Well what can i say about Fontainebleau?? I could try and sum it up in just a few words but that wouldn’t be right. Font can be best described as ‘over-hyped’ or to be blunt ‘shite’. Its the worst place i’ve ever been and………okay i’ll stop in case you dont realise that i am in fact joking! Font is AWESOME!! Awesome i tells ya!
Me and my bredrin Tom set off from Prestwick (which is ‘pure, dead, brilliant’ by the way) with high hopes for the ‘bouldering mecca of the world’, cos after all who hasn’t heard of the famous Foret de Fontainebleau (non-climbers excluded). Unfortunately we got so caught up in the 8th wonder of the world that is the beautiful Paris that we almost forgot about Font altogether…..at least thats probably what Dom and Laura (of Squamish fame) thought given the fact we were a good 3 hours late in meeting them having taken an ‘uber-walk’ through the city! Whoopsies!
We got down to Font pretty easily, arriving around early evening, though still with more than enough time to get a quick climb in and become accustomed with the area – which we duly did after getting to the campsite and sorting out the tentage situation. We did however get a little bit lost on the way to Gorge aux Chats and ended up at the not-quite-the-area-we-wanted area known to locals as Chateauveaux (?). It was okay. I mean of course that with hindsight and relative to the other areas we visited it was okay, though at the time it was amazing! IS amazing! And thats the thing, even the supposed ‘lesser’ areas of Font are actually really, really good!
When we ended up at a ‘decent’ area, such as 95.2, 91.1 or Roche aux Sabots, we could be seen running round like the proverbial ‘dog with 6 dicks’, trying every cool looking thing in sight. This is all well and good provided you get around the boulders so fast that you neglect to think about grades. Let me explain. Font is nails hard, or at least it feels like it should be, especially when you’ve had a big day and feel totally worked only to find that the problems you’ve struggled on weigh in at around 4a or 4b!! After a few days of coming to terms with this you soon realise that English 6b can be anywhere between Font 4b and 6b (apparently – though this could have been said to make us feel better!) I reckon you’d want to be going there for at LEAST a week as there’s something for everyone, slabs, aretes, roof climbing, one-move wonders, 60-move traverses (maybe?!)……i don’t know why i’m going on about this it’s Font after all, if you’re still reading this dribble you should know what i’m talking about! If not then go to Font (and in particular La Musadiere [?] campsite) purely for the hot showers!! You could easily spend at LEAST a week under them as well!
We could of course blame the grading ‘culture shock’ on our still getting adjusted to the diet we had adopted…namely bread with cheese. France doesn’t appear to do camping gas, or if they do they make a good job of hiding it and neglecting to tell you where it’s hidden! So we were without any means for creating hot food for the whole 10 days. I have to say though….it takes a looooong time to get bored of cheese and bread (see cheese break below)! Even when 500g of cheese does cost you 10 euros after a bit of a ‘lost in translation’ moment….whoops!
To let you know, the best place to get food, in fact that only place to get food, is Milly la Foret, about 20 mins walk (via the hole in the fence route) west of the camping area. It’s tres typicile (when in Rome) of France i.e. lots of baguettes, berets and birds (both kinds). Really nice cafes doing the usual expresso’s, cafe au lait and americano’s (!)…….a word of warning though, make sure the waitress FULLY understands if you make the mistake of asking for an americano. Americano to us in the UK = coffee with milk, americano to those in France = pint of gin (no shit)!
Once properly fed and versed in the arts of Font we got down to what our friends over the water would call ‘crushing’. Dom being from the ‘Capital of Crush’ itself duly began despatching some classics, notably the famous Cul du Chien roof in the area of the same name. There’s a lot of whack beta flying about for that problem, all revolving around a heel hook on the slopey jug by the peg (yeah its true there’s a peg in a boulder problem!). Now there’s three problems with this a) the peg gets in the way, b) the slopey jug is nothing short of a mirror and c) it doesnt work so dont waste your time. Instead it seems best for all shapes and sizes of people – cos climbing accepts you all 🙂 – to just smear a foot on the back wall, stick your fingers into the little pocket, lean waaaaay back and latch the MASSIVE pocket on the lip before campussing (if you’re a Yank) or styling (if you’re a Euro) your way to glory (a la Dom below).
With this in mind we took to the circuits in earnest, though it’ll take another trip for any of us to actually finish one! Its not that they’re particularly long or complicated its just that laziness, at least in our case, tends to set in around about the ‘No.20’ mark (often before that) and so we’d just give up and eat some more cheese. Also it’s REALLY hard not to get distracted by other problems on different circuits, especially when every single problem is a banger (like the 6a arete below).
The ‘scene’ at the campsite in Font is very different to that of Squamish for example. Basically it doesn’t exist on the level that you would perhaps think. I guess a lot of climbers believe the myth about needing cars to make Font possible and so spend their time rallying about the woods in their hire cars from their expensive gites. Thus (oooo – English A-Level don’t you know) the campsite lacked what i like to call the ‘buzz of psyche’ that others i’ve been to have had. It didnt take long to meet some people though and get some banter going. As Dom says (www.climb8a.blogspot.com) the stories about the now legendary ‘Homeless Dan’ and meeting up with a fellow ex-USMCer (small world) made the place that much better.
I wouldn’t change anything if i were to go back tomorrow. As we proved you don’t need a car and you don’t need a stove (you do need to like cheese though) to make the experience any more rewarding. It a top class venue worthy of the hype just watch out for the poff!