I moved to France on December 1st to spend 3 months working on my French. My time here has completely exceeded my expectations! My French is definitely improving, I’ve been able to do some climbing, plus have spent some quality time with friends here. I did have to switch my flight home to an earlier date, cutting a month off of my trip, as I learned I got the job I was hoping for in Cape Town, South Africa. Bummer about cutting my trip short, but excited for this upcoming opportunity in Africa.
I had planned on staying in Le Vaudoue, a small village near Fontainebleau, for the whole trip, but felt like it wasn’t an ideal place for a beginning French speaker. I stayed there for 3 weeks and then moved down to Lyon.
I was living in my friend’s weekend home in Le Vaudoue. I stayed there this past April, when him and his family still used it as their full time home. I didn’t realize the level of isolation until I lived there by myself. The best was one day when the post woman came. I think she said something about the house being hard to find. I quickly explained that I didn’t speak very much French and she looked at me oddly, most likely wondering, ”What the hell is this non-French speaking American girl doing at the end of this road?” Haha.
Looking towards the Le Vaudoue house from my neighbors house. Yep… the house is down that road, all by itself in the forest.
Le Vaudoue “main street”. It consists of a bar, market, pharmacie and a temporarily closed hair dresser. I love the simplicity of this place.
Hiking through the Trois Pignon area with Guillaume and his family.
My mode of transportation. I really liked when I would stop by the market on the way home, carrying fresh baguettes and wine in my bouldering pad.
Guillaume climbing at Cancier Mercier.
David came to visit Fontainebleau. It was his very first time to be in Font… but it had recently snowed. He still was psyched to try at least one problem, trying his luck on this slippery problem at Roche Aux Sabot.
Since I am learning French, I will start writing some French in parenthesis. I wanted to start with this post, but it was going to take me forever. So… I will start to slowly integrate.
These glow-in-the-dark dragons were one of the small “Memories From Home” items I brought to France.
There are a good handful of tips and tidbits that I have picked up along the way. I assume this list will be dynamic over time, but thought I would post of some of the initial thoughts.
Readily Accessible, Safe Car Camping Spots – A really easy to find, safe camping spot if traveling in the US is Walmart. I strongly dislike utilizing Walmart as a consumer; however, I gladly parked there on my road trip when in between destinations. Walmart welcomes car campers and often has security roaming the parking lots to ensure safety.
Rather than Buying Books – Books can be a bear to take on a trip because they take up space and can be heavy. Some good alternatives are…. 1) Used bookstores or co-ops – If you really must own, look for a used bookstore or coop where you can swap out books. 2) The library – Though you most likely can’t get a library card whilst you travel, you can often check out books from your home library and mail them back. 3) Ebooks – If you have a computer, you can download ebooks. Many books are for a fee (but at least you have eliminated the hassle of books in the car / backpack), but some sites (like Project Gutenberg) provide free books. 4) Audiobooks – Some libraries (for instance Salt Lake City library) provide free audio books. The downside is you must remember to register your card before leaving town. (The SLC Library actually makes you come to the library to register. Why they don’t allow online registration, I don’t know.) After registering you can download audiobooks through a wifi connection. To be honest, I feel like the best solution for books is a tablet e-book reader (Kindle, Nook, etc.) because it is nice to read a book, rather than listen to it, but it is nice to put the PC away and not drain its batteries. I don’t have a tablet book reader yet so can’t completely opine if this is the best solution… but I am longing to buy the Nook one day. Once I get one, I will of course give you the update.
Cheap Flicks – One of the easiest ways to watch movies is through Netflix On Demand. You must be a Netflix account owner, but then you can stream through any wifi connection. Note, that you can only watch Netflix in the States. The next best alternative (States only) is the Red Box, costing a mere $1 per night.
Fueling the TV Addiction - To get your fix on recent television shows, visit Hulu.com. If outside of the U.S. or Canada, you will not be able to access Hulu without an IP blocker of some sort. Sadly, I still have yet to be able to stream video through a tunnel or IP blocker due to connection speeds. (Perhaps you will be more fortunate.) Recently I discovered the site MyFreeGuide (which does seem a little sketchy) listing links to a number of sites, such as DivxDen, where viewing without VPN is possible. Sweet! (An IP blocker site is also ideal if wanting to play Facebook Scrabble outside of the U.S. …. just saying in case any of you readers are fellow addicts like myself.)
