And here's the thing about bouldering in July. Yes, it's really hot, but it's also really green. All the plants are stretching their limbs and yawning greedily in the sun, and the moss is creeping up over the rocks. There are evil thorns coming at you everywhere, and it is just really hard to find stuff.Read More
I found a gym that has me missing Active from across the Atlantic.
Arkose is a bouldering gym in the graffitied backstreets of Paris’s Montreuil suburb. Sista Fran and I have been traveling for a few weeks and hadn’t been able to climb. So when we got to Paris, we were psyched to hit up some polyurethane.
We googled something like “Paris climbing gym” and found a bunch, including behemoth Hardbloc (“LA PLUS GRANDE SALLE DE BLOC EN FRANCE”) and Arkose, a tinier establishment. We decided to try Arkose based on the fact that it was 12 minutes closer to our hostel than Hardbloc. We got lost anyway, but I’m glad we chose it.
I’ve decided that Arkose is like Active’s cool teenage cousin who lives in the city and gets to drink wine at dinner parties. Or something. It’s another little warehouse-y gym where space is scarce but creativity is not. There’s some slabby stuff, some steeper stuff, and a big fake top-out boulder. There’s a sweet play area by the traverse wall, and there are communal chalk buckets just sitting around.
Also, this: there’s a bar inside. Like, 10 feet from the climbing. You can fall off your project, turn around, and order a drink. Ha! Is this a thing? Europe.*
Oh, and you can get food too. Fancy-sounding food like “croques” and “tartines.” Ooh la la.**
I really dug the atmosphere at this place. It was quiet and cozy with friendly staff and chill vibes.
I wasn’t familiar with the grading system — I think it was based on the Fontainebleau bouldering grades, with seven levels of difficulty from “child” to something like “really freakin’ hard” (in French, of course). This was kind of freeing because we didn’t have any V-goals hanging over our heads. We just climbed until we burned out, and it was a good day.
Some things I noticed about the Arkose crew, which may not constitute any consistent differences between the American and French climbing cultures but, rather, are freestanding observations drawn from a single personal experience:
1. Nobody was “powering through.” Seriously. I didn’t get on a single climb that required me to blast off into space with the strength of a thousand flying oxen. Everything was tech-y.
Now, I didn’t try any of the hardest problems, and there’s a chance some hidden dynos got past me. But it really seemed like everybody at this gym had to use their beta-smarts.
2. Everybody used the changing room. Except for us. We were in cute tourist clothes for the morning, but we changed into quick-dry leggings and neon sports bras before getting on the metro because that’s what you wear to the gym. Well apparently, just 'cause you wear it at the wall doesn't mean you wear it to the wall.
Turns out these posh city dwellers wear real clothes in transit and save the gym attire for the gym. Oops. I had wondered about the conspicuous lack of Parisian norts…
3. People spoke French. Duh. I was a little bummed that the language barrier kept us from bonding with the Frenchfolk, but a little beta exchange did occur, and I got a couple of “Allez, allez”s. But also…
4. It was really quiet. Which was nice. Everybody was super calm. But it was kind of strange being surrounded by men and not hearing a single grunt. The closest I got were my own little struggle-squeaks.
I suppose some beta spraying may have occurred — in hushed voices, with minimal hand movements — but it was probably in French. Because, again, duh.
After leaving the gym, we put our tourist clothes back on and embarked on a quest for the perfect Eiffel Tower pic. During our journey, we discovered a little fitness area by the Seine River, complete with tiny rock walls. So cute! We played.
photo cred, as per yooj, to Mackenzie Taylor Photography So now we must be ready for Fontainebleau, right? I hope so, ‘cause we just got into Font proper, and we’re setting off at o’ dark thirty to beat some of the heat. We’ve got a guidebook, a new brush, and a rented crash pad — fingers chalked and crossed.
*Other unexpected alcohol sightings in Europe include shelves of liquor at like every gelatería ever, Parisian old ladies sipping beer at breakfast, and a kid drinking rosé from a bottle on the Paris metro.
**I actually heard a French lady say this yesterday. It was to me, about her little dog, whom she also called “très mignonne.” <3
This majestic beast is named Bananas. All photo cred to Sista Fran.
