Spotlight - equipment views and reviews from the AK team
Font at Easter
By Derrick Bolger
04, Apr, 2014
Derrick draws on his 27 years experience of climbing in France's bouldering paradise of Fontainebleau
It has been 15 years since our tradition of taking an Easter trip to Font began. I got my first taste of those iconic sandstone boulders on the way back from Verdon Gorge in ’87. Not long after that, a group of friends and I decided to go one Easter - it's been an annual tradition ever since.
Easter is a popular time to climb to Font. It's the first bank holiday of the year, the end of winter (in theory) and a very motivational start to the (climbing) year to come. The weather is generally a little warmer and milder - more amicable for those fair weather climbers and non-climbing family members. That said, good weather is never guaranteed: one year we arrived and there was 2 inches of snow on top of all the boulders!
A great spot for families
Fontainebleau is a great family destination, and not just for climbers! I've taken my family along with me since the kids were tiny. They may have put on a whole kicking and screaming routine but that was just for fun, in my experience kids tend to complain for the hell of it. As long as you keep them fed, they’ll be happy.
We would always take a huge picnic with us, including the obligatory camembert and Parisian baguette. One of my daughters was often on crutches or in a wheelchair when we went to Font and we never had any difficulty getting around - it's a great place to take a young family where you might want to take a pushchair.
There's a lot to offer in Font and the surrounding areas for climbers and non-climbers alike. The boulders themselves are dispersed over an area of around 1200 square kilometres, bursting at the seams with circuits and boulder problems for every stage and style of climber - from the complete novice to the dedicated expert, from the casual climbers who enjoy eating cheese and observing as much as they enjoy getting on the rock to those who will keep going until their fingertips are shredded.
The most notable person I have seen in Font has to be Jacky Godoffe. He’s a god, climbs about 8b, one of the Font gurus. I have seen him a few times, and I've seen Jo and Francoise Montchaussé about too. The three of them are the authors of Fontainebleau Climbs; an excellent guidebook for all abilities.
Rest days (the non-climbing part)
For non-climbers or on rest days, there are many adventures to be had whether on foot, by bike, or even on horseback. Fontainebleau itself offers some excellent cultural activities, such as visiting the magnificent Château de Fontainebleau and some quirky little patisseries where the age old debate of croissant or pain au chocolate can be settled (I go for both). Paris is a mere 55 km away, so it's an easy day trip to make.
Over the past few decades that I have been visiting Font, I have managed to explore most, if not all, the accommodation options. Gîtes are in abundance (but book early!); they are a fantastic option for families wanting the comforts or home but also for large groups.
Camping and caravanning in and around the forest is another convenient option for all Easter Font-goers. Plus, of course, there are many hotels to choose from (including a Formula 1 hotel just outside Fontainebleau).
What to take with you
The first time I took a bouldering mat with me to Font was about ten years ago when I was given one by Snap. These days I bring a Mujo Mutant and a Woomf with me, just for when my top tip: ‘don’t fall off!’, doesn’t go to plan.
The essentials that I recommend for a trip to Font are: boots; chalk; bouldering mat, a brush, and a tea towel to wipe your feet on. I always use a Lapis brush, they are the bomb! The issue of pof is an ever controversial one. I have never used it.
As for top circuits, my personal favourites are the blues at Roche aux Sabots and blues at Canche aux Merciers. I couldn’t pick out one problem though, they are all good. I usually take the 5+6 Fontainebleau guidebook with me - it’s just fantastic for the blue circuits!
Despite having climbed at Font many times over the last 27 years, I still keep going back for more; I enjoy the ambiance and whole climbing experience. There are too many climbs, too little time. You should always use the ‘3-goes-move-on’ policy, unless getting very close to success. Life’s too short to spend hours trying to do one problem.
Gite booked? Ferry tickets sorted? It's time to get training! Read Dan Bradley's tips for training for your jollies in Fontainebleau for tips (bring your excellent footwork with you!)