So after a trip into Fontainbleau, we set out for the Retour de Sources climbing festival at Grand Paraquet. There was a full competition boulder wall set up, and although the weather had changed for the worse we decided to stick around and wait for the worse to pass. Once it did the competitors got on with climbing, although half the crash pads, if not more were soaked! We called it a night and then went back for round two in the morning, although again the weather was not playing ball, and for a full outdoor festival this was not good news, as everything on offer from slack lining to trail bike displays as well as the climbing were pretty much soaked. So we gave up and did chores, such as nipping into the onsite shower at Grand Parquet, also shopping and filling up the water tank, the fun stuff of living in a van!
We then made our way towards the Dijon area of France, as we had been before, I just clicked the sat nav and away we went. We arrived at Saffres, which has very minor camping facilities next to the car park, such as toilets and running water (you just have to find them as they are hidden down the hill). We settled down for the night after a quick snack ready for the first sport-climbing day of the trip!
We had a lie in and had a lazy breakfast, before setting out for the climbs. It took us a while to get our bearings at the crag but soon found our way. It was super busy in nearly every section and as it had been raining for a couple of days only certain sections were in use due to the wet rock. We were also limited by taking up a 50m rope when a 6om was really needed for a lot of the routes. We finally found a quieter section and set up to warm up on a 4b, L’Encombre. This started in a cave and then came out onto the face, I could not see the rest of the route, so carried on up another route. I later found this to be 6a crux move on another route. I managed this part although was not the nice easy warm up expected!
I was hoping to move to a 5b route in the corner, although for the rest of the day different groups took this up with their route hogging top ropes! So I decided to move around the corner for a 5b/c route, this was pretty easy to begin with although I miss judged part of the route and completed a massive barn door off a flake, I’m not sure how I held it to be honest, I thought I was off! Once on the top out I was in a bloody jungle, literally, so ended up foraging through and finding a top bolt to ab off!
The final route of the day was the hardest complete route, La Mauvaise and a 5c grade. This was made up of some serious moves with nice ledges in between to stop and take check. All in all a great first day on sport! This was topped off with ‘date night’ of sorts on the picnic bench, a cracking meatball and chorizo pasta and local red wine, again, no one said you have to rough it!
The next day was just as sunny and a little quitter given that it was a Monday, although still pretty busy! This time we took up the correct sized ropes and got to grips with a massive stand alone rock called Tour Carree, which has always been busy on every trip. I led up two routes on this face, Un Ane Pour La Nuit and Idies Noires. Both were good routes with good holds, both sat in the mid 5 grades. After this I felt a little elbow strain, which is a reoccurring climbing injury I have. This has been a pain in the ‘elbow’ recently, with this trip looming on the horizon, I thought, or rather hoped it would clear up, but it has not by the look of things. It’s a shame, as I feel strong enough in all other areas of climbing to push the grades. So the plan is to rest for a day or two and do some admin before moving to a new area and climbing again. Hopefully by working the low grades and putting light millage on it, with a little physio, will all help my elbow get better?
For anyone thinking of going somewhere different to climb in Europe I would definitely recommend this area, most of the crags I have visited have had good solid rock and the areas themselves have been nice, quiet and peaceful. We have also never bumped into any one from the UK, but loads from all other countries. Maybe it’s because Rockfax have not made a guide yet! Or maybe Brits just don’t know, or don’t care? Either way, there is some really good 20-30m plus pitches here, set in beautiful scenery. So if you fancy climbing somewhere different maybe try the Burgundy region of France!
The GPS coordinates for Saffres Car park are N 47.37019 E 4.58332. For the toilets and water, face the car park, walk right down the road or through some trees. Pass the barbeque and a couple of picnic benches, there is a track that goes down the hill, follow this until you think you are about to be murdered, walk a little further and you will see a block of 2 toilets and a sink unit. Enjoy!