/ Font First Timer Advice
Just booked our family holiday to Paris for the end of May this year - Disneyland,a bit of culture in Paris and a day or 2 at Font planned.
My son and I climb regularly indoors and are planning to get outside more this year but are not experienced boulderers. What advice do you have for first timers to Font and what's the best guidebook?
Coming from indoors to Font might be a bit of a shock to the system. Start easy see how it goes. Perhaps start on the yellow circuit at Sabot - if that too easy try some blue problems - if they are too hard walk over to 91.1 and try the orange problems.
It's a toss-up between these two guides if you are just starting out....
Has both easy and hard stuff: http://tinyurl.com/aas2elu
Best maps but no yellow circuits: http://tinyurl.com/av9ry7u
I always found "Fontainebleau Climbs: The Finest Bouldering and Circuits" to be good. Don't buy the Jingo Wobbly one, it's borderline unusable.
I was intimidated at having not done a lot of bouldering the first time I went - don't worry, it's awesome, even at low grades. Find an easy circuit and jump on it :)
I went for a week and had most fun at Franchard out of all the other areas visited. Nice location, good landings and good problems at all grades.
Also, don't get too hung up about grades. Grading for the easier problems was always a bit hit and miss in my experience. Just find a problem you like the look of and have a go at it.
I assume your trip is a one-off, therefore I'd be happy to lend you a copy of Fontainbleau Climbs (The purple one), for couple of quid in the next MRT box you come across?
Email details and promise to return it and it's yours (for the duration of your trip).
Must be heavy carrying that around.
Yep, one of my friends had bought it for the trip. All I can remember is dozens of little symbols to decipher and inconsistent grading for the easier problems.
Best bit of advice I can give you is to take some pieces of mat ( bristly doormat type stuff is perfect, or buy them on arrival but that's wasting holiday time) and some towels and use them to clean every trace of sand/mud from your shoes before every single time you put shoe onto rock.
This should make the whole experience much more enjoyable & allow you to minimise your contribution to the escalating problem of polish.
I second this....Fun Bloc is the best Font book I have....
1) Warm up properly - "Font elbow" has gotten many a keen bean
2) Prepare to get spanked. Seriously. Drop 2 grades.
3) Clean your shoes. Aside from perserving the rock, it makes a HECK of a difference to friction
4) Pain au chocolate in the morning will make everything easier.
Or just don't even look at grades - for a comparative bumbly the best approach seems to be to work out roughly what the colours of circuit correspond to (so in my case it was yellow = easy, orange = can normally do it first time, blue = can sometimes do it, red = worth a try but don't get your hopes up) and then you can find loads of routes at the level of difficulty you're interested in just by looking for the numbers painted on the rock.
Also, don't mess around with sandwiches for lunch, just take a baguette, some cheese / ham and a knife.
Don;t go - its shit
Yes, drop a boulder grade.
Obviously take a crash mat and something to wipe your feet on.
Most forests arent near many shops so look out for places near by as you drive to/from or take packed lunch.
Dont rush, enjoy, you'll never do them all, so enjoy those you do.
> 1) Warm up properly - "Font elbow" has gotten many a keen bean
> 2) Prepare to get spanked. Seriously. Drop 2 grades.
> 3) Clean your shoes. Aside from perserving the rock, it makes a HECK of a difference to friction
> 4) Pain au chocolate in the morning will make everything easier.
2) If you're only there for a couple of days don't worry about the grades at all, just enjoy the circuits
4) and lunch
4+1) and dinner
and 5) Don't go to the toilet in the woods or, if you absolutely have to, take a trowel and bury it properly.
The childrens circuits can be quite accesible for starters, and tend to be lowish to the ground/reasonable landings. Maybe try one of these for the first day/few hours? If you haven't bouldered before.
just remember if you do, a white kids circuit might also be near a white big kids circuit, which is hard! Some of the local kids are also hard, so don't expect a push over if you do the whole circuit,
Anothr thing, don't climb the first boulders you see - everyone else saw and climbed them first, so they tend to be polished. Start a little way into an area or a few numbers into a circuit results in better rock normally.
And finally, check out the exit before summiting the boulder. If you just found the easy way down, hard to climb, there may be a bit of head scratching going on at height.
"Each circuit gets tougher as the number goes up" Not really true although they usually tend to start more gently and finish on something memorable, in between they pretty much always go up and down quite a bit. I'd add for the inexperinced that some circuits add a lot of things between the numbered problems (orange at elephant being a great example) and so to finish one of these in a day is very impressive.
I've encountered many Brits coming at me the wrong way round a roundabout when their judgement has lapsed.
Ignore the dispiriting grades, up to the 6s at least they're just randomly sprinkled about with little rhyme or reason. The style also takes quite some getting used which can be frustrating but it's well worth persevering.
Avoid Bas Cuvier like the plague, it may be a crag you've heard of and it may have some classic easy circuits but it's a filthy roadside cess pit.
Work out what you're looking for crag-wise, some are really popular, busy communal places which can be fun, others are quiet, a little overgrown and you're as likely to stumble across deer as other climbers.
Buy a large scale map (tourist office in Font' sells them IIRC) and take a compass, it's seriously disorienting in the trees. Pre-load a sat-nav with all the crags you might want to visit and their parking. Time wasted failing to navigate using the various very confusing books can really spoil a short trip.
Ask around a bit about the crags you're thinking of before you go, some are what we'd call routes on the grit, some have bad landings, some have suffered access problems and some of the approaches/parking shown in the books are now barred fire roads (and have been for at least a decade).
It's pretty spread out, to access a selection of crags you'll need transport. If you haven't got a car then do some bike/bus research before you go.
Navigating is a pain. Finding stuff in the trees can be a pain. What you do find can be pretty dirty/high/hard/crap. When you find the good bits it's totally utterly superb :)
- You're gonna get spanked, don't worry this is normal.
- If you're driving, pay attention to the ridiculously confusing road signs on the way down past Paris.
- If you buy Fontainbleau Climbs, prepare to get lost. The maps (although not the circuit maps) in it are the worst I've ever come across, in any publication, anywhere, ever. I'd go somewhere easy to navigate like Petit Bois or L'Elephant if only there for a couple of days, avoid Apremont for the same reason.
Does UKB still have the Font POI's for tomtoms? Might be useful.
This might be useful - although it should all go without saying
If you buy Fontainebleau Climbs there was a new version out in Sept 2012, it now has white covers (the old purple version is 2001 vintage) - the maps criticised by some have been updated
In any case get a large scale map of the area to go with the guide - widely available but the tourist info in Barbizon has them if you can't find them.
Bouldering mats are I believe available for hire locally if you don't have one. the 'Elephant' area as recommended above is excellent - some of the blue, green/orange, red, black circuits there are highball which is fine if you are happy with that, the yellow circuit at the top of the hill is good and much less high!
Two days is just not enough - you'll be back there before long!!!
I'll also buy the recommended guidebook as I expect we'll be going again - it means the girls can do Disneyland at the same time so ticks the smarty points box as well :)
Personally, I wouldn't worry too much about getting bouldering experience elsewhere before you turn up, just be prepared to start on the easy circuits. We've been to Font many times, and I've barely bouldered anywhere else.....
How old is your son, and what kind of grades do you climb?
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