Fontainebleau has been on my radar ever since I first saw a video of the magical sandstone forest about four years ago. After climbing for a few years and becoming more involved in the community, I had heard countless stories of how this place is truly something special. I knew I had to experience it for myself.
Being in the Bay Area, we have a little slice of Fontainebleau in our own backyards. This local spot is known as Castle Rock State Park. The rock is similar, but when it comes to quantity and quality, Fontainebleau is in a league of its own. As Font is considered one of the best bouldering locations in the world, it’s no surprise to find many pebble wrestlers making a pilgrimage to test themselves on the slopey features the rock has to offer.
But Fontainbleau isn’t just sloper squeezing. When you go, get ready pull on crimps, big pinches, and pockets. The movement requires perfect body tension to execute the boulder problems, and bring your head game because the topout is usually guarded with a delicate mantle.
Climbing in Fontainebleau will make you a true master of all climbing styles. While in Font you might hear people using the term “Bleausard”—it’s not a local dinosaur, but a term used to describe an older Fontainebleau master. Don’t be surprised when a “Bleausard” comes and sends your project with ease, especially if it is vertical-to-slabby climbing. Oh, yeah, and they don’t like to use crash pads or chalk. So climbing in Font can be described as eating a lot of humble pie!
Along with every climbing style displayed in the forest, you’ll notice something else a little different from how we do things in the States: Font is full of multi-colored climbing circuits. A circuit is multiple climbs within the same grade range, meant to be done one after another in a single session. Some of the circuits have up to 95 problems! How does one navigate 95 problems in a single session? Well, for your benefit, each rock on a circuit has been painted with a small arrow and number letting you know where you are on the circuit and the direction to your next problem on the circuit.
WHERE TO STAY:
Staying in Font can be expensive by yourself, so if you have some friends to rent a house with, that will be the cheapest option. If you’re traveling alone, there is a nice hostel in La Chapelle-la-Reine. The hostel has a full kitchen and free coffee every morning, and it’s within walking distance to a few climbing areas. The owner, Patrick, is very knowledgeable about the forest and its history. The Hostel also has crash pads to rent, as does the local climbing shop in town.
I saved the best for last, and that’s the food. The food culture in France is hard to describe in just a few sentences. If you love to eat all things gluten, you’ll be in heaven. The bakeries are out of this world, so if you’re going to Font to crush hard, just forget about it and turn your focus to baguettes and almond croissants. You’ll be happier in the long run. With multiple bakeries in every town, you’ll never be without fresh bread or cakes. A favorite bakery of mine was on a narrow street in the town of Fontainebleau. It was called Dardonville – you’ll know you’re at the right place when the line stretches around the corner.
By Jon Kennedy