The first boulder to be conquered is always the worst; they said. Our muscles definitely would agree there!! In almost disbelief, we regularly found ourselves letting out a heavy sigh of relief at reaching the top. Did we really just climb that?? What felt like one hell of a climb, was really nothing higher than a flight of stairs. But in that struggle, it opened up the opportunity which led us to embrace our new found hobby. With open arms, feeling fear, anger, frustration, blood sweat and tears... We were bouldering — no helmet, rope or carabiners in sight. eek!
Starting back in January 2017, we took an interest in climbing. Using the word "climbing" loosely ...because if we are honest, we didn't really have a clue what we were doing or getting ourselves into - let alone knew we would end up traveling to satisfy the adrenalin rush we got from it... we decided to take our 4 month indoor 'sensible' climbing to Fontainebleau.
Located south of Paris, you will find the charming town of Fontainebleau. It is argued that it offers some of the best bouldering in Europe - might just have to have a few more climbing trips to prove that one (??)
Sandstone rocks towering up, warped and eroded into weird forms - and if that wasn't enough - these eye catching formations are surrounded by beautiful forests of silver birch, pine, beech and oak. Forests lure you into it's captivating beauty. If you didn't find yourself itching to clamber up the rocks - you’ll find yourself able to enjoy beautiful scenery. The smell of the pine trees with the soft sandy flooring certainly added to the experience... Not to mention a bloody lovely distraction from pained squashed toes after squeezing them into tight climbing shoes.
As we didn't really know to much about the place, we meandered at a leisurely pace, climbing first the 'nicer' looking boulders ( because with no rope even the smallest of boulders looks like one hell of a climb) to eventually tackling the tougher ones as the day and our confidence developed.
Obviously there are specific circuits which have been created and color-coded, sadly not so clear due to its popularity.. but what marks remain, do help to identify the skill level required to complete each so you don’t have to worry about finding your way around... Saving the worrying for climbing your arse up the rock and safely getting back down!
Three days turned into five - we were becoming more confident. As the trip developed we found ourselves having a much better mindset; focused, methodical, and infallible... I think we were having fun! Imagine being able to assess and accept the risks of a possible failure and progress as though you had no doubt you would succeed. Climbing gave us this.
Starting with the iconic boulder, L’Elephant, and the Trois Pignons, and finishing up with in another region just north about 15minutes drive named Cuvier, Bas Cuvier, Route de la Solitude,
That's a point, the areas are pretty spread out. Like really spread out. Lost count how many times we got lost. So having a car to get around is ideal - given the amount of kit, food and water you will need. I'm sure you could hire a bicycle from the train station in Fontainebleau, and it is generally flat terrain, but it still is going to be a pain to get around. Pretty sure the hard core people have hitchhiked with a pad... could add a slight edge to the trip, but the chances of a friendly climber with enough room for you and your pad would most likely happen with a low probability.
Few things we learnt along the way...
Persevering can really pay off, and in hindsight, trying to save yourself for the next day is Ok. If your clearly nackard it isn't that you failed or the easy way of saying that 'I give up'.
Try to forget about the grading (if you can even get your head around that) and understand what the problem requires and enjoying solving the puzzle... You might even learn a little something.
Sport tape is a life saver. Period! Stock up because you will need it.
Font can be overwhelming because there are so many boulders to choose from. Seriously - 3-5 different color grades with at least 40 plus routes. That is a lot of climbing! Don’t run around trying to climb them all; we picked a couple of spots that had a few rocks close by and slowly worked at them, one by one.
WATER, WATER, WATER. * Enough said*
Google - do your research - thats all part of the fun.....
A good place for the first time visitor to start reading up on Fontainebleau bouldering is the useful and also comprehensive article on the European Climbing.