I brought up Partage a week ago and it reminded me of a reflection I wrote about the experience. I gave it to La Sportiva to put on their webpage but it was never posted. I figured I would post it here. Also, I put together a slide show of images of my climbing the problem taken by Stephan Denys. Here's the slide show and below is my reflection on the ascent. At the bottom is a photo of me on a 7c arete near Partage that I flashed earlier that day.
Partage 8a+ (photos: Stephan Denys)
(Note: I wrote this just after returning from my France trip last March)
I just got back from an amazing two week trip in France. I spent the first part in Fontainebleau and the second part in the South of France, mainly at a new sandstone bouldering area called Annot. I met up with Tony Lamiche there and he gave me a great tour of the climbing. The trip was memorable for many reasons, but climbing-wise, the highlight for me was flashing an 8a+(V12) arete in Font called Partage. When I first heard about this problem, probably 7 years ago, it was touted as one of the best problems in the world - one of the select five star lines. Though I visited Font briefly a few years back, I never got to see the problem and so it remained a mystery to me. Seeing the problem in person was one of the main priorities for this trip. I wasn't sure if I would climb on it because I knew it was hard and my time in Font would be short.
The day I arrived in France, I went to see the problem and was impressed by the purity of the blunt arete. I was inspired to climb but was tired from the travel and it was raining slightly. The next day I climbed at other areas to get used to the unique style required for Font climbing. On the second climbing day, we visited Butiers, the area where Partage lives, and I climbed many cool problems I had never tried including two 7c flashes and a great 7b+ highball called The Master's Edge. Towards the end of the day, I decided to head to Partage just to play on the moves - I figured that I should at least see what it was all about. I spent a while setting the pads up, fondling the starting holds, and imaging the strange body positions that would be required to make the slopey arete features usable. The thought of actually flashing the route was not a realistic consideration, but I figured I'd try my hardest on my first attempt because there was really no reason not to. I gripped the starting pinch, placed the first delicate heel hook and pulled on to try the first move. I reached the right hand hold and it felt terrible but I knew it would be better if I could move my body to the opposite side of the arete. With an on-the-spot invented move akin to a sideways mantle, I managed to get my body to the left side of the arete and made the move to the next hold. To my surprise, the hold felt decent. I realized then that I was through perhaps the hardest moves and actually had a chance to flash the problem. I had to quickly suppress this thought and focus on the climbing. I made the next move to a bad sloper just below a good pocket. As my hand slid down the sloper, I was able to reposition my foot in a place that would allow me to reach the pocket. In a completely focused state of mind, I pulled up and stabbed my hand into the pocket. I stuck it and just needed to pull the exit moves to finish the problem (and to not take a bad fall as I was pretty high now). I was completely surprised by the ascent and at the same time overwhelmed with a feeling of personal accomplishment. This was certainly one of my best climbing efforts - it felt amazing to connect every move perfectly while pushing myself to the limit of my ability. The involuntary noises that came out of me while climbing literally had the neighborhood dogs barking. It was a special experience to climb this amazing problem I had known about for so long in this style. Attached are some photos of the actual send though they don't quite do the climb justice.
The next day, Tony and I climbed at Cuisinere and I was fortunated enough to climb Karma, another classic font 8a+ that had been on my list for a long time. After unsuccessfully throwing ourselves at Hale Bopp, we finished the day on the archetypal Font sloper problem, La Chose 7c+. The following day, day four of climbing for me, Tony and I tried a cool 8a roof called Opium. We tried all sorts of beta, but nothing worked well for me and eventually I gave up. Shortly after I stopped climbing, Tony figured out a better sequence and sent the problem - I was too wasted however to give it another try.
Though my time in Font was short, I was blessed with perfect climbing weather and couldn't have ask for more. After a night spent in Paris, I headed south with Tony. We cruised into the Alps just as a storm dumped a foot of new snow. Though our mission was climbing, we couldn't pass up a day of skiing. Tony gave me the tour of his local resort and we found amazing untracked gullies, woods, and bowls. It was a great challenge for me to keep up with Tony - he's an amazing skier. From the Alps, we headed southwest to the small town of Annot. Here we spent the rest of the trip climbing at a newer sandstone area that Tony had helped develop. The climbing was similar to Font but different in certain ways. All in all, it was a fun area with many great established problems and tons of potential. Hopefully I'll be publishing a photo essay soon in one of the climbing mags that compares Font and Annot.