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Fontainebleau: The Forest and the Climbs

rain 10 °C

Summary of boulder areas:
Saturday: Gorges d'Apremont at Apremont, at main forest area
Sunday: Roche aux Sabots at Les Trois Pignon, near Noisy-sur Ecole
Monday: 95.2 at La Croix Saint Jerome at Les Trois Pignon

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So, an introduction to Fontainebleau, pronounced fon-tan-blow, where tan is as in tanning in the sun. Fontainebleau is also colloquially known as font to English speakers or bleau to the French. It's a forest an hour South East of Paris with a lot of big rocks ie boulders, supposedly brought by glaciers a certain long time ago. There are various areas in the whole forest where there are specific problems (routes or climbs) on boulders that have been cleaned and prepped mostly by local climbers over the years. These problems and areas are listed and mapped out in many guide books, along with difficulty level. So yeah, lots of people come to font to climb, but it's also a very popular hiking destination.

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In reality when you get to font you realise that there are many roads cutting through the forest. That's kind of sad, it's habitat fragmentation and it's really bad for the organisms living there. Filled tall trees (pine?) with almost no undergrowth in typical European fashion. And since it's really spring, it actually felt like a forest already with leaves and stuff. Besides the roads there are also paths through the forest, most originating in the various scattered carparks. To get to the boulder areas you need to check your guide book carefully.

The forest is indeed the expected forest in most areas, but towards the south end it's more like a desert or a beach. The sandy area is an interesting and surprising feature, we bouldered there as well as in the forested area.

I want to describe the boulder areas, because before I went and saw I could not imagine what it would really be like. Boulder areas look like fields of big rocks strewn around the place. Like the aftermath of a stone giant battle haha. Or the boulders like in Frozen. These boulders can be pretty spectacular in terms of shape, feature, overgrowth, and potential, and no picture I take can show how pretty and exciting it is to be there among them.

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To borrow from Pocahontas, every rock and tree and creature has a life, has a spirit, has a name. When I began to look at them from the perspective of a climber, I honestly felt like each boulder had a different personality. Some were slabs, wet and tall and forbidding. Others had friendlier jugs but invisible footholds, and still more had sneering crimps and finger-breaking dead points. All, however, are of the Font pedigree, in which each problem is respected for its own specific personality and style, and not to be judged solely by the difficulty rating.

I can't remember many of the specific problems I attempted or topped, partly due to my, err, 24 hour memory but mostly because that's just me and not remembering problems happens a lot. What I do remember is that many boulders were too wet (some actually ponded or puddled) and some were too dangerous, like there was another rock near or at the landing zone. What limited us even more in our choice of problems was the difficulty. Noob as we are and ill-conditioned too, there were a lot of routes we simply didn't bother attempting. Font grading ranged from 2 to 8, we kept to the 3s and a few 4s. Which is about V2 to V4. NOOB. MUST TRAIN. ARGHHH.

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One of my few flashes, probably a 3c in La Roche.

What I didn't really like was that outdoor bouldering basically always involves a top out, in which you actually climb to the top of the boulder, which involves mantling and probably a heel hook, almost every time. Why should I have to do that all the time. Huh. But what's worse is the coming down. Scared of heights as I am, finding the best and safest way down usually takes me twice as long as for everyone else haha.

Another thing I realise I don't like about outdoor climbing is that everything gets dirty. Next time I climb outdoors I'm going to bring hotel slippers so I can walk around without taking off my shoes and without getting them too dirty either. The dirtier and wetter the shoes, the more difficult to climb (and heart-pain too. Oh, my pearls.) Also when outdoor climbing you're susceptible to the vagaries of the weather so you don't get to climb crazy hard the entire day like at camp 5 haha.

Although I couldn't do a lot of the routes, I think I had a lot of fun. And my footwork may have improved, due to the famously small and poor footholds. Got to trust those footholds and stick! And quite possibly I feel a bit more inspired to go out and climb now, where before climbing in Nordwandhalle was like meh. Got to try the harder routes, and not push myself so much so as to get really pumped all the time. I should work on technique and certain moves rather than strength all the time.

I also now definitely want to go climb outdoor somewhere again. Font, yes, that place with which I have unfinished business. But others too, and in better weather! South Africa anyone? : )

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Farewell to the forest

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The deadpoint I couldn't do. 95.2, route 34, 4c. Start two hands on left, single finger-section crack, right foot on small but nice ledge thing. Lock off on left and reach for crack crimp side pull with right, cross-step into rubber-marked foothold, very careful and controlled. Deadpoint with right hand for quite nice single-section crimp? To stick, must have a really strong right hand to take the momentum away from the wall. Otherwise, attempt to match feet on first foothold first, then step right foot over for better balance, but it's not much better.

