A steep wall with marble-like crimps in a vertical crack, “Le Marbre Brisé” is number 54 on the red circuit of Isatis. The first time I did the climb, my method was static, using a painful fingerlock in the upper part of the crack. It required more effort than the grade would suggest but it was the only way to avoid a big, dynamic move which I couldn’t do. Jamming my fingers in, I imagined I was Beth Rodden on her iconic “Meltdown” and the thought amused me a great deal!
A few years later, I was producing a photoshoot with Jacky Godoffe and Fanny Gibert, and I was lucky enough to steal a few moments of climbing with the French legends. I knew both to be incredible athletes, but I was surprised that they managed to teach me the technique for the dynamic move on “Le Marbre Brisé”!
I love the climb not only for its clean, aesthetic lines, but also because it can be done with two incredibly distinct but equally satisfying methods.
(2) “Fake Pamplemousse” 7c+ | Brione
Adding “Fake Pamplemousse” to my list might be a bit of a diversion from climbing’s etiquette as climbers tend not to publicly discuss lines that they haven’t yet done. The Pamplemousse has so far evaded me during two trips to Brione, but it is a stunning piece of rock with waves of differently coloured granite gently flowing through its overhang. After a powerful yet delicate series of moves, with a crux slap-bang in the middle of the climb, the last move is a dynamic jump to a jug (at least if you’re short) over a landing that I find a little intimidating. Putting the whole climb together is a big challenge but the quality of the rock makes the effort particularly pleasant.
Even having not completed the climb, I still count it among my most favourite pieces of rock – I have already had a few great sessions on it and there are more to come.
(3) “Blue Sky of Mine” 6a | Magic Wood
A perfect, eight-metre-tall boulder in a beautiful alpine forest, “Blue Sky of Mine” undeniably deserves the accolade of a king line, a term coined by Chris Sharma to describe mind-bogglingly good climbs. These are very rare and usually elite-level, but Blue Sky weighs in at 6a, or V3 in American money, making it accessible to a large number of climbers.
There are few better feelings than waking up on a crisp Magic Wood morning, walking to the boulder, and then gently, slowly, almost sleepily making your way up “Blue Sky of Mine”, accompanied only by the dawn chorus.
(4) “Mine de Rien assis” | 7c, Fontainebleau
Cruxes close to the ground might not be everybody’s cup of tea, but I like the pure physical challenge without worrying about the fall. “Mine de Rien” stand start is a part of the red circuit at 91.1 and, for its modest grade of 6a/b, is a fairly tricky number.
The sit start adds three hand moves and an intricate foot sequence (again, there’s different beta options depending on one’s body size), and it is surprisingly powerful despite the shallow angle of the overhang. Bringing your left hand into the face-high undercut is a rare kind of deadpoint that doesn’t extend the body. The hold is caught at the very last moment before your weight pulls you down in the split second when the body is static – no longer going up but not yet falling. These kinds of moves are usually done when reaching for a hold far above a climber’s head, which makes “Mine de Rien assis” very interesting and one of my firm favourites.
(5) “Rich Bitch” 7a | Cala Mitjana, Mallorca
I love almost everything about deep water soloing (or psicobloc) in Mallorca, but “Rich Bitch” deserves a special mention. It might not be the best line on the island, and it is certainly not the tallest – its eight metres of height make it shorter than some highball boulders. However, Cala Mitjana is a very mellow crag and a great place to introduce any novices to DWS. Every time I visit Mallorca, it is the first sector I head to – the water of the small bay is almost never rough, and the little climbs are perfect to reacquaint yourself with moving above the sea.
“Rich Bitch” has a very fun crux move: a small jump between jugs that requires a lot of commitment, especially from shorter climbers. Although the dyno is barely a few metres over the sea, it always feels quite exciting! Going for it, failing, splashing into the waves, and climbing back out for another go is the essence of what I enjoy about psicobloc – pure fun. And, if that wasn’t enough, a little sandy cove with a stereotypically cute beach bar is only a short walk away.