Adventures on the road: Ceuse, The Desire and Le Chirurgien du Crepuscule, 8b

After Impact Day (the day and the route), I rested quite a lot. My ribs hurt for a while and I felt like a needed a little break.

With my ribs repaired and not one to have unfinished business I was keen to get back on it, but since June was the wettest on record I wasn’t given the chance. This was a little frustrating but at the same time I had a good June, going climbing without an agenda, seeing friends and generally enjoying the UK.

Howard on the mega-flash of Penal Servitude, sandbag E5

Lake District’s finest, Peter Graham on Limited Edition, E4 6a in the beautiful/quick drying Hodge Close

But after a while, waiting for a weather window in the Lake District started to wear thin and gave up on the idea of doing it this summer – it was time to get back on the road and go somewhere where the sun always shines – Ceuse!

Madeleine Cope; Warrington’s creme de la creme was keen to join me on a European road trip. Being a good friend, I did explain to her that our vehicle for the trip had seen better days and that there was a high probability our journey ending with us at the side of the road, hitching to the nearest airport. Although she was a little surprised to see that ‘The (citroen saxo) Desire’ did not start via the conventional ‘turn the key method’, but instead, via the pikey ‘hot wire’ method, for better of for worse, she agreed, and off we went!

These cows were not psyched on us sharing their bivvy spot.

The journey down was not without its hitches. We decided to go via Belgium to avoid the tolls, but it turns out that you pay for nice roads for a reason. After sitting in traffic for 5 hours we pulled onto another gridlocked motorway I decided enough was enough and the best idea was to reverse down the hard shoulder, do a U-turn then drive up the slip road the wrong way. This would have gone smoothly, had another women not had exactly the same idea…. anyway it worked out OK in the end and we both made it to France in one piece. The Desire, however, did not make it in one piece and we pulled into the Ceuse campsite with the exhaust dragging along the floor and a boy-racer grumble that no amount of techno could hide.

Ceuse is a great place to start a trip because it beats your body back into shape in no time at all. Keen to get on it, we decided to deal with the car later and go climbing. After a few days, Maddy had polished off some of the hard 7cs on Berlin such as Berlin, Galaxy and the 7c+ Makech Walou. I had done La Privilège du serpent, 7c+ and the direct finish to La Couleurs du Vent, 8a+.

With a few routes under our belts and our fitness increasing, we decided to turn our attention back to The Desire. Since neither of us know anything about cars we thought we should forget about ‘what we know’ and concentrate on ‘who we know’. Much to our good fortune a friend at the campsite kindly offered to take the car to his uncle, who could apparently ‘fix anything’. Since it’s likely that the car wont last much longer anyway the last thing I wanted to do was buy a new exhaust, so I was all for the ‘botch-job’ option. Simone and his uncle did an amazing job, and I can’t thank them enough for helping the Desire get back on to the road in an acceptable fashion.

Lager at 10am and an exhaust to piece back together!

Couleurs Du Vent was a really good route, and since it didn’t take me too long I thought I should try something a bit harder. Last year, whilst I did Femme Noir and Femme Blanche I always looked to the right at this really nice looking 8b. I remember seeing a french kid weave his way up the wall, at one point down climbing, and at another – doing some ridiculous cross through off a two finger pocket. Anyway the route looked amazing and I was keen to give it a go.

Le chirurgien du crepuscule taken from: photo by Robbie Phillips

It turned out to climb as well as it looked. It’s meant to be ‘hard in the grade’, but I also think it’s my style – small holds – so I managed to get it 5th try. I have done some other 8bs, but they were in Spain and Turkey, and grades aren’t as soft in France, especially Ceuse. After Impact Day, UK trad bumbling and not doing that much climbing, it felt nice to do this route and get a bit of confidence back.

It also felt like a nice point to leave Ceuse. I really came to Europe to do some adventurous routes – so back in the Desire and off to Chamonix!

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