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95.2, route 22, 3c This one was a second attempt top for me. Involved a really fun left hand cross over. Worked my way to right hand in the big undercling/sidepull, left hand on the jug. On my first attempt I tried to use the slopers but they're really bad. So later, with right foot on the good ledge below the big hole (and not heeling in the hole, that's too far in for balance) I reached up with my left hand into a really good stretch for the jug right on top. Shiok. This route was fun. Credit to wj for the beta! Haha.

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Unmarked but heavily chalked overhang, looks really really fun. But the chalk was wet and slimy, did not want to hold that. Unfortunately. Sigh.

Posted by seaskimmer 15:54 Archived in France Tagged rain paris france forest climb outdoor Comments (0)

Fo(u)ntaine-bleau: Transpired events

rain rain go away?

rain 10 °C

Excited! Good sandwiches. Weird sleep. Good conversation. Cool girl. Excited to re-meet people. Unsure about similarity of past and present. Pleasant and not-so pleasant re-meeting.

Excited to climb and see boulders. Depressed about cold and rain. Many frustrated attempts. Triumphant first top. Proud first flash. Annoyed about noobness. Unsure. Annoyed. Unsure about validity of annoyance. Musing on group dynamics. Tired. Hungry. Wet. Cold. Unsatisfied. Full. Good food. Food production line. Future trip discussion. Trepidation about new group dynamics. Sad about departures. Peacekeeping. Mirror lake. Sunset. Awkward silence. Early mornings. Better weather. Better climbing. Failed dead point. Successful traverse. Hug for last boulder. Farewell forest. Mad cleaning showering packing rush. Bad directions. Awkward farewells.

Early for train. Ben hur. 6 women. 2 Danes, 2 French, 1 German, 1 Singaporean. 2 pairs of mothers and daughters. 2 lone travellers. 1 passed ticket inspection. Window-watching. Carrefour discount pain au chocolate. Ben-Hur again. Early night at ten. Late morning at 8.10. Rushed out of train at 8.15. Hope nothing forgotten. Home again.

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with German girl K and other guy in our cabin. He was on the way for a Northern Spain road trip by himself : ) I want to do that too!

Well! The long awaited trip to the mecca of bouldering arrived, with plenty of rain to boot.

The overnight city night line round trip tickets were the first tickets I bought after my round trip from Singapore to Frankfurt. So obviously I was pretty excited about it. I'd gathered all the nus climbers on exchange in Europe to go on this trip together, that's yz, yk and p. Wj, yz's friend, an mir guy joined us too. After planning stuff over fb chat, the car and accom etc was settled and all that was left was to hop on the train. After a 3 month wait, away to Paris I went!

Met p in gare d'lest, then we went over to wagram to meet yz and wj for our awesome one Michelin star lunch hehehehe. We ordered the L'agape cheapest set lunch for 39 eur per person, with a glass of wine (12) and P and I shared the cheese platter at the end (19/2). The whole meal was so good and high class haha. Everything cooked to perfection, tons of appetisers, the pork so tender and juicy, the imaginative rosemary ice cream THE BOMB. And lovely sabayon, just amazing. Free flow of good bread and butter. Mmm. And the cheese was lika whoo whoo. Most expensive meal I will ever pay for on exchange, probably the best too. Very nice restaurant, they had the Japanese toilet and spiced handsoap, not to mention actual fabric towels to dry your hands with.

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yz caught unaware at the restaurant

Got the car, got groceries, had pizza dinner, picked yk up, drove to font! Settled in for the night, I almost worried about sleeping arrangements but in the end pulled out the spare mattress for the bed of my own lol. Packed sandwiches with tomato, lettuce, ham, with sautéed mushrooms coming in the morning.

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random leaf insect in the house. It occupied a dining chair for the entire evening.

Saturday morning arrived at 6am. It was a relatively long breakfast. Lots of toast with one of the following spreads: butter, Nutella, crunchy ovaltine alternative, mousse de canard. Also on the menu were soft boiled eggs, initially meant to be hard boiled but lucky for me the time was underestimated haha.

Out then into the cold, we drove around, got a bit lost here and there despite gps (French roads are not very good. Furthermore the places we wanted to get to were merely green spaces on the map, no paths included), and by the time we got to Gorges d'Apremont it was maybe about eleven?

