A battered black estate fights through the night, through the spitting rain and ragged winds that rush around the motorway. Shabby flashes of lightning occasionally mark it's path as it passes a swaying wagon and veers off at the exit road. The car jolts to a halt in front of an empty, luminate service station and a guy jumps out and sprints for the building, abandoning the still running motor. The girl sighs as she swaps seats and parks up. This is the third emergency pee-break they have taken already, in a pretty short journey.
Back on the boulders at Gorge aux Châts (Le Pare Dessus, 7a+)
Saving money usually means taking the inconvenient travel option, and the vast amount of coffee prerequisite for midnight ferry voyages was probably responsible for our stilted drive to Dover. Our ferry didn't make an appearance for some time; with no info, a raging thunderstorm and in particular, no boats, we deduced that it was delayed and spent a couple of hours snoozing and watching stuff rattle around the port. A groggy 2am boarding was slightly cushioned by free breakfast and Kung fu Panda (...2? 3?) but not by the fluctuations in gravity as the fair ship lurched across the Channel. It spat us out in dark and stormy France, bleary-eyed, at around 5.
Wednesday announced itself with gorgeous orange and pink skies, remarkably calm weather, and the realisation that we had taken a detour and were on our way back to Dunkerque. Some cunning sign reading (otherwise known as, sign reading...) set us back on track and we drove through the bright, storm swept French countryside. We alternated sleeping and driving until we hit the Paris peripherique by accident and the moronic car-mageddon woke us both up thoroughly. The last bit was a doddle, and we cruised (creaked) into Arbonne-la-Forêt, our new home for a few weeks.
Half an hour and a cup of coffee later we found ourselves in Franchard Isatis with our hosts, Helen and Jason, and their kids Seb and Theo. We began on the blue circuit, got distracted by the reds, and then finally by some old projects. Unsurprisingly, these did not feel easy. Pretty much out on life bar by this point, we headed back to the ranch for a smashing chilli and 11ish hours of sleep.
Following a bit of graft for our keep, convenient because of the three days of rain, we snuck out to Gorge aux Châts for a sparkly cold, crisp morning climb. Excited to be climbing again, we got into some strong problems on crazy-featured rock, where Sam sent and Amber didn't, but found an awesome cave rest. She redeemed herself by climbing Lait Caillé (6c), an old project. The walk back to the car left just enough time for the birth of 'Frankentoe', as Amber walked into a tree root and made a hole in her toe.
Today, we sat under Respect d'Intention with Helen and Theo as the rain ran chalky water through the rock, ruminating on projects to be and things to come...