I like to think that New Year's at Rocktown is now a thing. We went last year, and yesterday, we went again — although we rolled in pretty late post-NYE-ing. January 1st is probably the only day I will ever be OK with leaving at 7 a.m. for a climbing trip. Until I move somewhere with climbing less than three hours away, I guess. Which hopefully will be soonish but you know.
Anyway, this time, Sista Fran got to come! Taylor has been climbing for longer than I have, but she had to take a bunch of time off and stays so busy she had never made it outside. It was really exciting getting to show her around Rocktown, which I think is a pretty epic first taste of outdoor bouldering.
In the weeks leading up to this particular trip (during which every day I had off was a day when it rained >:[ ), I for some reason imagined our crew as the only one in the park. I dunno, I guess I thought the rest of the South's climbers would be sleeping off hangovers? Well, I was wrong, and there were tons of people at the crag. Fortunately, they all turned out to be lovely folks full of friendly beta and encouragement, and they had dogs. So that was great.
Don't you love that girl's hat? She has strong fingers and a little dog named Rumi.
Since the Orb area was packed when we arrived, we headed to some apparently classic other climbs to warm up. One was called El Clásico, but I don't recall which one it was or what the other thing we climbed was called. They were both kinda highbally for my tastes, but Taylor was pretty fearless on them. Still, I was excited when I finally got to show her my favorite zeros and ones in the Orb area at the end of the day.
More joy. And Sam. And Sam's hat.
Since we really only had about seven hours of good climbing time, we didn't go all over the place like we otherwise might have. The guys worked on Golden Harvest (V10) and The Orb (V8), and Lucy and I projected The Hobbit (V5), Golden Showers (V5), and Soap on a Rope (V4) — all of which I think we can send in another session or two. I worked on them with Elaine a couple of weeks ago, and I am more psyched on these three problems than on anything else I've tried, ever. I < 3 slopers!
I found myself feeling unreasonably relieved at the end of the day (which by the way was perfect and ended with vegan pizza at Mellow Mushroom) when I realized that with the exception of a single bloody pinky, I had not injured myself. You see, a year ago yesterday I fell while attempting what would become my first V3, Super Mario, and sprained my ankle. It wasn't really that bad, but that was when I first developed a teensy fear of falling. (It reached the ludicrous proportions we now know after my first bad lead fall, but we can talk about that later.) My ankle is still swollen... maybe I should be worried about that? Anyway. I didn't get hurt, and I'm happy about that, because maybe it means I broke some kind of curse under which the climbing gods would otherwise have me dwell.
I really think my pull-up obsession (I'm up to eight!) is starting to pay off. Not in the ways I thought it would — lock offs are still just ugh — but my abs are definitely stronger, and static-but-strengthy movement is way more possible than it was a few months ago. I so recommend pull-ups to any girl (or, I guess, person) trying to get stronger fast.
Do you have new year's resolutions? I am very pro-resolution, any time of year. I have a bunch, but they don't have anything to do with climbing. I'll tell them to you anyway, though, because this seems like a good spot for a list:
1. Be more of an adult. This means wear "real clothes," budget better, spend my time wisely, and wear makeup when I feel like it.
2. Make more music, see more music. It's always been a huge part of my life, except recently, and I miss it a lot.
3. Don't say "no" without a reason. I'm in the terrible habit of turning people down when they ask me to do something simply because it wasn't part of how I originally envisioned my evening. Or saying that I'll go to a show or something and then not because my bed is so cozy or it's cold outside or I don't wanna put on pants or whatever. And I just need to start going.
I don't want to make resolutions about climbing. I'd rather see what happens. I know I'm working hard and that's how you progress. But I'm also realizing climbing can't be my number one priority right now; I've got to make money and study and apply for jobs and graduate and all that.
But I'm not worried : ) 2015 is off to a great start — I climbed at my favorite place with some of my favorite people yesterday, and today Taylor and I started Yoga with Adriene's 30 Days of Yoga. Tomorrow, I'll finish up an article for Flagpole, and I might paint my nails post-gym!
Oh, and did I mention I cleaned my room? It was an ankle-trapping minefield before, but now it is yoga-ready and smells like macaroons. < 3