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Fontainebleau Trip Report

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.”

Click on the photo to see all of our pictures

Saw this for 10+ hours

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…

Look we didn’t forget to pack April!

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.

Where should we start? – Franchard Isatis

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.

Paul – Getting Schooled on Noir Desir

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.

Our Gite

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.

Justin on Eclipse at Cul de Chien

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!

April and Paul

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.

Fontainebleau Chateau – Library

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.

April – 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.

Manu, April and Paul after the rainy run

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.

Paris Metro

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!

Paul – 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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3 Responses to “Fontainebleau Trip Report”

  1. Stefan Says:

    Seems like you had a great time. Just a few housekeeping comments, to add to your account, and to provide some additional context for future visitors.

    Although many people (especially visitors) are using chalk, and sometimes even loads of it, chalk is to be handlked with care. I spent a year in Font doing my MBA in 1999 (going climbing during the lunch break) and just went back for another visit last week.

    It’s appaling to see how trashed areas like Isatis have become. There is chalk all over the place. People don’t seem to realize that you can climb in Font with very little chalk, loads of the easier stuff can be climbed with no chalk at all.
    If you do use chal, pls do use it responsibly, i.e. try to do without tick marks (or be gentle enough to clean them after afterwards), and clean the problem with a brush (but no wire brush, which is too abrasive for the sandstone rock). The masses of people streaming into the forest are diluting the standard practices that helped preserve the forest and the boulders during the last 80+ years.

    There’s a chalk-replacement called Pof. This is actually the same raisin as used for violin bows. If you choose to use pof (wrapped into linnen or cotton), use it for your hands and don’t use it diretly on the rock. Use the tail end of your pof to clean the rock / your shoes.

    Lastly, do bring a carpet, and make it a point to clean your shoes. Clean shoes make your life so much easier out there. You also avoid polishing the rock, which happens if you use sandy shoes on the rock (take a look at some of the easier problems at Cuvier and you will realize what I mean).

    So far there are no major access problems in Font, apart from some smaller areas where erosion has become a problem.

    With the soaring poularity of Font cragging habbits are being imported into this sensitive environment. If you do read some of the local guidebooks you will find hints pointing about the above. However, apparently very few visitors seem to read this stuff, or if they do don’t care. Fun is everything. So pls spread the word. The forest is a magic place, truely unique, and sensitive. We need to care.

  2. Paul Says:


    Hello. Thank you for your comment on our website. I’ve been asked by several of my friends about the usage of chalk in Fontainebleau, especially when I’ve been talking about our recent trip. I will be sure to spread the education about minimizing impact to the forest. I really appreciate your concerns. From what you’ve read on our site you might have realized that we frequent Hueco Tanks. Access is a major issue there. Mainly, it is because of the impact to the land that is caused when thousands of climbers and non-climbers come on a yearly basis. As a guide there, I always try to educate people about their impact. I will additionally educate people about impact in Fontainebleau (if they are planning a trip or ask).

    You mentioned tick marks too. You wouldn’t believe the insane number of tick marks at Hueco! Since it hasn’t rained that much throughout the last several months they are all over the place. I’ve been trying to tell people…at the least, brush them off. It’s crazy.

    Thanks again for your comment.

  3. Stefan Says:

    Paul, thanks. I climbed in Hueco in 1994 and loved it (on my way from Potrero Chico in Mexico to Datil and Red Rocks). I was stunned at how physical the bouldering there is, especially when compared with Bleau.

    I also remember the access problems starting soon thereafter. It now seems to be back to a manageable situation for climbers, which is nice.

    Btw, bleau.info also has a few words on the topic. Largely in line with my ramblings above.


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