Tuesday March 14th:
We woke up at 4:15AM, loaded our crashpads, two backpacks and misc. carry-on bags into Courtney’s truck and were off to the airport. We checked in and by 6:30AM we were airborne. We arrived in Dallas at about 9:00AM. With eight hours to kill we studied some French, climbing guides and ate. At 5:30PM we were on our flight destined for Paris. We actually got a dinner on the plane and watched the movie “Best in Show.”
Wednesday March 15th:
It was amazing that we were even given breakfast on the plane in addition to our dinner. Well, maybe not that amazing considering how hungry April and I were after each meal. Anyway, at about 10:00AM we finally arrived in Paris. Grit and Marcus were outside customs waiting to greet us. We packed our stuff into Grit’s car (barely) and were off towards Fontainebleau. We had reservations to stay in a “mobile home” in the town of Milly La Foret, really close to the main bouldering areas. Turns out, it was really expensive for such a small place. But, at first we didn’t care. We were overwhelmed by everything and were dying to see the rocks and start climbing. By late afternoon we pulled up to Bas Cuvier (one of the most popular climbing areas) and started climbing. We didn’t even open our guide books (common most days) and just started climbing stuff that looked cool. The boulders seemed endless…
Thursday March 16th:
On Thursday we woke up a little bit recovered from the traveling. We co-ordinated with our friend Justin and his girl Mary Gwen to meet up at Franchard Isatis. We didn’t know what the place was going to be like but I’d have to say that it was one of my favorite places to climb on the whole trip. I really can’t go into detail about how cool it was (it would take forever) but at the least I can say there are tons of easy and hard problems that have some of the most fun sequences and holds I’ve ever experienced. The setting is very beautiful too. All the boulders are surrounded by dense forest. We later realized that this setting doesn’t help when you are anticipating the boulders drying off. 🙂 Justin my Fontainebleau coach, pointed out a super cool problem called “Beurre Marga.” It was really technical, mostly vertical and it was a true test to see if you can climb at Fontainebleau. I failed miserably!!! I tore up my arm, got mud all over myself and numerous attempts I couldn’t even pull back on the start of the problem. I swore, yelled, brushed the holds, tried and tried but I had to give up for the day, deciding that I would be back for a final exam towards the end of the trip.
Friday March 17th:
We…I keep saying we. Let me explain: Our Tucson friends, Vince, Tammy and Patrick (met in Tucson, lives in Connecticut, right?), our German friends Grit, Marcus and Manu, and our SLC friends Mary Gwen and Justin climbed together throughout the trip. So picture a lot of crashpads and a lot of good energy. It was cool being around a lot of psyched people.
Friday afternoon was a tease for April and I. Justin showed us some really cool, hard problems located in the Cuvier Rampart area. April was drooling over a ultra classic called Duroxmanie. I was drooling over “The Big Four.” Four hard, highball problems that were all classic and super different. A true test of a versatile climber’s abilities. Since we were feeling totally wasted from the first days of climbing and the afternoon was nearing an end we decided that we should look into finding another place to stay. The “mobile home” we were in wasn’t really working out so well. ha ha. For example: when you took a shower, you’d get burned and then frozen by ice cold water every 10 seconds, a cat pissed on our front porch every day, it was freezing cold inside, I broke our bed three times, just getting into it, etc….
To make a long story short Grit spoke some French, German and English and made arrangements for us to stay in what’s called a Gite, outside the town of etampes, west of Fountainebleau about 35 minutes. It sucked to give up our location but we wanted to experience a Gite like all of our friends. Plus, it was actually cheaper in the end.
Saturday March 18th:
Woke up Saturday morning nice and early to the smell of fresh cat piss on our front porch. Luckily we were out of there. Unluckily though…we didn’t know where our Gite was (long story). ha ha. We did one of the most amazing things ever that day. We pointed our car in the direction of where we thought the Gite was and we drove. Yeah, we drove for a couple hours looking and sometimes just admiring the French countryside but one of the most amazing things in my life
was when I said to Grit and April, “There it is…that’s our Gite.” I saw a sign, the house looked cool and thank God, it was the place!!! The owners welcomed us and by the pictures you’ll see that…yep…it was perfect. I can’t explain how we found it, pure luck.
Sunday March 19th:
Coach Justin said “L’Elepant it the place to be man. See you there.” So we were off to L’Elephant. Take a look at the pics and it’s pretty obvious where the name came from. This area was our first taste of a different forest floor. It was much more sandy than the other areas. The “black circuit” problems were really amazing there. April and Grit tried this one that was really fun. They didn’t send but made amazing progress on a hard, long move. In fact, they gathered the attention of some French guys who came over and tried the problem too. The French guys didn’t know much English so there wasn’t much to talk about. But, there was a lot of giggling, laughing and some common words were shared like “Fart,” “Hueco,” and “Come on!” “Allez.”
