Becki Hall, Hannah Beresford, Gracie Martin, Luke Tilley, Edd Mowbray, Billy Rydal and Tom Bonnert were part of the team that accompanied me on my latest Font trip. They are all strong young climbers who will undoubtably be taking the standards of British climbing to higher levels in a few years time. With some of them already in the British Junior squad they have already shown that they can compete indoors, so it was interesting to see how they would transfer their skills outdoors onto real rock.
Q. What attracted you to this trip?
Billy: The chance to climb world famous boulders.
Luke: Having been to Font last year for the first time last year, I couldn’t refuse this trip. The quantity of amazing boulders with impressive lines in the most beautiful forest is irresistible!
Becky: It looked like fun.
Hannah: I’ve never been to Font and heard great things and wanted to try it out.
Edd: Climbing and chilling out.
Gracie: Getting more experience climbing outdoors with some of the best climbers in Britain, and climbing in a different country for the first time!
Tom: I like bouldering and I hadn’t been to Font but had heard it was an amazing place, so I was really keen to go and see what it was like.
Q. Are you a competitive person?
Billy: Yes, I always like a bit of friendly rivalry.
Becky: I am sometimes in the fact that I don’t see the point in doing something if I’m not good at it. But, I also think I am a good sportsperson and would never want someone else to do badly just so I could do well.
Gracie: Although I’m not on the British team I am a very competitive person!!
Hannah: I’m taking a year out. I am not overly competitive in climbing. Especially at the moment.
Luke: I really enjoy competitions and they are the main motivator for training hard, so I guess so, however I wouldn’t say I am particularly competitive against others. For me competitions are about climbing top quality set routes and being around strong climbers and like minded people.
Tom: I’m not in the team but really want to be so yes I am competitive.
Edd: Fairly competitive, I would hope in a good way though.
Q. Competitions take place indoors on plastic.. what are you doing outdoors, climbing rounded sandstone in freezing weather?
Billy: Climbing originated from rocks like those at Font, so I wanted a taste of the real thing.
Luke: Being in the forest all day is like rehab from the clustered climbing centres and gruesome circuit training. I love being outdoors away from the built up environment we spend every day in. Climbing trips are a chance to get with mates and do what we love doing most, climbing!
Becky: Haha. That’s a very good question. It’s a good experience and a good opportunity, I always try to make the best of good opportunitys.
Hannah: Its good as well as competing on plastic - it’s just another variation of climbing that I enjoy. And it is nice to travel and chat to climbers.
Tom: It is a chance to test myself on some of the best bouldering in the world. The weather wasn’t bad.
Edd: Doing some real climbing! And it’s great to have a full week on where you can climb every day, somewhere new and in a pretty cool forest.
Gracie: HAVING FUN AND ENJOYING MYSELF!!!
Q. Is your training dedicated entirely to competitions?
Billy: My training is dedicated mainly to competitions. However I’ll have a go at any sort of climbing.
Becky: My training never was dedicated to competitions, it was always dedicated to getting the best I could and reaching higher onsite limits. But recently it has become more to do with comps because if you’re on the team there is no use climbing well but not climbing well in a comp.
Hannah: I have a wider interest. Training for comps helps get stronger and generally fit although sometimes there is negative transfer from training in different ways.
Luke: I train to climb harder than I have before, comps give me a goal to work towards and gives me the opportunity to travel abroad and climb my best and get psyched by amazingly strong climbers, which if I was not comp climbing at the moment I might not get the chance to do. However outdoor climbing is a completely different type of challenge for me and I also hope to climb a lot this summer mainly on sport routes in Yorkshire and the peaks.
Gracie: I train mostly to enjoy myself, and to see myself improve and get better grades etc… But there is also a big competitive edge to everything I do.
Tom: I like all types of climbing and the training for comps gives me the strength and technique to use anywhere.
Edd: I want to climb as hard as I can, outside as well as inside and competitions. Having competitions helps to get psyched to training although so does the build up to a Font trip. Most of the time training is fun (after all it is climbing) so I enjoy doing it.
Q. Was there much rivalry?
Hannah: Not really it was very relaxed.
Tom: There is some rivalry but its good we share beta and encourage each other.
Edd: Apart from the arm wrestling at the gîte it’s definitely a friendly atmosphere. I enjoy ticking hard problems/routes as does anyone else but I don’t think there is too much rivalry as you’re always pleased when you do something around your limit (and it doesn’t matter what your limit is).
Gracie: Lots of people were a lot better than me, so rivalry didn’t show between us, and people were only supportive towards me. However competition was very evident between the younger members in everything we did, whether it was on the rocks or back at the gîte.
Billy: Hummm, we’re in permanent competition with each other (especially me and Gracie – pool, arm wrestling, table tennis, cards, etc, etc)!
Luke: I think there is rivalry to some extent but only in a friendly manner. When you work hard problems with a group and people finally start getting it, you become more motivated to complete it because you see it can be done. Sometimes it can be really frustrating but in the end you are only competing against yourself on trips like this.
Q. Hitting the ground is part and parcel of bouldering so how much thought and preparation do you put into your personal safety?
Billy: I’m always careful, but as long as I have confidence in my spotter, I feel safe.
Luke: Always had an Alpkit pad and a spotter.
Becky: Well, I had injured my back just before I came, so I had to be really careful about falling off, descending and jumping off. Maybe I wasn’t as careful as I should have been - I fell on my back a few times and since the trip it has been feeling pretty sore.