Telecommunications – Skype is your friend. Download it, use it, love it. I am currently in France for 3 months and have now bought an online number so friends and business colleagues can actually call me from a landline and it rings my computer. If I am not available or online, it goes to voicemail. Perfect. I can even send SMS texts… I also have a subscription so I can make unlimited calls to US numbers for only $3 per month. And, of course, all calls computer to computer are free.
Don’t Forget to Backup – If you own a computer (if traveling or not), MAKE SURE TO BACK UP! I always have all my information backed up by Mozy.com and on an external hard drive. I did have my computer hard drive go out while I was on my 10-month trip but lost only one day worth of photos and one spreadsheet thanks to back ups. I backed up all my data before I left and then did small backups while on the road. A good solution would be to carry a travel external drive with you.
Receiving Letters While In Between Cities – If you need mail while traveling in the States, you can receive it through General Delivery. Call one of the post offices in your current location and ask for the General Delivery address. To pick up the mail you will have to go to that post office and show your identification.
International Travel Packing List – If city hopping while abroad, this packing list has worked out perfectly for me. If going on a climbing trip, this info might be useful.
First Aid Kit - Always carry ibuprofen, band-aids and antibiotic cream. If heading to very humid areas (China or Thailand) try and take the powder antibiotic cream. If heading to Asia, include medication for an upset stomach.
Avoid the Visa Headache - I have only had to worry about the visa situation once, when I traveled to China. If needing a visa, ensure you plan waaaaaay in advance as it can be a bear to resolve. Blah.
Coin Purses Are Useful – Many other currencies have coins that are worth up to $2 (or pounds, euros, etc.). As an American I am quite careless with my change because the highest coin value (commonly used coins that is) is $.25. Yet in currencies where the value can be a couple dollars it is amazing how quickly you can gather $20+ of change in your pocket. A coin purse is very useful.
Trinkets for International Travel – Take a handful of trinkets and / or postcards of your home town to give to people you meet along the way. (I got this tip from The Usual Suspect. Thanks, Neal.)
Keeping Track of Travelers – The easiest way to keep track of travelers, is through Facebook. Plus it is so much more personal than a simple email address, allowing the continuation of a friendship.
Small Items that Remind You of Home – I like to carry small items that remind me of home. On my 10-month climbing trip I took a boomerang my friend Neal had sent me from Australia and a comic that my friend Bret had left on my door. On this trip, I brought a handful of postcards, a letter my friend Rob gave me, and the above pictured glow-in-the dark dragons that my friend Kathryn gave me during the summer. I notice a couple small items don’t take up much room, but remind me of my dear friends who are elsewhere.
Scotch Tape – I think I will start carrying scotch tape with me in the future. The reason is I always end up with a bag of ticket stubs, maps, etc. at the end of my trip that takes me eons to actually sort after the trip. (I just sorted through my China bag and I went to China in 2005!) On my current France trip I am automatically taping these things into my journal, on the day I actually received that particular stub. It seems to be working really well.
Less is Better than More – The main tidbit I use when traveling is ‘less is better than more’. (I actually live by this motto as well, owning VERY few belongings.) If you are mobile, it means everything you pack is coming with you, to every destination…. which can be a HUGE hassle. Allow yourself enough time to pack your bag (or car), rethink, and then trim down the included items. Repeat these steps at least two times.
It has been prime Little Cottonwood Canyon bouldering season lately…
My first attempt on ‘Helen Keller’. I didn’t get much farther than this … and yes, those are the starting holds. Picture by Trevor.
… but Rafiti did. He picked up the send this past weekend!! Woot, woot! Picture by Trevor.
Nathan at the Goldy boulder.
Emil on ‘St. Nick’.
Me on ‘Sweet Baby Jesus’. I have only given this line one attempt but would *really* like to try it again. Only problem is it is a high-ball with a crappy landing, so basically you want to avoid falling at all costs while fully knowing the crux is at the top.
I’m not quite sure why I have been slow to post lately as I have had content just waiting in the coffers. Oh well… better late than never.
Picture by Patrick Lionais.
As mentioned in my previous post, blog reader Lydia had sent in an email with 3 questions regarding travel. Here is question #2 with response.
What do you think was the biggest challenge on your trip?
