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Fontainebleau Climbs – The Finest Bouldering And Circuits – A Review

16th Nov 2012

Fontainebleau Climbs – The Finest Bouldering And Circuits – A Review

J & Francoise Montchausse / Jacky Godoffe

I’m beginning to wonder whether it is possible to have too many guidebooks to one place. My current count for Fontainebleau is 9 plus a dedicated map plus a section in French Rock. It’s certainly too many to carry around the forest with you and I have my favourites depending on what I am doing. The latest guide to have been added to the collection is Fontainebleau Climbs, The finest bouldering and circuits, by Jo and Francoise Montchausse and Jacky Godoffe. It’s a re-print of the classic Purple guide that is seen being carried by most parties in the sacred forest, and by that token, has a lot to live up to. Personally the old Purple has never been one of my favourite guides, but it can’t be argued that it provides a superb insight into what’s on offer, with an interesting mix of circuits of all grade ranges, classic problems, a little description for each area and reasonable maps and photos. I tend to use it when planning where to go for the day as it’s very good at giving an overview and allowing comparison of crags. I mentioned already the fact that it has reasonable maps, but this can only be said for the actual circuit maps, the general area and orientation maps leaving a lot to be desired. So, how does the new guide compare?

Interestingly it’s a few pages smaller. It’s white, and not Purple. The cover shot is led pronounced, but there are a few inset shots of kids and women climbing, giving a clear message that it’s aimed at everybody. Most importantly there’s a message on the cover stating that the route and maps have been updated and revised. Upon turning over the first few pages it is immediately apparent that the authors have realised the weaknesses of the old guide. The orientation map looks like a proper map, with different scale roads in different colours and thicknesses (the old map had everything in gigantic grey). There are coloured circled next to each area title indicating the number and range of circuits, the colours obviously matching the colour  of the circuits. This alone is something that I’ve not seen before in a guide, at least not done so concisely. It’s immediately clear for example, that Apremont has the largest number of circuits anywhere in the forest.

There’s the ubiquitous ‘how to’ section which goes over some of the essentials of bouldering, and highlights some of the special rules for Font – the importance of cleaning the sand from your boots before climbing for example, as the rock is so soft. The historical section is a nice touch and something I enjoyed reading. There’s even a tongue in cheek futuristic section which made me smile.

I haven’t yet got my head around which problems are included and which aren’t. The old guide differentiated between circuits and off-circuit problems, but was very difficult to interpret because there was no colour coding. The new one seems to have mainly circuits listed, all nicely colour coded. There are plenty of decent photos to inspire you, but rather frustratingly the only information given in the caption is the name of the climber and problem, with as description of the problem – for example black 4, meaning the fourth problem on the black circuit. I don’t know why they haven’t included the grade and the page number it is listed (for they are generally not synchronised with the page of the circuit on which they appear).

All in all it looks to be an excellent addition to the armoury and one that will be heading out to the crags with a select selection of companions!

It’s priced at £19.95 and published by Baton Wicks


My collection of Font guides, the new one on the top, it's predecessor directly underneath it.