With the morning light shining through my window I awoke with excitement as this was the day that Paul-Matthieu, Erin and I were heading out climbing to Paul’s local crag where he had pretty much learned to climb growing up. this was exciting as I had heard a lot about it from him over the time we have known each other and I think he was really excited to be able to take me there.
I walked downstairs to find Paul awake and the coffee already brewed. I poured myself a cup and we talked about the plan for the day. Paul had said that it should be a day of crag classics and we should just have some fun. I thought that was a great idea. We had breakfast and when Erin woke up she was feeling really tired from her massive fortnight at work and said she would just stay at home and we could go out and have a boys day.
Paul-Matthieu and I quickly sorted out gear and headed out to the crag stopping at the local stork refuge (I know it sounds strange, but not as strange as actually doing it) and the supermarket briefly for rations, then moving toward the parking area to get on rock. We hauled arse up the 20 minute approach to the cliff base striding widely as two 185cm plus tall, fit lads would do who were wanting to climb. We were privileged enough to be greeted by a small deer on the trail that we accidentally startled and it quickly scuttled off down the embankment to escape the big humans approaching.
Arriving at the base of the cliff, it was wonderful to see the look on Paul-Matthieu’s face as it looked like he had just walked into his own backyard. A wide smile on his face saying “Welcome to my place!” We got our gear on and I was quickly introduced to the children of Paul-Matthieu’s friends as they wandered around to see him. Theo is a shy and quiet boy about 9 years old and his little sister Zoe is 7 years old and the out-going one. They said bonjour to the tourist and ran off back towards mum and dad who were around at another sector.
Paul-Matthieu tied in and off he went up this lazy 5c+ dihedral crack line. It looked really nice and I was looking forward to getting on this beautiful deep orange sandstone in the Alsace region of north-eastern France. Matthieu finished the route and descended from the heavens to softly land on the forest floor twenty feet from where I was belaying. Yeah the route got a little steeper and wandered around a bit.
I tied in and like every first route of the day, was a little heady and took my time getting the feel of the rock and making sure the friction was to my liking. Most days I have to remember not to over-grip the rock and to relax and breathe normally; it’s a challenge to get settled in as I am still aware this is a dangerous past-time. I completed the route and was amazed at how good the rock was. The last 5-7 metres of the 20 metre routes change from sandstone to this conglomerate, pebble infested sedimentary layer that changes the way you hold the holds. I really enjoyed the climbing and just hanging out with Matthieu was great.
The phone rang and it was Erin, Matthieu need to leave urgently and attend to some more important things than climbing. He ran around to his friends and asked if I could hangout with them for the rest of the day and they were happy to accommodate the tourist at the crag. So off he went to meet Erin.
Pierre-Matthieu and his lovely wife Ewa were the most divine hosts for the rest of the day at the crag. We climbed another 5 routes varying in style and grade from 6a to 6c+. Ewa said the grades in this area were very “Old Skool” and bold. I was pleased with what I had climbed and the routes were really really good.
The rain was playing with us a little and we climbed until we couldn’t stay dry any longer. Ewa said “Come back to our place for dinner and drinks!”……..How could I refuse; French country style food and homemade liqueur were the order of the evening and the kids were teaching me French at any chance. We had to rush outside and rescue a chicken from a buzzard (looks like one of our Aussie Hawks).
This was an amazing experience and it is what happens when you live in the country. I really feel city folk miss out on a lot of life not going into the countryside and living there a little. I am so pleased I grew up going to my uncles’ farms in Gloucester and Wauchope in north eastern New South Wales. A true gift to any young human.