Forêt de Fontainebleau
Fontainebleau - France
[b]Fontainebleau [/b]is a city located 65 km southeast from Paris (1 hour by car), where stands a chateau which was the hunting house for the Kings of France and their reigning guests coming from the whole Europe. There were big game hunting in the huge forests surrounding this city, the Forêt de Fontainebleau, which the climbers call [b]Bleau[/b]. This forest is 20,000 ha (bit less than 100 sq miles). The Forest is mainly made of oaks, white birches, beeches, and pine trees as well. These species grow on a fine sandy soil and subsoil coming from the erosion of the sandstone, which explain the gently reputation of Bleau : little exposed boulders with rarely dangerous falls… which is not completely true! Besides Fontainebleau (middle east), the main cities in the area are [b]Barbizon [/b](north west), [b]Milly-la-Forêt[/b] (west) and [b]Nemours[/b] (south).
c How is the rock?
Perfect! The boulders are made of [b]sandstone[/b]. All kinds of problems are available: technical slab and face climbs, overhangs and roofs. All kinds of holds are present from micro crimpers to head sized huecos, but the most characteristic are the smooth, steeply sloping pieces of rock that can only be identified because of the chalk. How high are the boulders? Usually between 6’ and 12’, but sometimes more than 30’ for which you could need a rope (by example at La Dame Jouanne).
c The grades
Puzzling… The history of climbing in Bleau is very old and people who got there were simply training for the mountaineering season in the Alps. For that purpose they created circuits through the Forest, with dozens of boulders in each of them for a total height which was supposed to be a good training for the Alps. The grades were supposed to match the Alpine grades, and the Bleau scale is derived from the Welzenbach scale… but harder! What about the [b]Vermin scale[/b]? All the boulders from F2a to F5a can be considered to be V0… but the difference of difficulty between a 2a and a 5a is amazing as you will notice it fast once in the Forest…So don’t be to pretentious at the beginning.
c What is the best season to climb in Bleau?
Good question! The rock has much more grip when cool and dry. So dry winter and dry spring are perfect (dry fall is seldom!) : hard core climbers prefer winter, I prefer spring, when the weather is fair and the forest is in full rebirth. Avoid summer when your hands are all wet. Avoid wednesdays (children and teachers can invade Bleau), avoid sundays (and saturdays) because families invade the forest! According to the location, the rock can dry fast or slow…
c Going to Bleau
- The easiest way to get to Bleau is to drive a car. From Paris, go south on highway A6 (A6 crosses the forest on its western part), and take one of the following exits : from #13 (Cély) to #16 (Nemours). See specific areas for more road details.
- You could also take the train (stations of Bois-le-Roi or Fontainebleau-Avon [b]from Paris Gare-de-Lyon[/b]), then ride a bicycle, but I don’t know if it’s worth since it’s not easy to ride on the sandy trails of the forest). For timetables, google “SNCF + timetable”. Or ask at a desk in Gare de Lyon. There’s [b]approx one train every 30 to 45 minutes[/b] departing from the train and subway station of Paris - Gare de Lyon (direction : Melun - Fontainebleau - Montereau - Sens).
- The station of Fontainebleau - Avon, which is downtown Fontainebleau, is approx 40-50 minutes away from Paris - Gare de Lyon.
- The station of Bois-le-Roi (5 minutes before Fontainebleau - Avon) might be the most appropriate if you want to boulder in the northern part of the Forêt Domaniale de Fontainebleau, Rocher-Canon, Cuvier-Rempart, Bas-Cuvier and Rocher-Saint-Germain.
- For the other spots in the Forêt Domaniale de Fontainebleau, the station of Fontainebleau - Avon is the best choice.
- For the Forêt Domaniale des Trois-Pignons, I would choose the station of Fontainebleau - Avon or take the car.
[b]More about train+bike here![/b]
c The different areas
This huge forest is not single but complex… The areas are disseminated among the sandy valleys and plains of the forest, which make difficult for foreigners (= climbers who don’t spend their lives in Bleau!) to navigate in it! The best thing to do is to buy the IGN blue map TOP25 number 2417-OT. (scale 1:25,000 or 1 centimeter = 250 meters). Then you can approach the paradise.
