In the South of France and the foothills of the Pyrennes is Ariege. Some information about bouldering (and more general climbing and accommodation) can be found at ClimbAriege.
Argenton Bloc details the granite bouldering in this area.
The following is a report from UKB Regular tomtom...
Just back from a cracking week in Brittany and thought I'd write down some words to share what a great place it was! There is some superb bouldering along the north coast. I was there for 6 days and managed to climb/boulder every day. The locations were superb – coastal locations mostly on or right next to gorgeous empty sandy beachces – which kept MrsTT happy whilst I floundered on the boulders. I’ve made a short (and fairly crap) video of my puntering efforts as it gives you a better idea of what was what... there were three main areas I found which I’ll talk about below. Sorry the video’s a bit crap but I ran out of SD space and some was filmed on the phone.. also I only had one small mat and some of the stuff was pretty highball – so I used all my courage and only climbed the low/easy stuff! All areas were really quiet (was the week after the French Holidays end) chilled, relatively inexpensive, not too hot, not too cold... winning. If you also like Swimming/Kite/Surfing/Sailing type things its a fantastic area.. loads to do and really chilled out.Bouldering in Brittany
The rock in the video was fine grained granite. Superb friction, mixture of cracks and small flakes – lots of burly sloper action too (rather like grit climbing). The probs on the vid are only about 5/5+ but on the reverse of the block there was a great 6b traverse and a few good straight ups. The second time I visited the rocks I bumped into a chap called Ivan, who (according to my poor French and his poor English) worked for the French BMC – he also talked me through the problems. The overhanging nose on the left went at about 7b (2 or 3 variations) and felt superb on big undercuts to slopey lips – though was too hard for me (I blame the excessive cheese consumption). The outcrops around the rock in the picture also had some bolts on them, and when I asked Ivan whether or not there was more climbing in the area he waved and suggested everywhere. This outcrop was probably just under at high tide – but was bone dry when I was there.
This was the area mentioned in the Midlands rock climbing guide to Brittany bouldering – its located on the Cote du Granite Rose – which is an amazing 10k of coast (and inland) dominated by huge pink granite boulders. The rock here was coarser granite, some razor sharp, with great chicken heads and flakes. This area was tidal – but with an 8m tidal range it was dry for a good 8 hours per cycle.. On the W.Midlands guide they mentioned they were high – but the video gives you an idea of how big! The first problem in the vid (Mastadon grade?) looked ace, but I couldn’t hang the slopers in the heat (and it kept slicing my palm!) also there was no obvious way down! Around the RH side of the same boulder were a couple of great face problems on smears and chicken heads at c.6a/6a+. The back end of this had a mad 45 degree overhanging face c.2.5m high with a few small features (one leading to a lip jug) that looked like amazing potential. The main face (LH of the arête I was trying) looked incredible – some chicken heads dotted up it indicated potential – but with one small mat and no spotter... The smaller boulder behind had an easier angled face (but high) which is the second (easy) problem (4+) and the third clip from this site is just me puntering around on a slab but shows the fantastic scenery. There is loads to go at here – if you had a spotter and a couple of mats it would be fantastic. I can post up some other pics of lines I tried but bottled etc.. The w.Midlands guide mentions c.10 problems here but having explored the other blocks theres an easy days worth of exploration there.. Location wise its bang on the beach which is (sadly) a bit more developed than the first site (cafe’s etc..).
I stumbled across this site whilst looking for somewhere nice to eat a picnic. Its on a headland just west of Pougasnou and back on finer grained granite. The problem in the vid was located in a spectacular spot – the shelf its on ends about 1.5 left of the horn shaped rock and then drops c.15 to the wave cut platform. I justify my poor climbing by having no mat nor spotter and a huge drop to the left. Great problem though.. This problem appeared to be part of a circuit! There were route and problem numbers and the Font style arrows pointing to the next problem etc.. Sadly I’d left the mat at the Gite that day, and MrsT must have eaten a moule that disagreed with her so I couldn’t stay long and explore – but well worth a look around. Someone has spent some time sorting the place out with short bolted routes and a circuit (though it needed a good clean so not much action I suspect). All above the tide line. Wish I had more time to go back there...