As a preface to this question, please note that the trip was fantastic and I would highly, highly suggest everyone take some time off in their life to do a climbing trip or an extended travel (non-climbing trip) as the experience is invaluable (I am still hoping to do an around the world trip at some point). However, there will definitely be a handful of challenges that present themselves. These challenges will vary for each individual, but these were the three largest that I faced.
Feeling Lost – It is easy to feel “lost” while living on the road. I am a very goal oriented person and I noticed I felt lost for the first 6 weeks, not understanding why exactly I hit the road. (Yes, that sounds silly.. but I definitely met other people who felt the same way.)The key was for me to make goals.Sure climbing goals were good, but I made other goals of things I wanted to accomplish. I had to look at it from the perspective that I had a 10-month break from real life and decide what I wanted to do with this time.I ended up with a list of goals that included a number of books I wanted to read, a daily time frame to try and learn French, learning to become more comfortable with the terminal window (um, I like geeky things like that), and I focused on journaling, trying to understand patterns in my life that I perhaps wanted to change upon getting home.
Loneliness Sets In – I was surprised at how loneliness could just creep up out of nowhere.I was traveling solo, how I usually travel, but I had yet to do such an extended trip by myself.There were definitely time periods of loneliness.Not loneliness for a significant other, but loneliness for a friend who already knew my story: someone who already knew my job, my family situation, my travels, just me.Upon meeting people there was always a “data dump” where people asked the usual questions and sometimes I just missed the familiarity of a good friend.And even though a good friend at home should have been just a phone call away, I noticed they really weren’t for the sole reason that we were living completely different lives. Interestingly, I made new SLC friends (a couple who I had met right before my trip and a couple that just reached out to me through my blog) that had lived on the road and new the highs and lows… and these people became dear friends. (A great example of this being my friend, Melissa.)
Finding Your Groove Upon Arriving Home – I think the hardest challenge for me was finding my place upon arriving home. I have been home 3 months and have yet to find this groove. I think it is because I was coming home to yet another time of transition of finding a new home, finishing one job, finding a new job, hoping to make a move to a new destination, etc. I have had a surprisingly rough time …. but I think the takeaway is for me to learn patience and just believe that things will work out how they are supposed to when the timing is right.
Hope this helps you out, Lydia. Thanks again for writing in.
Last October I was in a horrible climbing accident where my climber decked (meaning hit the ground). There was fault on both sides of the partnership. She was indirect at the anchors, but had threaded the system incorrectly (accidentally taking herself off belay) and forgot to ensure her system was working correctly before coming off of the indirect position. I should have talked to her more to ensure everything was correct, especially since we were using a funky system. I did a complete write-up on the event, but am not going to link to it as I don’t feel the need to drive traffic to that link (as it is an emotional topic for me). If you want to read the writeup, you can find it under the Destination: Red River Gorge, KY category label.
I wanted to write up a follow up post, though, as it has been hard to recover from such a traumatic accident and thought I would share some insights in case any of you readers catch yourself in a similar situation.
A fun pic, to lighten up a serious topic. This is an old pic of me climbing in Indian Creek while donning a wrap-around dress, in celebration of Zac’s annual Indian Creek birthday costume celebration.
First of all, a question that all climbers should consider is the following…
Climbing is hobby where things can go horribly wrong, very quickly. Mistakes can happen, even to the extremely experienced climber (think Lynn Hill and Todd Skinner). Know that participating in this sport puts you at risk for serious injury (and potentially death) if a simple mistake occurs. Are you ok with that?
After my accident, I was going to quit climbing all together but was persuaded by a friend to try bouldering instead of going home from my road trip. I ended up enjoying bouldering, especially the fact that I wasn’t nearly as scared on a boulder problem as I was on a rope. However, upon getting home to Utah I decided to return to the rope, but only with my small handful of trusted climbing partners.
If an accident (of any magnitude) does happen, and they DO happen, here are some helpful tips to return to climbing mental homeostasis.
Take some time off – There is nothing wrong with a sabbatical. Climbing, as many of us must remember, is a hobby! It can be mentally taxing and there is absolutely nothing wrong with taking a break for awhile. The rock isn’t going anywhere, so wait until you feel completely ready to go back.
