Monday, 14 January 2008


Most people drive home for Christmas. Being foreigner in Ireland usually means you will have to fly. Being French means you will usually fly not too far from a good bouldering spot. Unfortunatly I was born in the only county in France that does not have a single crag. Here's an example of what the highest crags look like round my parents place:

Yes. The French love their spuds too.

Bouldering at St-Vaast-les-Mello, Oise (60)

Anyway, this means that I usually have to do a bit of driving to the closest climbable crag: St-Vaast-les-Mello.

Being originally a chalk quarry, this place is not exactly the top of the range. To open a few routes, the locals started by chipping some holds (a french traditional climbing technique) into the blank faces of the quarry. But they soon discovered that chalk was actually softer that limestone, and that without superglue their new mono finger holds were transforming very fast into pockets and even jugs. Using that same superglue they decided that maybe they should stick some real solid holds to the chalky faces. I have a couple of these foot holds at home. I keep them as a souvenir of the fun we had in the place. Later they developed yet another technique involving glue, which I cannot describe here given the age of some of my readers.

So here is an old video of me and my bro bouldering in that awesome place one of the last Christmas holidays:

Bouldering at La Hottée du Diable, Aisne (02)

If I have a little bit more time I can push further to a much more beautiful place called La Hottée du Diable. The place is located between Chateau-Thierry and Reims, nord-East of Paris. It is extremelly similar to Font: beautiful sandstone boulders on sandy clearings in the middle of the forest. The place is obviously far less known than Font, the major reason being the size of it.

La Hottée is only a small outcrop of sandstone lost in the middle of huge Champagne vineyards. Neverless the place has a good collection of problems including some really serious ones and it will probably take me a few more Christmas holiday before to get wired on some of these lines... There is a good slideshow of the stones here.

So if you ever happen to be stuck in the Champagne region and that you are not too keen on visiting their cellars (after a few glasses, claustrophobia usually disapears), you can boulder off.