Are you planning a bouldering trip to Fontainebleau and do you want to know what to pack?
I just came back from a long Easter weekend of climbing there, and here’s my list of things I was happy to have brought to Fontainebleau – or wished I would have brought:
1. A car
Don’t be mistaken: Fontainebleau is BIG, really big.
I was a little bit naive before I went to Fontainebleau. I thought you could just walk into the forest, randomly stroll around, and find big rocks everywhere you would look.
In reality, there are actually patches of boulders around the forest, with little to no rocks in between. The distances between these bouldering spots are quite vast, and so you definitely need a means of transportation within Fontainebleau. Simply getting to your camping or hostel is not enough to navigate to every climbing spot you will want to visit on your trip.
So how do you know where all these insane bouldering locations are?
That’s where topos come in. They contain not only information on the location of the boulder deposits, but also the different climbing routes on the rocks and the beta of climbing them.
There are several Fontainebleau topos out there. So which topo is the best?
When I was preparing my trip to Fontainebleau, I almost bought a particular Fontainebleau topo in a shop.
The shopkeeper, however, told me: “don’t get that one. There’s another topo that’s way better. But we don’t sell it here.”
I was incredibly thankful for the fact that she did not want to make profit from me by suggesting an inferior topo.
She pointed me towards ‘Fun Bloc’. I later learned this Fontainebleau topo is widely considered to be the best one out there.
I never regretted getting it. Thanks again kind shopkeeper!
3. Lots and lots of water
Oh man, not bringing enough water on the first day was a HUGE mistake!
I had a salty French breakfast in the morning and by the time I started climbing I was already through half of my 1.5 litre water flask.
You’re gonna be out there climbing anywhere from 6-12 hours each day, so make sure you bring enough bottles of water to sustain your sweaty bouldering stuff.
Trust me: you’re gonna sweat more than 1.5 litres if you want to stand a chance of doing all the boulders that you’d like to do.
I’ve not encountered a single well or water pump in any of the locations that I’ve visited.
4. Garbage disposal (and toilet paper)
Let’s face it: you’re out in the boondocks.
The lack of utilities stretches further than just not having water pumps around.
There are no garbage bins even at the parking lots, so make sure you have a dedicated garbage bag to put all your trash in.
It’d be nice if you could close that off too. Because in the event you really need to do a number 2, you don’t want to be that guy or girl that leaves paper litter on the ground. It’d be nice if your car doesn’t smell like fecal matter on the way back.
Most people leave the forest as clean as they’ve found it, but some do leave some garbage behind. Don’t be that person. I know you won’t! 🙂
5. A pick nick
Climbers gotta eat!
And what better way to do it than with a French pick nick?
So get the amazing cheeses out, get yourself a baguette and hey, if you feel like it, a bottle of wine (careful on the big rocks).
My personal tip: get a nice ‘saucisson seche’ at the local supermarket, if you’re not a vegetarian, or if you’re a flexitarian like me. I will admit I was very flex during this trip. 😉
6. Biodegradable climbing chalk
We’ve discussed the ethics of rock climbing in relation to the environment in different articles on this website, such as here.
The damage to nature is not only limited to trad climbing, however. Most climbing chalk isn’t biodegradable.
In Fontainebleau you can already see a lot of white spots on the rocks. Climbing can diminish the aesthetics of the pristine forest. Over time, it also messes up the grip on the rock face, covering it in a greasy white layer.
It’s even prohibited to use chalk, as I found out.
If you really need the grip that chalk provides, make sure it is biodegradable, like this one. We’ve got a responsibility as climbers to preserve the nature in the places where we climb.
Fontainebleau used to be the hunting ground of the French king, later on the painters from Barbizon used the forest as their inspiration and now boulderers have claimed the spot. We don’t know who’s next to enjoy Fontainebleau, but let’s make sure we pass it on exactly the way we’ve received it.
7. Crash pad
If you’re going by van, it’s a great idea to get your own crash pad. It’s simply cheaper to own one than to rent one if you’re bouldering outdoors with a certain frequency.
A lot of the campings do rent out crash pads, though. So if you’re coming to Fontainebleau by plane, or don’t have the storage at home to own a crash pad, this is an excellent option as well.
This is obviously an optional one, but it’s no less fun because of it!
You can’t expect to climb all the time during your stay in the forest. It is nice to take off your climbing shoes every now and then.
Having a slackline like this one is a great pass time during your rests. A nice feat of it is that it helps you build balance skills, which comes in handy when you get back to bouldering!
Napping in Fontainebleau is most comfortable in a hammock. Nothing can beat it, not even a crash pad!
And you won’t be the first one to snooze in a hammock underneath the chirping sounds of birds and soft sun rays. It’s a very popular thing to do!
Last but not least: don’t forget to bring friends!
An important part of the Fontainebleau experience is what actually happens when you’re not on the wall.
Having fellow bouldering enthusiasts around is part and parcel of what makes your entire trip to Fontainebleau amazing. Don’t forget to bring them!
Bonus tip #1: Sunscreen
Fontainebleau is a surprisingly bright forest. The trees are not as dense as you might expect, and as a result you’ll be exposed to a lot of sun during your entire day.
So make sure you protect your skin to the best of your capabilities. Climbing on real rock is a challenge for your skin in and of itself already.
Bonus tip #2: a carabiner to carry your climbing shoes
Because I forgot to bring a carabiner, I had to carry my climbing shoes inside my backpack. They took up a lot of space, and I was a bit envious when I saw other people being better prepared for carrying around shoes with a carabiner. I’m bringing one next time for sure!!
So, that’s my take on what to pack when you’re going to boulder in Fontainebleau! Did I forget anything? Tell me below!