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Broken by Buoux

20 Feb 2008

You know when you’re inspired; before you’ve even set foot on the rock you’re planning your next trip back and you feel the adrenalin pumping as your eyes scan the walls.  The imposing Mission wall fills me with dreams of being a better climber sitting atop the stack of famous climbs below and around.  One previous trip some years ago to Buoux left me with such incredible memories I couldn’t wait to return.

This time Nic and I had just one week and for some reason, that we still can’t fathom, we drove the mammoth 10 hours from Calais for our grand total of 6 climbing days.  The sun welcomed us though to dream climbing conditions and we imagined ourselves smoothly scaling the beautiful walls.  We scoffed at the climbers back home who had turned down the offer of a lift to the 'old school' climbing paradise.

Buoux and Bonnieux

This trip I had my sights far higher than my previous Buoux best of 7a.  I mean, on paper I’ve improved dramatically I thought.  Ok, so the first day we were expected to be fairly poor and yes the incredible 6bs on Styx walls certainly got the blood flowing, but by day 2 the cracks were already beginning to show.  The pocketed short walls of the Plage weren’t for me as I couldn’t reach between pockets on 2 different 7cs.

Full of vigour we set out again after a rest day, but following dreadful warm-ups we settled for an ‘active rest day’ .  This proved to be far from a rest as we discovered a selection of desperate 6bs including one where the crux seriously had no holds – I’m not joking.  The day ended though with a great experience climbing the multi-pitch Pepsicomane – a Buoux must.

La Plage and Pepsicomane

The next day proved to be the zenith of my climbing performance with Capt’ain Crochet, a vertical/slabby 7b.  Now everyone says that if you can onsight 7b at Buoux you’re doing really well.  I rose to the challenge but missed out, just, mucking up the last difficult rockover into the no-hands rest.  I settled for a redpoint next go, which proved to be rather on/off as I hadn’t worked the top properly at all.

Time moved on and we discovered that perhaps drinking coffee might be something we were better at, especially in classy French villages.  I also realised that I was better off sticking to the 7as and below.  Buoux is a force to be reckoned with, and judging by the dearth of climbers, this is a well known fact.  Tragic really that arguably the most famous and significant sport crag in France is turning into a ghost town.  When greater powers are at large you need to respect them and just enjoy the movement and challenges the rock throws at you, regardless of grade.  This was somewhat of a battle for me this trip.  We ended the week with Songe Sucre, one I've done before, surely one of the best 7as on the planet.  Whilst I didn't clock up the routes I wanted to, Buoux sternly reminded me that its certainly not all about numbers.