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Island-Hopping - Chris Schulte

Island-Hopping - Chris Schulte
Island-Hopping - Chris Schulte
January 14, 2013 - 

Last time I came to Font, it was to be sort of a vacation... There were projects I wanted to do, of course (there always are), but my intention was to sort of take it down a notch and have a little more fun, to not get wrapped up in the epic battle that usually ensues when I’m trying to climb at or near my limit. 

I managed to do a few of these projects that didn’t necessitate the simmering insanity that is a typical side effect of the mega-project, and they were some of the most rewarding climbing experiences of my life. Hanging on to the lip of Duel, looking down through the tiny rippling semi-blankness is something I’ll never forget. Crossing to the top jug on Partage was like coming up from beneath ocean for a breath of air, lungs burning happily. I was not going to project.


Then, I went to try the Big Island.

My friends Vincent Pochon (first ascensionist) and Lucas Menegatti (second ascent) told me I should definitely check it out, that it would surely suit me down to the bones. I was doubtful I could make the huge span at the first crux move, so I didn’t really give it much thought. If anything, I thought I might Not try it... Too hard, I thought... 8B+ took enough work as it was, a darn near detrimental effort each time! I’ve always believed that Anyone can climb at the highest levels, but I also believe that it’s a certain type who can do it often, for either morphological reasons, or dedication to training, or just pure dedication of spirit (some people have gone so far as to cast a negative light on the efforts of anyone who achieves something unusual through any of these methods: “he/she worked it to submission- what shite is that?).

Anyhoo, I tried it one evening, with a spirit of exploration, a fun approach. We had a great crew present, and I made surprising progress on the first day, doing all but the one long, first-crux move. I was encouraged, from within and without, to try again.

I did the remaining move the following day. 

A couple sessions later, in three parts.

Then, in two. Overlapping.

It began to warm as I improved.

I began to freak out, slightly.

I’d lay awake at night, mentally rehearsing the moves, thinking of the feel of every hold and the tension of every position. Even this would tire me a little bit: I climbed (and worse, Almost Climbed) that line a hundred times in my mind. My whole trip became about this boulder, it overflowed and spilled everywhere.

Fontainebleau is a difficult area: the conditions can be rough (and good conditions are vital if you want to climb near your limit), the style can be off-putting to some, and grades can be downright ridiculous. There are mant sides to the “morpho” dice: something can be harder or easier depending on the individual’s size, and this is acknowledged in the grade here (classes like boxing in bouldering someday? Height/Weight/Ape Index to grade?). An incredible project was climbed by a well-know climber of great skill and graded 8b/+. A couple tall fellas repeated it using a distant jug and called it 7c. Wow. What’s more is, historically, this place recognizes the true difference between the Problems, despite the fact they follow the same Line. 

But back on track:

I’m back in Font again, with the specific mission to try and climb the Big Island. I have other goals, too (including the 7c/8b+), but I am here to do one problem. On prioir trips, I came to do Specific Problems, and I think that helps a great deal, despite being stressfull. If the weather is bad, too bad, cue freak out. It rained a LOT prior to my arrival, and all the sandstone blocks have soaked it up like so many million sponges, BUT, we have some days that are freezing or just above or below, and that chases the water back into the boulders, as well as making the friction pretty nice.. Some drying out days plus more freezing days would be ideal, but, I’ll get what I get, including freakouts, I’m sure.

Today was day one on the problem. Like any great story, it has a beginning, a middle, and an end. I did the beginning and the end, and more than half the middle. I can feel good about that, cause it was Not Dry. In fact, I feel great. Tomorrow, it is likely to snow and maybe rain. The next day, it will be below freezing, the next, well below. And so on, blah blah freakout. 

All we can do is try. I think, I hope, that if we try with a Will, with a Mission, somehow that adds a little light to our journey and lightens our load as well.


Hope so, cause I'm looking out the window and it's snowing. Better than rain!


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