The rain splatters outside, washing away the last little tidelines of snow. We are watching an exhilarating climbing competition, Le Championnat de France 2018, and wondering whether the rock will be dry enough to climb tomorrow. A fairly normal way to spend time in Fontainebleau, but the last few weeks, our first here this season, have been...interesting.
Spain in January was so lovely last year that we planned to start this year in the same vein. Unfortunately, life did its thing and got in the way, and we remodelled plans to enjoy some crispy February connies in Fontainebleau. The 'Beast from the East' delivered crispy and more and I think we probably wish that we'd headed as south as possible regardless of the date. C'est la vie!
The days out climbing have actually been lovely, once (if) you get over the cold. The sun has been shining most days so we have headed to clear areas like 95.2, Cuvier and Rocher Fin, which capture maximum warmth. Sometimes we have been projecting harder boulders, the fierce burns keeping our cores fired up, and other days just enjoying moving on rock regardless of grade. The colours in the forest have been stunning, making time spent outside a pleasure, and it's been surprisingly sociable for a freezing late winter with friends out and about locally and from the UK and other countries.
To promote longevity during cold days we have developed a series of not particularly original tactics; climbing shoes in down jackets for the walk in, taking hot drinks everywhere, eating constantly. Sam has even been climbing in a jumper occasionally. I have been climbing wearing everything I can fit on at the same time. I still have giant, red, gross chilblained fingers and toes. Winter is not always a kind season for outdoor sports.
It would be a lie to imply that we have spent the whole period living in the van; instead we've mostly been hanging out with our buddy Uly, a large ginger cat who tolerates us in his house if we feed him. Excepting our time with Uly, our first few days were spent comfortably in the van and we took a misguided two night hiatus from housesitting to spend the coldest two nights out as well. Temperatures dropped down to a spicy -13°C and froze everything. There was ice on the ceiling, the duvet, ice instead of water... It seems that -10°C is probably about our limit.
Thankfully normality has returned with the rain, and we are back to trying to keep things dry instead of liquid. The variety probably stops us from getting bored. We are already excited for summer, when the main challenge is working out the perfect maturation level for cheese in the heat.