A Beginner's Guide To Bouldering In Fontainebleau
An hour’s drive south of Paris sits the town of Fontainebleau and one of the world’s best and biggest bouldering areas. A practice ground for 19th century French alpinists, the seemingly never-ending sandstone rocks became more and more popular with climbers flocking to the region for the high-quality stone and wide-range of problems.
Today, it remains as must-visit location attracting climbers from all over the world. This bouldering mecca is an amazing and somewhat ethereal place set in the forests surrounding the town and best of all it is only a few hours’ drive or a quick flight away from the UK.
How To Travel To Fontainebleau
There are plenty of low cost airlines that fly into Paris and its satellite airports that offer good deals, although you may get stung on haulage costs for your mat. One option is to rent a mat once you arrive at Font.
Loading up a car and driving from the UK is a great way to cut down on costs and once you arrive you can easily travel from spot to spot. Try to avoid travelling directly through Paris (it’s not fun) and be aware that motorway tolls can soon add up if you don’t have a few people to split them between.
The Eurostar from London to Paris is just over 2.30 hrs and from there you can rent a car or carry on by train to Fontainebleau Avon station (a further 45 mins).
- Le Pres (Grez sur Loing)
- Camping Le Lido (Moret-sur-Loing)
- Milly la Forêt (Trois Pignons bouldering area)
- Hotel Etap (Avon)
- Hotel Ibis (Font)
- Hotel F1 (Moret-sur-Loing)
There are plenty of holiday homes and Gites to rent, which is a good option if there is a group of you climbing.
There are over 27,000 problems over 245 areas in Font so there really is something for everyone, you just have to decide what it is you want do.
Families with younger kids:
- Roche aux Sabots
- Cuvier Rampart
- Canche aux Merciers
- The Cul de Chien
- Bas Cuvier
Quick drying areas:
- Gorge des Chats
- Rocher de la Reine
- Pignon Poteau
- Petit Bois
- Mont d'Olivet
A collection of problems that have been grouped together via difficulty to make up a circuit. Colour is used to indicate the difficulty of the circuit, and each problem within that circuit will be numbered. Climbing the circuits is a great way to test yourself across a range of climbing styles; within a set you’ll encounter slabs, overhangs, cracks, mantles and more.
There are many outstanding problems in Font that exist outside of the circuits. As they are not numbered, having a good guide book so you can find them is essential.
Essential Fontainebleau Packing list
- Bouldering mat
- Chalk bag + chalk
- Guide books
- Boot Bananas (no one want to smell your shoes after a long day climbing)
- Finger tape
- Hand balm/lube
- Water bottle
- Thermos (coffee and tea)
- A square of carpet (avoid sand grain on your shoes)
What time of the year is best for climbing Fontainebleu?
Spring and Autumn are generally the best times to visit; balancing good rock and weather conditions although there is always the risk of getting unlucky with rain.
If you’re happy to chill as well as climb, summers in Font are usually dry - although it can soon become strenuous climbing in 30+ degrees and be time to relax back at the camp site.
Which guidebooks should I get?
It massively depends on your level of climbing and what you want to climb; there are so many problems. A map and compass are also worth investing in to help you reach some of the ‘off-piste’ areas.
- Fontainebleau Climbs: The Finest Bouldering and Circuits, 2nd Edition
Publisher: Mountaineers Books; Translation edition (2012) Author: Jo Montchausse, Francoise Montchausse, Jacky Godoffe
- Jingo Wobbly Fontainebleau Fun Bloc
Publisher: Jingo Wobbly Euro Photo-Guides; New edition (15 Mar. 2012) Author: David Atchinson-Jones
- Essential Fontainebleau: A Stone Country Bouldering Guide
Publisher: Stone Country Press Ltd; 2nd, September 2014 edition Author: John Watson, Colin Lambton (15 Mar. 2012)
- Fontainebleau Bouldering "Off-Piste": At Grade 6 and Above
Publisher: Baton Wicks Publications (24 April 2006) Author: Francoise Montchausse, Jacky Godoffe, Jo Montchaussé, and Sue Harper
- 5 + 6 Fontainebleau: 3975 Straight ups in Central and Southern Fontainebleau
Publisher: (2012) Author: Bart Van Raaij
- 5 + 6 Fontainebleau (West & North): 3000 Straight ups in Western and Northern Fontainebleau
Publisher: (2015) Author: Bartvan Raaij
- Fontainebleau 7+8: 3748 Straight Ups in Fontainebleau
Publisher: (2016) Author: Bartvan Raaij
Where can I hire/ buy climbing gear?
Fontainebleu has its own outdoors shop that contains climbing gear along with a small shop at the indoor centre, Karma. You can rent mats from both of these stores and from some of the local hostels. Otherwise there is a Decathlon in near to Bas Cuvier.
Do I need a car?
If you want to experience all that Font has to offer a car is recommended - there is a fair distance between areas and it will help with all your mats and gear. If you don’t want to drive you can rent a bike and get around but be prepared to put the miles in.
What food and drink do I need?
Once you’re in the forest, there’s nowhere to buy food (there’s a restaurant in the main car park for Apremont (but it is rarely open). So you’ll need to carrying in all your food and drink for the day, which can be a bit of a faff but it’s also a great excuse to visit the bakery every morning.