Area Pro­file

Fon­tainebleau, France

Gripped - - CONTENTS - Photos Son­nie Trot­ter

There are hun­dreds of boul­der­ing prob­lems and more than 100 years of climb­ing his­tory at Fon­tainebleau, which is about an hour south of Paris. It’s often de­scribed as the crown jewel of boul­der­ing. There’s a pro­tected for­est, farms, rolling hills and fun for the whole fam­ily. The unique sand­stone boul­ders have been sculpted by the el­e­ments over time and of­fer prob­lems at ev­ery grade.

Fon­tainebleau climb­ing ar­eas are col­lo­qui­ally known as Font to English climbers and as Bleau to French. At the end of the 1800s, Al­dolphe Joanne, the pres­i­dent of the Club Alpin Français, in­vited climbers to train in Font. Be­fore World War II, most of the ar­eas that are pop­u­lar to­day were al­ready well known to Parisian climbers. The 1936 French ex­pe­di­tion to the Karako­ram in­cluded sev­eral Bleausards

(Font climbers). Bleausards Robert Paragot, Lu­cien Bérar­dini and René Fer­let made the first as­cent of the south face of Aconcagua in 1954. The first guide­book ap­peared in 1945, writ­ten by Mau­rice Martin, pro­vid­ing a map and routes with their names and rat­ings. The first painted route was in 1947

by Fred Ber­nick. The stan­dard­i­s­a­tion of route colour by dif­fi­culty was yel­low=pd, or­ange=ad, blue=d, red=td, black=ed and white=ed+.

Over the decades, waves of strong climbers have con­tin­ued to push the lim­its of hard boul­der­ing. Grades are just a guide, so try not to get too hung up on them. Some think that grades in Font are stiff, but once you’re

into the style and move­ment, then they don’t seem too hard. If not, just re­mem­ber that Adam On­dra fell off La Marie Rose in Cu­vier graded V3. Of course he prob­a­bly just had some sand on his shoe.

There are tech­ni­cal slabs and slick slop­ers that lead to burly man­tels and funky topouts. There are over­hangs, arêtes, dynos, crimps, pil­lars, roofs and more to be climbed. There are so many trail sys­tems that be­tween ses­sions you can walk around aim­lessly ex­plor­ing re­mote boul­ders. Ev­ery climber learns some­thing from the climb­ing at Font, from how to read slop­ers to how to shift weight to bet­ter roll on to a top. You can fly to Paris, rent a car and be climb­ing in the most fa­mous boul­der­ing area in the world in no time.

The best time to go is in April, when the leaves start to bud and the cold nights are in the past. The weather is far more sta­ble than in the dead of win­ter or even in March. The sand­stone is frag­ile, so bring a small towel to clean your shoes. Only use soft-bris­tled boar’s hair brushes and never leave tick marks. Re­spect pri­vate prop­erty signs, stay away from hunt­ing ar­eas and al­ways clean up af­ter your­self. If you don’t bring a crash pad, then you can rent one. The land­ings are often flat and sandy, but you’ll want a pad.

Font is a great place to visit with the fam­ily, and there are even small boul­ders that the kids can climb on. Whether you’re look­ing for a place to project hard prob­lems or for some­where that you can visit with the fam­ily on spring break, con­sider trav­el­ling to the world-fa­mous boul­ders of Fon­tainebleau.

Right: Fitz Caldwell get­ting the spot on the crux move

Left: Son­nie Trot­ter pro­ject­ing a burly prob­lem

Above: Learn­ing to chalk-up at a young age

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