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night shade? Flowers along the wrong way to La Roche, but the right way to Saint Jerome which we went to on the last day.

It was raining and all the holds were wet and basically nothing really could be done. So we returned to our bnb to eat our packed lunches haha. Out to Carrefour where we bought bread, and then cheese and butter and mousse to bring back to our respective places haha. Drove out at 3 maybe to rekky La Roche aux Sabots, the desert area. From 3 to 7 was a drier period, but the rocks would still be too wet to really climb. Thus we tramped around looking at the problems, more excited for the next day.

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p can sleep anywhere, anytime

Back to bnb to cook dinner. P and wj are pretty much amazing cooks so yz and I admitted to noobery and did manual labour haha. While they cooked, we helped to pack sandwiches for Saturday's lunch. That involved washing lettuce and cutting mushrooms and tomatoes, and buttering the bread. Compared to p and wj, who made the carbonara and baked chicken respectively. Dinner was great, I was super full because we wanted to finish the packet of Ja! pasta. We also had a bottle of Borsdeaux that the owners bought for us! That was nice. And after we washed up and showered I got out the cheap port I bought at Carrefour haha. I love port. Then sleep.

Sunday we attempted to get out a little earlier. It was a cold cold morning of maybe 7 degrees. I was wearing the clothes I'd intended to wear only for the train rides (tank and long sleeve) below my rockmaster top. And my windbreaker over that, but the rockmaster top was off once I began to climb. And wearing both my adidas tights and my long grimpe climbing pants! We were out til about 1 or 2 when it really started to rain, so we just left. We went back out to the town to look for postcards and find a boulangerie or patisserie. I had a Grand Marnier Crepe : ) Then we went back so yz and p could pack and stuff while wj, yk and I cooked a very early dinner of pesto spaghetti and sauteed pork.

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Thus had dinner at 5 plus, then we sent yz and p to the train station to catch their respective trains out of Paris. Both had to leave Font a day early due to school stuff (Monday exam, and unmissable Monday class). After that yk and I just used the wifi til before sunset, and wj took a nap. Then at 8.30 we drove out to catch the sunset at the Chateau gardens. In the end not much of a sunset could be seen, but the sky was very pretty and I saw a weird frog in the water. Slept v early that night (okay, 10pm).

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We rose at 5am on Monday, cooked onion omelette and sauteed the mushrooms for lunch. Okay, it was mostly wj who cooked. But quick breakfast, and we were at 95.2 at a record time of 7am. Weather today was much better than previous days, although still capricious and given to change at a moment's notice. Drizzle, sun, and the occasional rain (rain in Europe is equivalent to drizzle in SG). I suppose the unpredictability of the weather was forecasted when every internet source gave a different forecast! But yeah, overall weather was good. Climbed til 12.15, when yes, I really did give the last boulder a hug. I'll miss Font : (

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Last boulder :"( Route 8, a 5a haha. Probably involved a crazy high step on left hole, with handholds at the same height, then pull for high handhold. wj almost finished it, but too tired.
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Farewell to the forest

Rushed to return the crashpads to the previously stoned Brit at the Gites (it was The House, free advertising now), then back to the bnb to clean the car and house and shower. The car was extremely dirty, if you can imagine the amount of stuff 5 people tramping through wet woods can bring in. I was vacuuming with the vacuum cleaner stretched from the powerpoint at the entrance of the door. Even shifted the car a few times so I could get the vacuum on both sides of the car, and the boot. After that we went off back to Paris to return the car by 5pm. Despite some poor directions, we got there early and none worse for the wear. Thankfully wj studies in France and has data (and thus google maps and gps).

Yup, said our goodbyes. I bought pain au chocolate (seems a staple to me now) for dinner and breakfast, and headed over to Gare d'lest to catch my 7.58 train. Again, I actually felt some withdrawal symptoms. Travelling with friends is so different from going to school here, just because I don’t have close friends here. Oh well that is travel. Switz is in 2 weeks, and Berlin/London/Scotland the week after. Then Munchen. Lol. Non-stop action from now.

OH AND LAST THING. Less related but not less awesome. So remember how my internet was supposed to be up on Friday? Well I got home, and checked with my laptop but it didn't work. Then checked with S's internet (hers worked). Was sad cos I still didn't have internet. But then went to school and downloaded a LAN driver and got home and VOILA internet is here! Best homecoming ever : ) okay not really but you know what I mean.

Posted by seaskimmer 14:58 Archived in France Tagged rain paris france forest climb outdoor Comments (0)

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