Climb Only With People You COMPLETELY Trust – I am a social butterfly by nature and love to include people in my hobbies. However, I am now picky with whom I will rope climb as not everyone understands the dynamic belay and some people are a little too lax on safety for my liking. Climb only with people you feel completely comfortable having in charge of your life and vice-a-versa.
Triple Check – I have always been the queen of double check, but now I am the queen of triple check. I now check everything 3 times before hoping on a route, and even make my partner audibly confirm everything looks good (even though we have gone through 3 checks). I also like to have my climber validate that everything looks correct at the chains if I am planning on a top roping, ensuring they have placed two opposing draws at the anchors. And will even question if everything is ok before they come off from the indirect position at the chains, even though this is their responsibility. I figure the couple spare seconds of safety questioning could potentially catch a mistake.
Become a Gym Rat for Awhile – I first went to the gym when getting back on the rope because the bolts are close together and easy routes abound. I felt like this was extremely helpful.
Trust the System – One of the best pieces of advice I received from a fellow climber (who had personally decked in an accident), was to remember that the system truly does work when done properly. My friend reminded me to triple check everything, then simply climb without worrying about the system. Check it .. and go.
Fall – After getting back on the rope with someone you trust, start taking falls again. Falls, for the majority of us, are scary; yet controlled falls can quickly clear out the lead head while being a reminder that the system truly does work.
Go to Familiar Crags – This was one of the breakthrough points for me! I caught myself still being scared outside, so one day went to a crag where I knew every single climb and had in years past taken numerous falls on these particular routes, knowing fully what to expect. By the end of the session, I finally felt back to my old route climbing self.
If Still Not Enjoying Yourself, Take a Break Again – If still not thoroughly enjoying yourself, stop, wait it out, and start the list over again.
Have you recovered from an accident? What helped you get back on the sharp end?
I finished my 10-month climbing trip approximately 2 months ago, but I have been so incredibly busy getting back into the groove of life (finding a home, finishing my job, looking for a new job, re-adjusting to normal-day-life, sorting through all my belongings, while still trying to squeeze in climbing, etc.) that I have yet to write the concluding write-ups, though they are definitely still en route.
One of my favorite photos from the trip. Photo credit: Frank Wu.
CB. Photo Credit: Elliot Warden.
On this solo adventure (well, solo except for the inclusion of my chihuahua, CB, during the US portion) I explored the following destinations:
Fontainebleau, France – This was hands-down my favorite destination. Everything about this place was ideal: quantity and quality of rock, ability to meet someone from a new culture daily, cheap and delicious wine, hour proximity from Paris, etc. =)
Bishop, California - mmmmm…. Buttermilks!
Chattanooga Area – Chattanooga allows easy access to Little Rock City, RockTown, and HorsePens40, each place providing a unique climbing experience.
If you are planning a trip to visit any of these areas and need additional beta, please feel free to reach out to me. Or, if you have additional information excluded from these posts, please comment and / or email.
My idea of international travel (meaning travel where a flight is necessary) is on a shoe-string budget with a backpack on my back. This type of travel is fun and adventureous, but it also means you get into some crazy situations and you must lug that backpack everywhere you go.
The key for this type of travel is to pack light!
in 2007 I posted up the ideal international packing list that my friend Simon and I had derived in China. I won’t re-post this information, but instead will cover the necessary climbing items to take along.
The necessary climbing gear is, of course, dependent on the type of climbing you are hoping to do. I have climbed overseas on 4 trips (China, Ireland, Thailand, and in a joint France and England trip) but only two of these trips were solely climbing focused. I will write up the necessary gear for the trips I have done: Bouldering, Sport, and Hoping to Climb.
Boulder pad – I did take a pad. Yes, it was a hassle, but it gave me freedom to boulder sans partner. Fontainebleau is popular enough place that you could easily find a fellow climber with a pad, or, if worst came to worst, you could rent one from one of the gites.
Two pairs of shoes – I always take 2 pairs of shoes and know some people who take more. The only time I have wanted a different shoe than the Anasazi was in Hueco Tanks, so I usually just stick with a couple pairs of Anasazis.
Chalk bag with spare chalk – I could have easily bought chalk in France and England, but it seems easiest just to pack extra.
Tape – I only packed one roll of tape on this trp. At the time of this trip, I was suffering from a sprained ankle and should have packed more tape. I was still able to purchase tape overseas, but it was definitely more expensive. (For instance being $15 in England! WOW!)