Later that day we moved to the area called Rocher Greau. I realized that the French people (the non-climbers) actually understand what it is that we are doing. They don’t look at us like we are crazy, carrying our crashpads (massage tables, beds, all the stupid names people in the US call them). Rocher Greau is an area situated very close to a town where tons of little kids and people are hanging out and enjoying the forest’s beauty. We tried a couple more cool problems but what I remember from that afternoon was the stop in the nearby bakery. Justin recommended this place that had the best freshly made bread I’ve ever had in my life. I won’t even try to describe it, just go…it was amazing!!!
We nearly ruined our feast (which Justin cooked that night) by eating so much bread but we had a good appetite from the full day of climbing.
Monday March 20th:
By Monday we were pretty cocky when it came to talking about weather. Again, we dodged the rain and managed to get a full day of climbing in. We went to Rocher aux Sabots and Cul de Chien. We attacked the circuit problems. When you do one cool problem you look to your side and see another one. It goes on and on. Each problem was so fun. I remember one that we did that was vertical. It had 1 or 2 holds on the face that were nearly impossible to hold on to. It was all about finding the perfect balance. When you got the perfect balance you had to commit and go for the top. Within a second you had to catch the lip of the problem or else you’d be taking the long plummit to the pad.
Tuesday March 21st:
Got to see Paris a little on Tuesday. Our plan was to chill until Manu came into Orly airport at 10PM so we walked around Paris. Paris is such and easy city to get around when you can understand how to ride the metro. We learned. And we managed to find Manu!
Wednesday March 22nd:
Rain! Ahhh. An excuse not to climb. Too bad for Manu who was psyched and ready to go but we were still tired and sore from the long climbing days at the start of our trip. To our benefit we had the chance to connect with the outside world and visit an Internet cafe. We also managed to see the Chateau in Fontainebleau. It was beautiful. In the pictures you’ll see one pic of the library. It is a long hallway of paintings on the curved ceiling with a globe at the forefront. I’m still impressed when I look back at the picture of that particular room.
Thursday March 23rd:
Weather was pretty good. It never rained hard enough to stop us. We managed to re-visit Bas Cuvier and try a million new problems. We also got to try stuff at the Cuiver Rampart and the super classic Duroxmanie.
Friday March 24th:
Rainy. But, we tried out the area called 95.2 which dries quickly. We spent the morning climbing, tired from the full day of climbing on Thursday. Got fully rained out in the afternoon.
Saturday March 25th:
Rain. No big deal though. We visited Barbizon and went for a stellar run in the French countryside near our Gite. Check out the pic of Manu, April and I. It’s the one where we look like wet rats outside our gite.
Sunday March 26th:
Paris day. We didn’t care what the weather was like. We had plans to go to Paris and see the sights. It rained most of the day but cleared up and got warm towards the end of the afternoon. We took the RER train from etampes to Paris and visited the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, the Jewish Quarter, and Montemartie. Definately not a real rest day. We were exhausted when we returned late Sunday night.
Monday March 27th:
Okay. After the rain and the day in Paris we were psyched to have one more day. The weather cooperated with us and it was perfect. Thank you! We spent the day at Rocher aux Sabot and Franchard Isatis. Remember I said I had to take my “final exam.” Well…I just barely passed. I sent Beurre Marga!
April, Grit and Manu showed their Fontainebleau technique by trying a bunch of red circuit problems. At the end of the day April showed me a problem she sent that reminded her of Hueco. Of course I had to try it. I think the problem really reminded us of home. We were torn between two paradises. We wanted to stay in Fontainebleau and keep climbing, spending time with good friends and experiencing the culture more. But our trip was nearing an end.
Tuesday March 28th:
Last day. Felt like crap from staying up late, traveled and traveled all day but made it back to Tucson safe and sound. Slept well, dreaming of climbing and planning our next visit.
I hope this summary helped to share some of the experiences we had in Fontainebleau, France. I would recommend that if you have the chance, go! It was such an amazing place. March is the time. Yeah, there’s a lot of rain but temps are really good and the friction is prime. The climbing is different, the ratings are different, the language, food, people and architecture are different. We got a taste of a different culture and we’re craving more. Our list of places to climb just grew and you can count on us taking some wild trips in the future. We just scratched the surface and saw the tip of the iceberg when it comes to World travel.
Of course we’ll be back to Fontainebleau, we’ve got unfinished business…
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