10th Sep 2021
I think it's fair to say that there can't actually be too many books about Fontainebleau. I was sat on a beach this summer chatting about the magic of Font, and how literally incredible it is that there are so many collections of fine boulders within such a relatively small area. If you're a climber and you've not been then it really, really ought to be on your list.
Anyway, what is Bleau Blocs and is it worth seeking out? Whereas the other dozen or so books that I have to the forest are guidebooks, this one is a little different. Sized somewhere between a guide and a coffee table book, with a matt, but vibrant paperback cover, it is an anthology of 100 of Fontainebleau aficionado and activist Stefan Denys's favourite problems. There are no maps or topos, no grade tables or information on how to behave in the forest. There are simply 200 pages of beautiful images of beautiful boulder problems, each accompanied by a short description written by Stefan himsel. Actually that's not entirely true - there is an index and a single map at the back of the book detailing the 100 problems, but don't buy the book expecting to be able to find the problems without cross referencing with another guide or the web.
I guess to really get the most out of this book you'd need to be an elite climber as the grades range from 5+ to 8B and the reality is that not many of us climb 8B, but that would defeat the object of the book as it is a piece of art as well as a guide. The double page spread sequence of Rainbow Rocket is of a problem which is only achievable by a very select few, but it's a joy to look at, the zebra striped shadows dissecting the rock into a kind of hazy geometric explosion, a climber headed skywards through its midst. It's very hard to look at it and not be awed.
Since getting hold of the book I've not had the chance to visit the forest, but that time is not far away now and I'm very much looking forward to taking it with me and seeking out some of the fantastic looking lines that I'd never previously seen or even been aware of. My boys have also been perusing its pages and finding inspiration. It'd make a lovely birthday or Christmas present for anybody who likes Font.
Published by, and available from Vertebrate Publishing for £20 (RRP £25)