Farewell Fontainebleau26 November 2015
I’ve just spent 3 weeks in Fontainebleau, the world’s most celebrated bouldering region. For those of you unaware of the sport, it is exactly the same as rock climbing, except you never climb high enough to warrant the need of safety ropes. Though you do very much benefit from a crashpad, to protect your ankles and elbows, etc.
Most people get into bouldering through indoor climbing. I did. I’ve spent many hours in great warehouses following the coloured holds artificially restricting me to a certain route up a wall. So the culture shock of climbing for weeks outside was great: the fresh air, wildlife, forests, sunsets, the feel of the rock on your skin (and the cuts and blisters).
For other climbers coming to Font for the first time I’d just like to spell out how huge the region is. From my experience back in the UK, finding some outdoor boulders usually meant a clump of five or six rocks or a single length of cliff. Font has in the order of perhaps 100 or more such ‘clumps’ within a radius of some 30km. What’s more, each clump is way bigger than any single area I’ve ever been to in the UK. The sheer volume of climbing is incredible, enough for an entire lifetime. In fact a number of times I just felt in disbelief at the uncanniness of how much there was.
I chose to cycle and walk mostly, but cycling can be tricky on the forest paths and most of the roads are big and scary. I can see why people recommend a car. In the end it turned out using http://bleau.info sufficed for all our guide needs. Most areas have circuits, which are marked, numbered and coloured according to difficulty. They’re convenient because it means you can just climb at a certain level without having to look at the guide to see how difficult a problem is. I found myself mostly doing orange and blues, occasionally completing some reds and once in a while trying unmarked routes to later find out their grade in the guides.