Hello fellow INSEADers!
We are Alessia, Anuj, Jung and a bunch of other INSEAD 20Js and have spent A LOT of our free time exploring and bouldering in the Fontainebleau forest. Since it took us quite a while to get a grasp on how to read the magical forest, we decided to start this small guidebook for INSEADers, by INSEADers.
We really hope that this is just the start, and that all future generations of INSEADers continue to add new areas and comments. Let's create a repository for all climbers or people who want to try this awesome sport during their MBA! Fontainebleau is the #1 bouldering destination worldwide, what better way to experience the “city” than exploring its forest?
The first Mapo Tapo trip with INSEAD climbers!
Why is the INSEAD Fontainebleau guidebook on the Mapo Tapo website?
Mapo Tapo is a start-up born at INSEAD. We organize climbing trips to off-the-beaten-track areas around the world, aiming to create authentic experiences with local climbers and leave a positive impact on the local community.
We are very proud that the first Mapo Tapo trip was an INSEAD trip!!! 21 of us went to Sicily and discovered hidden crags with the local climbers. The best part? Now there is a route in Sicily called INSEAD FONTY SWAG financed by our trip!!!
INSEADers will always receive a special treatment from Mapo Tapo and we really hope to take some of you to discover new climbing areas around the world! Don't hesitate to get in touch :)
The INSEAD 20J crew bouldering in Fontainebleau.
Fontainebleau bouldering 1o1
The Fontainebleau forest is a magical place...in any season! You can - and will - get lost for hours and hours jogging, walking and especially bouldering in the forest.
You will go from an area of deep woodland, to sandy hills, scenic swings and incredible rock formations. There are never-ending sandstone blocs scattered all around the forest, which makes it the dreamland for climbers or wanna-be-climbers.
Let’s be honest: bouldering is an amazing excuse to spend all day in nature with friends. Prepare a picnic, build a hammock, play some chill music and you are set for the day!
There are many spots that you can reach by foot or bike from the INSEAD campus, and others that you will need to drive to. Here we list our top 10 spots for bouldering in the Fontainebleau forest. But first...
What is bouldering and what equipment do I need to do it?
Bouldering is a style of rock-climbing where you don’t need rope, harness or helmet. You simply climb boulders that are usually 2m-4m tall. You need only 2 things: climbing shoes and a crashpad, aka a soft pad for landing when you jump (or fall :P) off the rock.
Where to buy climbing shoes in Fontainebleau?
You want your shoes tight - but not so tight you can't weight your toes because they're too painful!
Climbing Shoes are essential, but definitely not comfortable. You typically wear these specialist shoes without socks and they should have a tight fit.
The cheaper option is to buy climbing shoes from Decathlon (a 20 min drive from Fontainebleau or order online, roughly €50). If you're looking for something a bit more technical, you can find many options at the climbing shop S’Cape in downtown Fontainebleau.
The best place to get climbing shoes, however, would be the 'Aux Vieux Campeur' shop in Paris where you can get all sorts of outdoor gear.
The trick to buying climbing shoes is that they should be tight enough that your feet don't move inside and toes are right at the end. But they shouldn't be so tight that you scream in pain!
Where to buy bouldering pads in Fontainebleau?
Bouldering pads often fold up and have straps so you can wear them like a backpack, making it easy to move around.
Bouldering pads are simply crash pads used for protection, that you place under the boulder to ensure a soft landing when you fall off.
You can either purchase these at S’Cape or online (they cost between €200 and €300), or rent them at the Karma climbing gym for €10/day.
You'll usually need one crash pad per 3-4 climbers, as you take turns trying different blocs.
How does bouldering in Fontainebleau work?
If bouldering outdoors, it's essential you have a spotter!
In a nutshell, you find a 'problem' that interests you, put the crashpad where you're likely to land, ask a friend or two to 'spot' you, put on your shoes and get climbing. The goal is to reach the top of the blocs, where you will usually find an easier downclimb.
The spotter is there to make sure you fall properly on the crashpad, so you don't hit your head or miss it entirely. Spotters are also there to keep the landing zone clear and move the crashpad as you climb (if needed) so it's always underneath you.
Bouldering grades in Fontainebleau
There are many guidebooks of the Fontainebleau forest that you can buy which tell you the grade of each line. However, in reality it's often super hard to locate the specific boulder you want to climb. Luckily, though, there are coloured circuits which help you find climbs of the right level.
Most blocs in Fontainebleau have a small coloured arrow painted on them. The colour is indicative of the grade.
You'll see coloured arrows all over the blocs in Fontainebleau, indicating the grade and direction of the climb
One thing to note is that older blocs can have very sandbagged grades. An orange bloc in one area may be perfect for beginners and in another spot hard for even intermediate climbers.
The Fontainebleau grading scale:
- [Purple: very easy, kids and beginner friendly - rarely found]
- Yellow: easier, beginner friendly
- Orange (equivalent to 2A to 4B)
- [Green - rarely found]
- Blue (3C to 5C)
- Red (4C to 6C)
- Black (5B to 7A)
- White (6B+-7C+)
- [Pink - in the gym]
Fontainebleau's climbing gym, Karma, even uses the same colour coding as outdoors!
If you are already a climber, our advice is NOT to look up the actual climbing grades of the lines you try. Grades in Fontainebleau are extremely sandbagged and it can hurt your self esteem!
Jokes aside, boulder grading is different to the grading on sport routes, so don't worry if you find yourself bouldering a few grades lower than when you rope climb.
Our top 10 bouldering sectors in Fontainebleau
This area may look like Fontainebleau - but it's not! The INSEAD crew bouldering during the first Mapo Tapo trip in Sicily.
Awesome beginner-friendly spot close to the INSEAD campus with plenty of yellows, oranges and blues and a hiking trail nearby.
Bouldering and lead gym just a few kilometres from the city centre. You can rent shoes and crash pads here and can use the gym ropes free of charge.
Small boulder area close to the INSEAD campus with oranges, reds and a few yellow boulders.
A huge sector located in the heart of the forest with many interesting oranges and blues, and lots of slabs.
An awesome spot very close to campus with many beginner friendly climbs. Perfect if you want to bring your non-climbing friends to chill and support you in a beautiful location.
A big sector with lots of yellows, oranges, blues and reds and a hiking trail nearby.
One of the best spots for people climbing around the level of the blue circuit. Great rock quality, nice sandy landings - and the grades aren't too sandbagged either!
A classic area with A LOT of blue blocs. This is where you'll find Marie Rose, La Borniol and other classic climbs.
The closest spot to campus, and very beginner-friendly too!
This area boasts an incredible number of blue, orange, yellow and red blocs in close proximity to one another, making it perfect if climbing with people of different levels.
Please note: this web page is a blog article written by a bunch of INSEADers. Mapo Tapo can accept no liability for any inaccuracies. Rock climbing is a risky adventure sport that takes place in nature. Ultimately, you are fully responsible for the choices you make. Mapo Tapo recommends that anyone who does not have sufficient knowledge does not to go climbing outdoors alone.