Here is a description of the French bouldering mecca.
For several decades it's been the playground of many French famous mountaineers, from Pierre Allain to Catherine Destivelle, including great climbers like Robert Paragot and Lucien Berardini.
Every day and almost year long, climbers from the Paris area, and from all around Europe go to Fontainebleau to practice on smooth tricky slab, and nasty powerful and technical movements. All rocks are made of sandstone.
Locals call it "Bleau", and it has a lot to offer !
Located 70km south of Paris. First take the A6 motorway, then on exit 12, take the N7 road towards Fontainebleau.
You will however need a good IGN map to find your way through the forest.
The easiest way is to have a car. Most of the sites are randomly spread throughout the forests of Fontainebleau and Trois Pignons.
Should you use public transportation, the most accessible boulder site is called "Rocher Canon".
Take a train in Gare de Lyon and get down at "Bois-Le-Roi" station. Then walk for about half-an-hour.
When to go
If doesn't rain you can enjoy Bleau's boulders all year long.
As it is sandstone, summer is not a great time, as the rock texture gets a little slippery, as if the sun was melting it.
Plus, many boulders are not protected from the sun... very sweaty after a few moves !
Strong climbers love to go in winter when the grip is at its best, but your feet and fingers may well suffer from biting cold.
In general spring and autumn would be a good compromise between temperature and texture.
And the landscape offer beautiful colors at theses periods.
Bouldering circuits and difficulty
The area contains more than bouldering sites, each of them providing often more than a hundred bouldering problemes.
On a site you will find several climbing circuits deferencited with numbers and colours, classified as : Yellow = PD
Orange = AD
Blue = D
Red = TD
White = ED
and a lot of boulders that are above ED
The way levels are provided, changes from level on cliffs.
6A in Fontainebleau is much more difficult than 6A on a French cliff. However it is only 3-4 meters high. To simplify let's say that someone climbing 6C on a cliff may climb 6A in Fontainebleau.
Currently the highest difficulty is 8b+. Some mention 8c or 8c+ on some traverse boulders that complete existing boulders.
Trust me : 8b+ in Fontainebleau is a nightmare ! You would find this only in 8c/9a cliffs.
But you will also find lots of very pleasant circuits in 4/5 level.
And even boulders designed for kids, should you go there with your family.
Selection of boulder sites
So many sites to visit, so little time to spend... Here is a suggestion :
To discover what it is like to boulder there, you can start with "Cul de Chien". The Blue and red circuits there will give you a good idea on the type of climbing. Short and smooth boulders.
Not far from there, is the "Roche aux Sabots". Boulders are higher and more difficult, but beautiful !
In the same area (forêt des 3 pignons) two other sites are well worth it : Bois-Rond and Canche aux Merciers.
Colser to the city Fontainebleau, "the" original site where it all started is "Cuvier". Amazing boulders, sometimes the stone is a bit worn out unfortunately. but great moves and difficulties.
Also in that area "Francard-Isatis" and "Franchard-Cuisinières" along with differents sites spread around the "Gorges d'Apremont".
Basically you could spend a whole month in Fontainebleau and not get bored with its impressive quantity of climbing.
Once there you won't want to leave, with so many rocks to climb !
Camping is tolerated as long you don't start a fire and take your rubbish away with you. A good way to enjoy climbing in the evening and in the morning, when no one's there !