Fontainbleau, June 2012 – Ed Lamb

…..Well, all things considered and from what I hear the UK is having a fairly bleak summer or rain, storms and more rain….

With this in mind and fingers crossed that forecasted rain and misery wouldn’t hit the south of Paris Paul’s car headed down to the Chunnel with Katy, Rob and me on board.

A very smooth train ride and several hours of driving through France guided by Malcolm McPherson’s notes got us to the camp site. Although stops had been made to see how many insects had met their maker on the aerodynamic brick of three bouldering mats on the car roof, it was four tired people who pitched the tent and crashed out after the journey.

This wasn’t our first trip to the area and after a bit of head scratching and looking through guidebooks Paul and I decided that we had visited at least one of the areas twice. On this trip we spent time at Roche Aux Sabots, Roche Aux Guichot, Canche Aux Mercier, and Bois Ronde. The repeated visit didn’t matter though, as it was good to take Katy and Rob to some of the circuits, both giving first class efforts and getting up lots of problems.

Conditions were not perfect whilst we were there but we had more sun than drizzle and when it was warm it was lovely. The areas we went to had easy to hard circuits and occasional kiddie-friendly loops which the Hazel and Cosmos clans terrified their parents with by chasing each other round and around – beware the elder brother who’s younger sibling follows without thought or care!

Sitting having quiet beers and an excellent meal in Fontainebleau or one of the surrounding towns or villages is lovely. Boulder all day until your arms and hands don’t work and then find a bar in the woods to calm down in. A steak or pizza to follow and then back to the camp for showers and sleep. But it all builds up and by the fourth day everything was aching.

An excellent evening can be had in the town, but you have to watch out, just because you have had a good steak and a bottle or two of rouge doesn’t mean you can skateboard any better in the evening than you could in the morning before. The bar having a halfpipe in the back may not be a sign to the contrary – as the skateboard accelerates from underfoot (with squeals of delight) towards the spirit shelves behind the barman you’ll realise this and be very grateful that a French intellectual has seen fit to put a net between halfpipe and le whiskey et cognac. Very grateful indeed!

Fontainebleau isn’t a bouldering mecca, it’s Font and better. Scattered throughout a beautiful forest is a vast array of boulders to explore and problems to throw yourself against – successfully or unsuccessfully – you’ll be back although as you walk away with clenched fists from a supposedly ‘easy’ problem you might not think so! Some seemingly ancient local waltzing up the same thing after poffing a hold or two may not help you unclench or ease your frustration. But it’ll pass and you’ll probably have another go…..

Highlights of the trip included watching the Hazel and Cosmos clans clamber up things either following or being chased by parents; Paul and Katy’s first Font 6a, Rob and I completing a full Orange circuit and surviving an onslaught by a strange person who took umbrage at out solution to a problem (why do something delicate as we had when you could take chunks out of your shins and bleed painfully….why indeed!); superb food beer and wine; and all only a few hours from home and just under £150 each including the Chunnel for a five day trip.

Hopefully the UK summer will arrive soon….but until it does a quick trip under the Channel is definitely worth considering!

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