For the May Day bank holiday I decided to organise a bouldering trip to Fontainebleau (aka Font) in France. Font is about 50km south of Paris and is widely regarded as the bouldering Mecca of the world.
Six of us set off from London early on Saturday morning in two cars and drove to Dover to catch the ferry over to Calais. Once in France we headed straight down to Font and met up with two more friends who’d flown into Paris from Aberdeen at the Château de Fontainebleau. The château was impressive, free for Europeans under 26, and a great way to spend some time whilst the rock was drying out from the rain earlier in the day.
We then headed further south of Font to find out campsite, Ile de Boulancourt, where we were greeted by the owner Jerome. The campsite was perfect for us, with clean toilets and warm showers, permission to have campfires, high-quality bouldering mats for hire and 400m away a small shop selling fresh baked goods as well as wine (essentials for any trip to France). Once I’d paid the balance for our stay Jerome took us to our camping area, where one car load of our group had already arrived having taken the Friday off work to get down there early.
Once we’d pitched our tents, ordered baguettes and pain au chocolats for the next day, and bought some wine it was time for dinner. I’d bought us a selection of TentMeals to make our evening meals as easy as possible. TentMeals were set up by a friend of mine from university and are fantastic healthy, natural, balanced meals that are incredibly easy to cook. I’d really talked them up to the group and I think most people were sceptical that the little tubes of rice or couscous would ever produce anything that resembled a proper meal. I can honestly say that everyone was pleasantly surprised, impressed and stuffed ten minutes later. Not only are the meals very easy to prepare (you only need to boil some water, pour the pack in and then let it rest for less than 10mins) but they’re really flavoursome and thoroughly filling.
The meals also have a very long shelf-life and are vegan.
Having stuffed ourselves with the TentMeals we set about making a fire and sat around with quite a few bottles of wine whilst enjoying the entertainment of trying to chop through a very large log with an 8Euro axe. The log was eventually chopped through, but had exhausted the axe to the extent that the axe disintegrated as soon as it was set to work on splitting the freshly chopped log.
After a good night’s sleep under canvas (and some pretty impressive stars) we got up and headed off to find some boulders to climb. We headed to T-rex and wondered into the forest for ten minutes before coming across an open area with loads of impressive boulders sat on a bed of sand. The rest of the day was spent climbing, picnicing, slacklining and playing frisbee in the brilliant sunshine. The climbing was great fun, summiting my first Font boulder was a fantastic feeling. We all found ourselves climbing a few grades lower than we would on plastic indoor bouldering walls but that didn’t bother us at all. Everyone found some climbs suitable to their ability and really encouraged each other to push themselves whilst maintaining a very chilled and relaxed atmosphere.
Eventually we reached a point where our arms wouldn’t let us climb any more and we headed back to the campsite for some more TentMeals, wine and sitting around the campfire. We had a slightly eclectic group of 12 people; no one knew everyone before the start of the trip but everyone had at least one connection with some others that were there. It worked really well and I think most people came away with a couple more friends than when they arrived.
Monday morning broke and we quickly headed to a nearby bouldering spot, Buthiers. None of the routes seemed to match the guidebook but that didn’t bother anyone and we just set about climbing whatever we saw that looked about right for our ability levels. The attitude was slightly different to the day before as everyone knew we only had a couple of hours so the intensity of climbing was a bit higher but everyone remained very chilled out. Eventually we had to drag ourselves away from the rock and back to the campsite to drop off the bouldering mats and pick up our tents. Unfortunately our reluctance to stop climbing left us a little behind schedule and despite pushing to make up time both cars missed the ferry. Luckily this didn’t cause any problems other than an hour’s wait at Calais.
We arrived back in North London before midnight and with enough time to get a good night’s sleep before work the next day. I really enjoyed the weekend, the combination of great people, amazing weather and brilliant climbing couldn’t have been better. I can’t wait to organise our next trip which will no doubt be even more Fontastique!