The Completely Non-Comprehensive Guide to Fontainebleau Bouldering
OK, this post has nothing to do with Ukraine, or trail running, or 5x5x5, and barely anything to do with starting an apparel brand - other than the fact that I was wearing Mill & Mountain stuff (and it did great, by the way) – but it is something I did recently so let’s leave it at that!
Fontainebleau, France is an internationally known area for bouldering (the kind of climbing people do on relatively small rocks, without any ropes). Known as “Font” for English speakers, and “Bleau” for the French, it’s always a place I wanted to visit. Since I happened to be in the area a few weeks ago, that’s what I did.
Somehow, I envisioned a small area that was immediately adjacent to the road and close to a château. Um, it wasn’t like that at all! (At least not for me – although it turns out that there are some boulders in the town.) In any case it was a super awesome place, and totally worth a visit … and it's worth a repeat visit for me, since I barely scratched the service of what this huge area has to offer.
Where Is It? If you happen to find yourself flying into Paris, renting a car, and driving south-southeast for a few hours – then Fontainebleau will be on the way. If bouldering‘s your thing, it’s totally worth a visit! I did NOT do enough research beforehand about where the best bouldering was, but I also know from climbing in many different locations that finding the best rock generally take more than one visit – and this was no exception.
My French is pretty limited… I was asking people this question: “Ou est le rochers?“ – which basically means “where are the rocks?“ – and honestly that didn’t work half-bad. It also helps that my wife speaks French really well, although her climbing-specific vocabulary is rahther limited. Anyway, “ou est le rochers?” actually got us to one of the main areas, and we found quite a bit of rock near an amazing gorge. I found it later the gorge was called the Gorge of Apremont, and I’m pretty sure we were an area called Bas Cuvier which turns out to be one of the main areas and one of the first areas where people did a lot of bouldering.
Specifics. If you want tips on specific problems/grades/etc., The Completely Non-Comprehensive Guide to Fontainebleau Bouldering is definitely not the place to be. (Try Mountain Project instead.) But I can tell you that if you take the A5 or A6 highway south of Paris towards Fountainbleau and orient yourself towards the Foret de Fontainebleau (Fontainebleau Forest), you’ll find tons of climbing. The D607 road between Barbizon and Fontainbleau is where you’ll find the Gorge of Apremont and the Bas Cuvier area is close by. Again, Mountain Project (see map here) has great info and details.
The Rock. Pretty fine-grained sandstone, not too hard on the skin. Lots of slopers. What I found didn’t have great landings but there are so many problems here I’m sure they are plenty of problems that do have great landings. Given that I flew in and had rented a small car I definitely didn’t have a crash pad. Apparently there are places to rent a pad in the town (look here for some tips). All I had were my climbing shoes and a pair of Mill & Mountain pants I was trying not to beat up too badly since I only brought two pairs of pants for the week. Hmm, they got pretty dirty ...
Anyway, that’s about it! It’s a phenomenal area. I gotta go back. If you happen to be in the area and wanting to visit a place it’s been called “the spiritual home of bouldering,” definitely check it out!