Inspired by the success of people like Alex Honnold, bouldering and indoor climbing is big business in the cities at the moment. If you count yourself as someone who’s very much on that bandwagon, it might be time to take all the techniques you’ve picked up on artificial walls in converted warehouses and see how you get on outside. With that in mind, where better to see how you get on bouldering outside than the Forest of Fontainebleau.
“Over the last few decades, Fontainebleau… has become synonymous with bouldering”
Over the last few decades, Fontainebleau Forest in France has become synonymous with bouldering and it now stands tall as one of the world’s most popular climbing destinations. Known colloquially as either ‘Font’ or ‘Bleau’, depending on who you’re talking to, bouldering began in these parts at the end of the 19th century as a training base of sorts for Alpine climbing. Here’s some useful information to help you plan your trip there in the 21st century.
How To Get There
To make the most of your trip to Fontainebleau, you’re going to want a car on hand. This is because the best spots are spread out over a big area. Without wheels, you’ll be unable to maximise your time in the ‘Font’. And so, realistically, it boils down to you either renting a car from Orly Airport (south of Paris, 40 minutes away) or Charles de Gaulle Airport (north east of Paris, roughly one hour and 15 minutes away). These airports are serviced by at least some of the following airlines: British Airways, Flybe, CityJet, and Easyjet. Ryanair do flights to Paris Beauvais Airport, but it’s an hour north of Paris and well over two hours from Font.
If you’re in the mood for a proper road trip, and are coming from the UK, you can of course take your own car across the Channel with the help of Euro Tunnel or ferry operators such as P&O and DFDS. From London to Fontainebleau by car, you’re looking at a drive time just under seven hours.
Things To Do In Fontainebleau
We’ve not exactly been subtle about this, have we? The main reason you want to go to Fontainebleau is for the world class bouldering. The forest, which lies 50km south of Paris, is littered with thousands of sandstone boulders of various shapes and sizes. The area offers over 20,000 problems – right across the grade level spectrum.
Font’s sandstone boulders serve up a variety of features: slopes, crimps, roofs, high-balls, rounded mantles, dynos, aretes, slabs, compression problems – you name it, this place has got them in abundance.
“Font’s sandstone boulders serve up a variety of features”
If you hate queueing up at the walls at your local indoor bouldering centre, you’ll love the scale of Fontainebleau. With a number of different bouldering areas to choose from, and so many boulders to tackle in each, it’s pretty easy to find your own patch of solitude. That being said, the more popular areas like Roche aux Sabots and Bas Cuvier do get busy during holidays and at the weekends so maybe tackle these spots mid-week if you want to make the most of them.
For those of you not really into bouldering, or maybe you are but you just like to mix it up with the outdoor activities a bit, you’ll no doubt be glad to know that Fontainebleau, with its 400km of marked paths, is also a great hiking destination. What’s more, you can also go mountain biking in these parts.