Steve on “The Flying Arete” in England.
Sport climbing trip – Tonsai, Thailand (2007)
Note that certain areas can be harsh on gear. That is the case with Tonsai. Since many of the climbs are on the beach, the rope continually has sand being ground into it and the draws (especially if left hanging on a project) get splashed with salt water, quickly affecting the metal of the draws. In places such as Tonsai, take the time to wash your gear often.
Rope – I purposely took a rope that was in climb-able condition, but I wouldn’t mind retiring. For some odd reason I brought it home with me, when I should have just donated it to the locals.
Draws – I can’t remember the number of draws I took because I believe that my travel mate had a handful as well. Basically take enough to cover the longest climb, but perhaps split the weight amongst your climbing partner.
2 Belay Devices – I always pack two belay devices because they don’t take up a lot of room and it never hurts to have a spare.
Two pairs of climbing shoes
Chalk bag, spare chalk – I went through A LOT of chalk in Thailand. I was there on a bit of the off season and it was definitely humid.
Tape – If climbing on a very regular basis, it never hurts to pre-emptively tape to avoid injury.
Hoping to Climb – Yangshuo, China & Ireland (2005 & 2006)
On two occasions I knew there was climbing in the area I was traveling and hoped to climb while there. In Yangshuo I only got out one day and had to use a guide service. In Ireland I got out 3 days, able to secure fabulous partners through the Irish climbing website.
The Burren in Ireland. Some friends are pictured climbing in the background.
2 Belay Devices
One pair of shoes
Chalk bag filled with chalk
Have you traveled abroad before on a climbing adventure? If so, what did you pack?
I felt extremely fortunate to be able to swing through England at the end of my trip. Not only were there numerous excellent problems, but the grit ended up being my favorite rock type. (I want to add in another thank you to my friend, Steve, who was my tour guide plus a huge contributor to this post.)
Best Time to Visit
The best time to visit is when the temperatures are in the 50 – 60 Fahrenheit range, with the ideal visitation months being November and March. April and early May can also be good (though perhaps starting to get warm) with longer days and usually a better bet (in terms of daylight and rain) if wanting to do routes and boulders. Definitely note that England houses gritstone and limestone, with the grit being incredibly temperature dependent.
Length of Stay
There is definitely enough bouldering to keep a visitor happy for 3 – 4 weeks. However, it rains quite a bit and there is a possibility that you can get completely rained out on your trip.
How to Get There
If flying, the best airport to fly into would be Manchester as it’s only an hour-ish drive to Leeds or Sheffield. For Americans, it is usually cheaper to fly into London, with a drive of approximately 180 miles from London to Leeds.
A car is a definite necessity and can be booked as either part of a flight package or individually through an airport or in any main city.
For getting to the crags you definitely will need a guidebook and a map! And I would even dare say, a local tour guide.
I ended up with two different guidebooks (thank you, Steve, for giving them to me plus marking all the problems we did!), one covering the Peak district and one for the Yorkshire area.
‘Peak District Bouldering’ by Rupert Davies and Jon Barton (2005). Brilliant guide, beautiful layout, and really well put together.
‘Yorkshire Gritsone Bouldering’ by Steve Dunning and Ryan Plews, (2008). This is the most recent guide, though I have heard it excludes a handful of the classic problems (in particular at Caley).
If sans guide, definitely check out Yorkshire Grit as it is a free site with all the main crags and problems, maps, topos, directions, and forums for users to comment on beta, grades, etc.
I really, really enjoyed the problems in England. Every cliff we visited was fabulous with my favorites being Caley, Almscliffe, The Plantation, and Cratcliffe. Ha ha… well, that is almost every crag we visited. =) Some of my absolute favorite climbs were the following:
Matterhorn Arete (v0 – v1) – highball warmup that is fabulous. Definitely bring pads “just in case”.
Jerry’s Traverse (v8) – Seriously fabulous line… unfortunately I needed more time to work it, therefore not getting the send yet.
Green Traverse (v6) – must do!
Dope on a Slope (v7) – This is the Green Traverse extension and I think is actually a bit better than the Green Traverse as it lengthens the goodness.
Captain Hook (v8) – Good problem.. that I could not finish. Ha ha! =)
Flying Arete (v3?) – Aesthetic line that climbed as great as it looked.
