As soon as our train pulled in on Thursday, Taylor and I went to the climbing shop for a pad and a guidebook. It turned out that S'cape was a three-minute walk from our hotel — score. We got there just in time, 10 minutes to close.
The S'cape guy was super helpful, especially considering that we came in late, didn't speak French, and didn't even know which book we needed. We asked if we could reach any climbing by bus, and he gazed at us with pity eyes before giving us walking directions to two crags. We put them into my phone, did a happy dance, and left with plans for an early start and an epic adventure.
Then the trouble started. First, we both got sick. After a night of travel-related stomach woes, there was no way we were leaving at 5 a.m. We ended up languishing until early afternoon, when we slowly crept into the light and decided to brave the heat for the rest of the day. We'd just find some boulders in the shade!
Well. I got out my phone for the directions, and they were gone. Just deleted. But you know what? It didn't really matter, because I remembered the way to one crag. It consisted of three sentences: "Follow this road to the cemetery. Stay right of the cemetery. You won't miss it."
Okay. I think we experienced a language barrier thing here. Or a bad listeners barrier thing. Or something. Because although this is how you get into the general vicinity of Rocher d'Avon, a few steps are missing. Those steps turned out to be in the guidebook, but they were at the end of some driving directions that we were ignoring because we didn't have a car. Did I mention that we are terrible navigators who usually have a sassy lady robot voice guide us to any and all new destinations?
Well. We eventually learned the "check the guidebook for the beta" lesson, but not before accepting directions from an elderly Frenchman who insisted we take a trail that led us up a steep and treacherous hill directly away from the climbing. We went up and down and round and round via four different trails, then huffed and puffed back to our starting point to consult the guide anew. a-HA! Blah blah, navigation, after three hours we finally found the east sector of Rocher d'Avon. Shortly thereafter, we ran out of water. We climbed for a bit, but I couldn't name most of the problems we got on, and at that point we were pretty spent. We decided to come back the next morning with a better plan, more water, and fresh psych.
That night, I did some research and found that the middle section of Rocher d'Avon is much more developed than the east and west sectors. It was just a little farther away, and I thought we'd have an easier time finding problems there — maybe there would even be beta-ready humans around! So I scribbled some idiot-proof directions in pink pen and screen-capped a few videos to help with boulder identification. I even put extra water into doubled Ziplocks like the Girl Scout my mama raised. At 5:30 Saturday morning, we set off with our psych renewed and confidence restored.
I'mma pause here to offer you some help. Apparently most people rent cars when they climb at Fontainebleau, and there is not much info online for us footsloggers. So if you are trying to walk from Font proper to a crag, and you too lack French language and map following skills, you can use the following directions. They may not be the best or the most efficient, but they will eventually get you to Rocher d'Avon. I think the trek was about 30 minutes for us — it's a nice one!
Directions from S'cape: 1. Turn left onto Rue Paul Leramy. 2. Walk alongside the cemetery/chateaulands. Enjoy it, it's beautiful! 3. Cross the big road. See the forest? There are trails in there, right by the road, and their names are up on the trees. 4. Turn left onto the trail Route de Cheyssac. 5a. To reach the east sector, turn right onto Route de Poitiers. 5b. To reach the main sector, stay on Route de Cheyssac and then turn right onto Route de la Percée, then follow the SB10 trail to the boulders.
Well, there were no humans. No humans climbing, anyway.
And here's the thing about bouldering in July. Yes, it's really hot, but it's also really green. All the plants are stretching their limbs and yawning greedily in the sun, and the moss is creeping up over the rocks. There are evil thorns coming at you everywhere, and it is just really hard to find stuff.
I mean, we did find some stuff. But not much stuff. And the stuff we did find was hard. I think I set my sights a little high trying Rasta first thing in the morning. It's a burly 6c+ I found on the Internet, and it looks so cool, but I definitely have some work to do before I can stick the first move.
We never found one problem I was particularly keen on climbing, a 6a+ called Tête a Tête. We were right up on it, I'm sure, but I just couldn't pick it out through all the plant growth. After just a few climbs and a lot of searching, I was almost in tears with frustration. We decided to stop for a snack, and Taylor had the idea to put our hammocks up for a little quiet time.
It was one more struggle to actually enter the hammock, but once inside I realized how exhausted I was and drifted off in minutes. When I awoke to birds' voices and lifted my head from its purple cocoon, I surveyed the leafy peace around me and remembered that I was in a magical forest. The magic, I realized, had nothing to do with me and little to do with climbing. Nature is incredible, and Fontainebleau is beautiful whether the rock is cold and gray or obscured by bright green moss.
I realized that although the weekend wasn't the one I'd daydreamed, it was still a good one. I climbed a little, hiked a lot, and had an adventure with my favorite twin. I used a map and compass for once, and I learned not to put pressure on good experiences.Whatever they are, it's a privilege to have them — in all their awkward, sweaty, disjointed, frustrating, imperfect and uninstagrammable beauty.
See? Magical forest. All photo cred to Sista Fran except the one she's in.
I'm definitely coming back to Font — it'll just be a couple of years. But there's plenty to be psyched about right now: Taylor and I just got into Mallorca, and if all goes according to plan (does it ever?), we'll be deep water soloing in a few days! Wish us luck and pluck. <3