Hannah: Not enough. There were loads of mats and I made sure there was a relatively easy descent. I wasn’t embarrassed to ask for help to get down or stop climbing if there was a risk.
Tom: Carpet Font with Alpkit boulder mats!
Edd: Once there’s a good spread of mats underneath you and a good spotter I’m quite happy about safety, unless you’re on a highball problem with a sketchy top out, but there’s not a lot you can do about that either man up or wimp out!
Gracie: I would score myself 8/10 as I feel if you think about the safety too much you don’t enjoy yourself. I do definitely make sure I have plenty of matting and spotters, and I prefer to know that I have a safe and easy route down. My new Alpkit / Uptosummit bouldering mat was perfect.
Q. How does danger affect your performance?
Gracie: As long as I have someone that I really trust and know that will catch me if I fall it doesn’t affect me.
Billy: The danger aspect doesn’t tend to affect me until I am quite high up with a potential bad fall, then I’m unlikely to try for a dodgy move.
Hannah: Makes you better.
Tom: It does sometimes, I was quite pleased to get stuck just over halfway up a 7b highball having seen Dan fly off on the top move.
Becky: Well usually it’s about how far you’re going to fall and what you’re going to hit on the way down if you don’t make a move at the top. Because I’d hurt my back it was different - it was a danger for my training if I hurt my back more.
Edd: It’s hard to really go for moves as you would low down to the ground or with a bolt by your waist. This can affect whether you do the problem or not, sometimes you really don’t fancy a green or snowy top out when you could just drop safely and in control to a couple of mats.
Q. What part does danger play in creating a bond between the people you climb with?
Billy: The danger creates trust in each other, when you are climbing and someone is spotting you, you have to trust them or it is unlikely that you will try very hard.
Hannah: I think it helped us bond because people were helping each other out when others were scared.
Tom: It helps us look after each other.
Edd: I think you create a good bond with people that you are relying on for your safety.
Gracie: I feel it’s quite a major part (especially when climbing outside) as I need to be able to put my safety in someone else’s hands if I fall, which is quite a big thing for me. For this reason I like to know the person well before I give them this responsibility.
Q. Did you have any goals?
Billy: Yes – I wanted to do a 7A but once I realised how hard the grades were I was quite happy with a few 6Cs.
Hannah: I didn’t really set any goals except I didn’t want to get injured and I wanted to enjoy it whatever. But that’s obvious.
Becky: Not really - just to have fun.
Tom: To climb lots of route and enjoy myself which I did.
Edd: I’ve been training quite hard recently and I wanted to see it pay off. That’s always good to see and I’m really happy with the improvement to my climbing since my last trip to Font at Easter.
Gracie: I set myself two goals for this trip, 1: To enjoy myself – I definitely achieved this one. 2: to ideally get a 7a , however I might have set this goal a little high but that’s now for the next trip!!
Luke: I set off for Font with 3 goals, to climb Carnage, to climb 7c and to climb lots. It is easy in Font to get hooked on a climb, when you know you can do it but every time you try something goes wrong or that crux move keeps feeling more possible but never quite there. I fell into the trap of getting obsessed with Carnage on the first day and an amazing 7c on the second. Both days left me defeated and sore. After a wet Wednesday and an unpromising looking Thursday I was cursing myself for allowing to be snared by those ever elusive but unimportant grades. I committed to myself that when we finally got out again I would spend a maximum of 15 minutes on a boulder and just get as many done as possible. So Thursday and Friday were amazing full days of finding and doing as many interesting lines as possible. To top the trip off on the last afternoon back at Bas Cuvier Ben ran up buzzing from finally topping out on Carnage, I couldn’t allow myself to be the only one not to get it and finally after a naughty 20 minutes of attempts I slapped and held the top slopper! I had finally overcome my nemesis. I was amazingly happy and relieved.
Q. Crushing or cruising?
Billy: I like doing the problems I really have to think about because no matter what the grade is, I feel I have achieved something.
Becky: Difficulty obviously.
Hannah: Buzz comes from difficulty but its nice to complete something.
Tom: Definitely cruising an aesthetic looking problem.
Edd: Crushing hard problems is really good buzz. However on the last day we got really psyched to just try interesting looking problems without knowing the grade (maybe no pressure?).
Gracie: Crushing pure difficulty – definitely!
Q. What does Font mean to you?
Luke: Nothing beats the buzz from topping something at the ultimate end of your ability. After days of being spat off only to persevere and get back on and finally for every thing to go perfect and to stand on the top knowing the amount of effort and willpower you have put into getting there is amazing. However I am slowly learning that Font is not really about that. Although the buzz is just as amazing there as it is anywhere (more so maybe due to the quality of the lines) The quantity of breathtaking problems means you lose out big time if you only get a couple of problems done in a week. Font is more about dropping the grade slightly and getting out and doing as many of the 5 star boulders as you can, you will never run out!
Becky: Good bouldering and laid back fun.
Hannah: A big forest with rocks in it.
Tom: An amazing place with crushing and cruising.
Edd: One of the best places to do some bouldering, and an amazing place to chill out.
Gracie: A really great place to climb that should be looked after for a good many years – I love it!
Luke: I would like to thank my parents who make my climbing possible, without their help I would not be a climber. Thanks to EVOLV and METOLIUS for their sponsorship, helping me out with gear and equipment. Thanks to Alpkit for sponsoring the trip and providing all the pads and a special thanks to Dan for organising everything and always helping everyone ge