctant to do this in his absence (he was away for the evening), but after his wife came round and egged us on, we did indeed kick/crow/shoulder the door open.  

So not only did we achieve our 6A mission today, but we also have a bed to sleep in tonight...



Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Day 276 - King of the Swingers

throne of rock

The boy done good!

Here, Jezz sits resplendent on his throne of rock, about to embark on his 40@40@Font Challenge - to climb 40 problems in a day, at the age of 40, at Fontainebleau,

Here's Jezz some time later, looking remarkably less fresh...


...but happy to have successfully completed his mission!


It was a tough challenge he'd set himself...the thing about bouldering outdoors is that, in order to even qualify as being called a bouldering problem, it has to be somewhat problematic, as a bare minimum.

If it's not really quite hard, either physically, technically, or psychologically, then it just doesn't count.

Of course, what this means is that each of the 40 problems that Jezz had to climb today were one or other of the above...there were no gimme's at all. 

By the end of the day, he was appropriately exhausted, but still elated, at a challenge completed, and a mission accomplished!

In other news, we came across a few lovely boulders that look like something else...this one that I met near the beginning of Jezz's circuit was very friendly and welcoming...

happy boulder

Meanwhile, this ferocious predator was on the prowl...

shark boulder

Fortunately, Simba was watching protectively over us all...

lion boulder

And this humongous denizen of the deep popped up briefly for a breather...

whale boulder

All in all, another eventful and momentous day in la foret...another fine, hot day in Trois Pignons, climbing many problems, facing many challenges, meeting many animal shaped boulders (and standing on their noses!)...

Mainly though, today's plaudits go to Jezz for a great effort in the blazing late summer sunshine... 

Rock that!


Monday, 15 September 2014

Day 275 - They Have a Cave Troll

behind you

It was a glorious day in the forest today - bright and shady, warm and cool, tiring and invigorating, tranquil and challenging...

When we were in Font this time last year, Anna and I had done the first half of a fabulous Orange circuit at an area of the forest known as Haute Plaines in Isatis, not far outside the town of Fontainebleau itself.   

As it happens to run alongside a yellow circuit, which Jezz was interested in doing, and in reverse order (that is, the orange circuit finishes where the yellow starts) it seemed like a good pick, and sure enough, we had a brilliant day.

Anna and I finished the Orange circuit, which was just as much fun as we remembered it...and Jezz did half of the yellow circuit in a final prep day for his 40@40@Font Challenge, which is currently scheduled for tomorrow.

Some of the problems Anna and I did today were a bit harder than yesterday, and so Anna had her game face on...


This was also handy for scaring off the giant cave troll in the red vest top that was hanging about all day (see top photo)...

We saw a brilliant green sand lizard as we walked into the forest, the biggest lizard I've ever seen in the wild, I think...and it was around about this time I realised I'd forgotten the camera (although not very helpfully, I did have the heavy lenses in my backpack).  Jezz had his camera, but of course not the right lens...and conveniently he has Canon and we have Nikon, so they're incompatible.


Still, I borrowed Jezz's camera to get this cool shot of a spider...

harry the spider

Check out the amazing bokeh on this, that's a nice lens of Jezz's!

Speaking of which, today I sub-contracted out the boulder that looks like something else photo for today to Jezz, who promptly found a submarine...

Good work, buddy!