The Horn Direct (v4) – One of the classics of Caley.
The Horn LH Arete (v7) – I LOVED this problem, and definitely claim it as one of my top 3 favorites over the whole road trip.
The Weedkiller Traverse (v7) – Cool limestone traverse, with a throw at the end.
Pine Tree Arete (v5) – Yet another great traverse.
Flapjack Traverse (v7) – Tricky little line that liked to repeatedly toss me off. =)
The whole crag of Caley – everything I hopped on at Caley was fab. I didn’t like the boulders near the road as much due to the noise, but the more hidden boulders were fabulous. But now that I think about it… I really can’t think of a problem I DIDN’T like in all of England … nope, I can’t think of one.
Camping / Accommodations
I was staying with a friend, so am not knowledgeable in this area. However, my friend, Steve, mentioned that there are some camp sites in the Peak and Yorkshire areas, plus there are Youth Hostels, and Bed and Breakfasts.
I’m sorry but I can’t comment on this as I was staying at a friend’s house.
Food / Drink
There are a handful of great pubs and restaurants. My number one suggestion is near Sheffield and is called Strines. I mention this place solely because it has the oddest collection of stuffed animals for decor. The food is good, but not nearly comparable to the excellence of the setting.
A visitor really must stop at a Chippy. How in the world can you visit England without going for Chips? In my case, I think I went at least 3 times. =) Ask them to wrap it up as a cone…
Lastly, I hear a curry is tradition after climbing, yet somehow missed out on this opportunity.
Taking self portraits in one of the local pubs.
Rest Day Activities
While resting or waiting out the rain, definitely check out Leeds (the theater there is great), take the train into London (but definitely buy tickets in advance), or enter the Huddersfield cork shooting contest. =)
Steve and I seriously had to stop playing this game because it was getting downright competitive, plus Steve liked to cheat. What the…??
The rain was a bit demoralizing, and supposedly it wasn’t even that bad when I was there. Often the drive time to the crag was 40 – 60m, meaning a high likelihood of different weather upon arriving (usually for the worst). To navigate the weather, use the below links / webcams.
Certain areas, The Plantation and Almscliffe, dry quickly while north facing crags such as Caley do not and stay green after the rain. Caley, though, is a better option on warm days.
The links above provide insight, but aren’t perfect considering the weather is very localized. Unless it is absolutely pouring, it’s always worth a try to get out, especially in the Peak since it can be raining at Stanage and dry at Cratcliffe.
If you do get rained out, there are a couple of climbing walls that are very good.
Outside – near the Peak district in Hathersage. Let me just add to check prices before purchasing (reference the below picture).
I stopped in Outside to buy some tape to wrap my sprained ankle. It was my last day of climbing and I probably could have gotten away without tape. Regardless I stopped, got the tape, and handed over the money requested. I then realized the price was 10 pounds…. the equivalent of $15, 70 Freddos, 4 pints of beer, 10 meals from Tesco, or 1/3 of a cost of a London hostel. Ha ha! I would suggest bringing your own tape or stopping by Off the Wall. I had to take a picture of the most expensive tape I had ever purchased, though admittedly it was good tape.
The Best Part
One of the very best parts of England….. was…… the ‘Bouldering on Yorkshire Gritstone’ by Steve Rhodes, (1993). It was the first real guide to bouldering in Yorkshire and came out as part of the bouldering boom of the early 90’s when all of the major English crags were developed. Rather than giving classic problems stars, Rhodes rated the classic climbs by beds: 1 bed meant a good climb worth getting out of bed to attempt and 2 beds meaning it was such a classic that it was worth getting out of someone else’s bed to climb. Hilarious! =)
It is unfortunate (seriously unfortunate!) that this book is now out of print.
If wanting further information, the below links can most likely answer your questions.
Yorkshire Grit – Excellent site that features all the main crags and lists all the best probs, has topos too…
UK Bouldering – Simple forum-based site that I hear is good for getting trip info, problem beta, climbing partners, etc., and tends to get some very knowledgeable, helpful, and hardcore people as users.
UK Climbing – Commercial site that provides trip beta and pretty extensive forums.
The BMC – The British Mountaineering Council might be a useful site for additional crag information.
Have you climbed in England before and have additional beta? If so, please leave a comment.