Monday, 13 October 2014

A wet weather Fontainebleau trip - eking out dry boulder problems

The weather is a mercurial thing. And sometimes even more so than usual; switching from rain to sun and back again in the space of an hour, or even several times in a day. It might be glorious sunshine one week, as it was the week before we arrived in Fontainebleau, and pouring with rain the next. It is certainly safe to assume, to the best of my knowledge, our recent trip to the beautiful forest of Fontainebleau endured some of the most atrocious weather I have ever had the displeasure of camping in. 

Our saving grace during a damp Fontainebleau trip

Yes, on this occasion, being as the party consisted of just two, we decided to make use of the area's best campsite, in Grez Sur Loing. I've been camping a fair amount since my youth, when organised adventure such as the Duke of Edinburgh Award gave me the opportunities to trudge through the Welsh countryside in yet more delightful British weather, and since then I have grown to dislike it more and more over the years. However, the daily toil involved in dragging yourself out of a warm sleeping bag into the dim, grey and cold world presented each morning has begun to regain its appeal. Accidentally scraping your back along the inside of the tent porch while trying to put your shoes on generates a stream of icy rainwater to trickle down your back; it is certainly one way to shake the haze of a terrible night's sleep, but it might not attract many. Certainly, I can understand those who choose the comfort of a B&B or a Gite over a sodden campsite, as I have been a member of "those", but the latter  has its rugged charms. Having lived in a tent in terrible wet conditions last week, and now being back home, I can oddly say that I miss it somewhat.

Typical Font rainy day activity - look around the palace
The location and the climbing no doubt play their part in this infant nostalgia; a post holiday blues that defies logic, considering the unpleasantness of camping in persistent rain. And indeed there was some climbing to be had, despite the temperament of the weather. The occasional patch of dry would push its way through the cloud cover, if only for a couple of hours. And then the final 36 hours of our most recent Fontainebleau escapade were as dry as an ancient Egyptian mummy. As if by magic, on our last day, we actually managed to climb all day, and leave the magical forest with the familiar sore, pink fingertips, aching elbows and a handful of good boulder problems under our metaphorical belts.

The "top out" on a very hard 7A called Lamentin, at L'Elephant
With regards to climbing successes, I indulged in no illusion as to be returning home with a tick list as long as my arm. I had actually wanted to use this trip very differently to previous trips, and get stuck into a handful of hard boulders at my limit, as opposed to moving around a lot, trying loads of different lines. Unfortunately, like always, nothing goes to plan, and the weather demanded you climb on whatever you could find dry or don't climb at all. And therefore, while I did manage to put in an hour on one project and two on another, this was not nearly sufficient enough time to find the elusive success. Therefore quick ticks were the order of the week - and I managed to make short work of most of those I reached the top of.

Happy having done Magic Bus (7B+) first try
Below is said list, with a few words on each, as much for my own records (as I don't maintain an scorecard) as anyone else's. I hope some find a problem they might want to try themselves next time they're in Fontainebleau.

The Tick List


  • La Moreau (6A) - A brilliant little introduction to Fontainebleau bouldering at a friendly crag.
  • La Voie Michant (6C) - One of those I had failed on in earlier years, but ascended first try this time. Quality.
  • Le Lepreaux Direct (7A) - One big move off two slopers to reach jugs above… soft, but a nice introduction to Font 7A.
  • 24 Black (6A) - A good problem, hard for the grade, and a little tucked away.
  • Lamentin (7A) - Brilliant juggy undercutting climbing with rubbish feet. More like 7A+/B IMO.
  • La Barre Fixe Directe (7B+) - Dynamic and powerful movement on good holds, suiting me to a tee. Took less than 30 minutes. Video below…

Bas Cuvier
  • Charcuterie (7A) - Very much 7A IMO, either way you do it. Big reach, core tension and easy top out. Classic.
  • Unnamed 6A adjacent to L'Abattoir boulder - Nice moves and just enough of them
  • Unknown 7A not far from Marie Rose - toe hook, sloper slapping and oddly pumpy despite being quite short.

Franchard Cuisiniere
  • Unknown 6C - obvious arete visible from the path you walk in on. Really good quality, tenuous arete climbing.
  • A Bras Plat A Bras (6C) - Nice, steep traverse with one tough move followed by an awkward top out. Opposite above arete.
  • Bizarre Bizarre assis (7A+) - did the stand (7A) in a couple of tries and the assis was a whole new kettle of fish, taking a little longer to figure out the connecting moves.
  • 5 Red Traverse (6A) - A really nice, really tough for 6A traverse that leads into big finishing moves. Worth doing.

Franchard Hautes Plaines
  • Surplomb De La Coquille (6C+) - Having failed on this last year, I was keen to finish it off. Did it first try, at the end of a long day.
  • Surplomb De La Coquille assis (7A) - Wanted to add this separately, as I managed it first try, having done the stand first try as well. Shows training is working, as I failed the stand last year.

  • Retour Aux Sources (7A) - Great line, great moves. Had one proper go before it started raining, went back the next day and did it first try. Worth noting, it dries very quickly due to exposure, so it was getting a lot of traffic while we were there, as it was one of the few dry lines in the forest for most of the week.

  • Magic Bus (7B+) - Having failed to lock the crimp last year, I did the problem first try this year, having warmed up on it as well. Another indicator of training working.

Petit Bois
  • Remise A L'Heure (6A+) - Delicate traverse into an arete.
  • Quelle Conque (5+) - Quintessential Font top out in an amenable grade. Classic.
  • Envolage (6C) - Nice rising traverse into a green, mossy top out. Scary, so I was pleased I flashed it.

La Roche Aux Sabots
  • La Porte A Faux (6A) - Having once again failed on the adjacent dyno, Smatch (7B), I did this to make myself feel better… and it worked! Good problem.
  • 14 Red (6B) - The. Hardest. 6B. In Fontainebleau. Last problem of the trip, so bad skin, sweaty, wet conditions and sore muscles all conspired to make it VERY difficult.
Hot cup of tea and a French flan on the night before travelling back to England - doesn't get much better!