Bouldering in France - The Font

Liberty Mountain employees, Amber Bettinger and Kirby McCoy spent three weeks feeling like "kids in a candy store" as they bouldered the gems in France's bouldering paradise, The Font.

For as long as Kirby and I have been together, I can remember him dreaming about the day we’d take a climbing trip to Fontainebleau, France. We finally decided that we would go after “catalog season” had ended. We spent the month before, training at the climbing gym; climbing three to four days a week and working out at the gym in between. On March 15th, we packed up our crash pads, more climbing shoes than we needed and jumped on the direct flight to Paris.

Once we landed in Paris we found our rental car and began the trek to the little town we were staying in outside of Fontainebleau. Our Gite was in a small town called Bourron Marlotte. The drive took us about an hour, as we drove slowly trying not to get lost or injured on the dangerous Paris highways. The first few days of our trip we had to deal with lots of rain. We attempted to climb, but the on and off again rain made sure that we didn’t actually get any climbing in. Because the Fontainebleau forest is so big, we spent the first few days exploring the different climbing areas and scouting out problems to climb.

When you first walk into the forest you are immediately overwhelmed. There are boulders as far as the eye can see and crowds of people screaming "Allay" or "come on" as climbers from all over the world are working their projects. Each climbing area in Font seems to have enough climbing to last you weeks. You feel like a kid in a candy store every time you visit a new area.

After the miserable rain ended (which felt like it never would at the time) we had cold and gloomy weather – but no rain, so we couldn’t complain! The climbing in Fontainebleau is like no-other. It can humble even the most experienced climbers! The top-outs are slopey, the feet are non-existent and every climb starts off feeling impossible. The classic climbs, like Le Marie Rose (Bas Cuvier) is a tough 6a+ that kept all levels of climbers guessing. It’s a fantastic climb, and we could easily see why it had been named a classic. It embodied everything Font is about; technical moves, a slopey top-out and ultra-polished holds. It’s amazing how tough the climbing in Fontainebleau can be. There would be “warm ups” that would stump us – I think that’s partly what makes Font so interesting

We spent three weeks mainly in the three biggest climbing areas; Bas Cuvier, Trios Pigeons Forest and the various Franchard sectors. We explored a couple of the other areas like Le Elephant, Apremont, Petit Bois and Rocher Canon. We both had a successful trip, I finally sent my project (on the second to last day); Graviton, 7a in the Trois Pigeons Forest. Graviton was the perfect project for me. It wasn’t too high and none of the moves were big. It just required a lot of technique and determination. The top-out is super slopey with no holds, unless you can count a tiny non-existent crimper. You have to throw a high heal hook, pull up, reach for the crimper and pull - really, really hard. Once you get your left foot up, you have to switch your left hand to a palm and press it out… Or in my case, roll over on my back! Even though my send wasn’t pretty, I’ll take it! A few of other problems that I think are worth trying are: Duroxomanie 6c, Bas Curvier, Le Marie Rose 6a+, Bas Curvier, & Le Mouton 6c, Franchard Cuisinere.

Kirby thought that some of the best boulders in Font were the warm up boulders; he thought they were challenging and fun. One of the slopeiest problems he tried was Controle Technique 7c+, Bas Curvier. It required a lot of core strength, technique and some creative beta. Fata Morgana Bas 8a+, in the Coquibus Longs Vaux sector, was another highly rated problem that he did. It was a bit of a challenge to find it. The topo was a bit misleading and he ended up running the cliff line to try and find the problem. Just as he was about to give up, he found the boulder... and it was well worth the search! On our second to last day he decided to go check out Ubik assis, a classic 8b, in Les Mammouths, it was almost an epic send but unfortunately a light rain made it impossible. A huge disappointment, but it will give him something to return to - as if we needed another reason! Some other problems that Kirby thinks are worth doing are: La Baleine 7a in Petit Bois, perhaps the best problem in Font, Noir Desire 7c in Cuvier Rempart, Big Dragon 8a+ in Petit Bois, Sale Gosse in Roche aux Sabots, Eclipse 7c in the Cul-de Chien area, Sur-prises at Franchard Isatis and Science Friction in Apremont.

During our three-week stay we only took three voluntary rest days. We spent two of those in Paris and one day venturing around town. By our last day we were both so exhausted that we were barely able to warm up. My shoulder felt like it was dislocated & Kirby’s fingertips were shredded. We ended up leaving a few hours earlier than planned to head back to Paris so we could be near the airport for our early flight home the next day.

We both miss Fontainebleau; the atmosphere and climbing is like no other area we’ve been too. It’s amazing how people from all over the world can come together to enjoy the climbing in Font. We climbed with many groups that barely spoke English, but they still help spot, shared crash pads and we’re cheering for you as you climbed. It’s also safe to say that we both miss the wine, pasta and pastries. There are so many good reasons to visit Fontainebleau and we can’t wait to go back!

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