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Fontainebleau bouldering

By Tuan

Fontainebleau ("Bleau") is the name of a forest and a small town with a classical castle which are about 50km South of Paris. It is probably one of the finest bouldering sites in the world. Climbing started there in the 30s and at this time moves equivalent to 10+ where already done there. The climbing is on sandstone, generally with friction problems, very tiny edges, and lots of overhanging moves which are generally quite mysterious to the climber which is not used to the place (the ratings are two grades more severe than on french cliffs). The boulders are organized in "circuits", which are the enchainement of several boulders (30 to 100+) with a consistent level of difficulty. There are several hundred circuits, from the easiest, to the most extremes, featuring a total of tens of thousands problems. On each circuit, you follow the markings arrows, which are of a specific color, and each time there is a significant problem, there is an arrow an order number. So it is relatively easy to follow a circuit, however, it is useful to have the guidebook. It is mandatory in order to find the beginning of each circuit, too. The most pleasant way to climb is to choice one circuit of your level, which gives you the best of an area (at a given level), however some people work only on very specific and hard problems. Typically, you do one circuit per climbing session.

The factors to influence the choice of a circuit:

Normally you do not need a rope (if you don't climb exposed boulders beyond your level). Chalk is supposed to be avoided as much as possible (for instance Jakob Bekker-Hansen wrote "Many french climbers strongly recommend that the use of chalk on the boulders should be limited. We've had a few people shouting at us because we used chalk") but sap is generally recommended instead, to improve friction. Another piece of equipment which is *needed* is a small piece of carpet to stand on without getting sand on your shoes, and also a small piece of cloth to clean them. When in Paris, go to a climbing shop such as Le Vieux Campeur (rue des Ecoles, near La Sorbonne) to find the guidebook. There used to be several, but one of them (it was blue) is supposed to be a bible. The salesman knows it off course. The choice of your shoes is important. Since the climbing is highly technical, you may want to have tight shoes. But it is very boring to have to take them off often, and since you will have to walk from a problem to another, you also may want something which has acceptable comfort.

THE Guidebook:

Title: Fontainebleau : escalades et randonnees
Author: Michel Schulman and others
2nd edition: 1986
Publisher: Arthaud, Paris
ISBN: 2-7003-0418-7

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