- North, between Barbizon, Fontainebleau and Bois-le-Roi, in the State Forest of Fontainebleau are Rocher-Canon, Cuvier, Rocher Saint-Germain, and Apremont.
- West of Fontainebleau and east of Arbonne, always in the State Forest of Fontainebleau are Franchard-Cuisinière, Isatis, Les Sablons, Hautes-Plaines, le Rocher des Demoiselles….
- In the area of Milly-la-Forêt, Noisy-sur-Ecole, Arbonne-la-Forêt and the highway A6 is the Forêt Domaniale des Trois-Pignons which provides the highest concentration of boulders : Canche aux Merciers, Le Cul du Chien, Bois-Rond, le 95.2, le 91.1, le Potala, le Diplodoccus, and so many others…
- More south, northwest of Nemours, in the State Forest of Larchant, are La Dame Jouanne, Le Maunoury, L’Eléphant.
- There are other interesting areas close from Bleau, on sandstone too : near the city of Malesherbes south of Milly-la-Forêt ; near La Ferté-Alais, north of Milly-la-Forêt (Beauvais, La Padôle) ; north of Etampes (the nice Chamarande) ; near Orsay (Dampierre, the closest area from Paris, only 20 km).
c Some web links?
- Bleau.info A complete site in French, English and Dutch, made by Dutch and French climbers. Very complete. Many topos, pictures, videos.
- Grimporama In French. A classical web site with many info. Few online topos. Interesting geological considerations.
- Escalade Fontainebleau In French. Many circuits.
- Bleau! The personal site of Jo Montchaussé who writes topos too. Many pictures of hard problems.
- Zebloc Info on Bleau and other bouldering areas in France and elsewhere.
- Camping du Petit Barbeau, on the river Seine, 77920 Samois-sur-Seine, tel +33/126.96.36.199.45.
- Camping de la Musardière, 91490 Milly-la-Forêt, tel +33/188.8.131.52.91.
- Camping municipal, on the river Seine, 77190 Dammarie-les-Lys, tel +33/1.64.39.07.23.
- Camping de La Belle Etoile, 77000 Melun-la-Rochette, tel +33/184.108.40.206.12.
- Camping Le Lido, Veneux-les-Sablons, 77250 Moret-sur-Loing, tel +33/220.127.116.11.05.
- And many others in Nemours (south), Montigny-sur-Loing and Grez-sur-Loing (southeast).
c Authorized bivouacs
- Near the Forest-Hut of Bas-Bréau. Between Barbizon and Fontainebleau on N7, when you enter the forest after Barbizon. Water. Fires allowed after Ranger authorization. [color=red]Closed[/color].
- Near the forest-Hut of Petit-Barbeau (close to the private camping), extreme northeast of the forest, close to the river Seine, north of the city of Samois-sur-Seine, at the entrence of the forest. Water. No fire allowed. [color=red]Closed[/color].
- Near the Forest-Hut of Bois-le-Roi, on the south border of the city of Bois-le-Roi (north of Fontainebleau), at the entrance of the forest on N6. Water. Fires forbiden, gas stoves allowed.
- Near the Forest-Hut of La Grande-Vallée, north of the city of Bourron-Marlotte (south of Fontainebleau on N7) when route D58 enters the forest. Water. No fireallowed, gas allowed. You must book for this one, probably many days before if you are a group. Should be OK if 2 or 3 climbers. Telephone of the Forest Hut where you will have specific infos on this bivy : +33/1-64-45-96-46. Address : Bivouac de La Grande Vallée, Maison Forestière de La Grande Vallée, 77780 Bourron-Marlotte, France.
- Hippodrome de la Solle, just NW of Fontainebleau.
c Various interdictions
- Fires (except in dedicated camping areas)
- Cutting trees or just branches or even dead wood
- Collecting mushrooms, lichens
- Unleashed animals unleashed (well I suppose you won’t travel oversea with a dog!)
- Using radios
- Parking you vehicle close to a fence(emergency access for firemen and forest guards)
- Camping or just sleeping overnight in the forest.
c Besides climbing
Besides climbing there are many other things to do : walk, bike or ride horse-back in the woods, look at art in Barbizon or enjoy the old towns and palace of Fontainebleau and Moret. There’s also a wonderful museum for Prehistory in Nemours.