A great place to explore – I would thoroughly recommend it.. we lucked out with the weather the week we were there but its an amazing coastline to explore with stacks and stacks of unclimbed problems – deserted beaches – fantastic seafood. It needs a little exploration but I found things to climb every day fitting in around beach/lunch/sightseeing schedules (and a wedding).
The best bouldering venue in the world.
There are plenty of options for accommodation, camping, gites, static caravans, basic hotels (eTap/Formula 1) or more expensive options. Its very easy to get around the forest and you rarely need to drive more than half an hour from any of the sites to reach most areas.
Plenty of gites are available throughout France for hire. A selection of those in the Fontainebleau region can be found and booked via Gites de France (simply search for 'Fontainebleau'). Many regulars of UKBouldering frequent the forest and the following are member's reviews of the places they have stayed...
|Gite||What's Good||What's not so good||Variations from Description||Recommended||Reviewer|
|Maisonbleau||Several gites close to Buthiers.||N/A|
|The House||Spacious and friendly with the option to rent pads. Ample, secure parking for up to 5 cars. Beastmakers and pull-up bar for rainy days/drunken late night comps. Plenty of space for drying pads etc. Electricity, WiFi and bedding included. Great garden and covered BBQ area out the back.||Not super close to any particular areas but having said that, everywhere you'd want to go is accessible within 30 minutes including the Chateau. Also, Tousson is not particularly well endowed with bakeries/patisseries etc but Milly is only 10 minutes away and has all you need.||Definitely!||fatneck|
|Gites de France no. 263||Idyllic location in a wood, loads of wildlife (e.g. Red Squirrel, Bullfinch, Woodpecker, Wagtail) and space for kids to play, Located on main road just ½ mile from Cuvier & easy access everywhere. Local patisserie does the best Almond Croissant in the forest.||A bit tired & dirty, damp on walls in bedroom, electric heating only, no kettle, Items of broken furniture. Located long way from road down a rutted, pot-holed track. Bathroom & toilet accessed through main bedroom; cushions for pillows; DVD has no remote. On our visit the place was also crawling with ants, especially in the kids bedroom which was rather unpleasant for them to say the least. Got hammered for Chauffage costs (£50 for the week).||Shower is an attachment on bath taps only, not overhead & no curtain.||Wouldn't like to stay there when it's very cold and couldn't recommend for families given the damp and ants. Great location if you're not too fussy.||nai|
|House in Thomery, Nr. Fontainebleau||Its right on the Seine in Thomery, just a few minutes from Avon/Font. Nothing flash but comfortable, clean and everything we wanted during our stay. The owners, Corine and Paul, live in an adjacent property and were charming, inviting us into their home for to share a (very good) bottle of wine, and incredibly easy to deal with. We got a postcard from them at Christmas.||I'd definitely go back||andy popp|
|Le Nid de Fauvettes||Warm, comfortable, well equipped. Great boulangerie around the corner, supermarket 10 min drive away||Not much in the village - no restaurant or bar. Need to drive to most (all?) rocks.||None obvious||Definitely.||Durbs|
|Chez Florynie||Quiet, comfortable and well equipped accommodation at the quiet end of Milly-la-Foret. Chez Florynie is a small gite sleeping a max of 4 people, however we felt this might be a bit of a squeeze and that it was perfect for 2. It has secure off road parking and it's own entrance so you don't have to walk through the owners garden to get in and out. Great shower, good wifi and very friendly owners. Florent speaks good English and Stephanie was very helpful, particularly when we realised we'd forgotten towels! the rest of the time they left us alone and this suited us fine. It is a tad more expensive than a lot of places but we felt it was worth the expense. Milly has everything you could want and the whole of the Trois Pignon area is withing 15/20 minutes drive||Car needed...||None...||Absolutely!!||Fatneck|
|Perthes Cottage||All on one level (useful if you've toddlers) although with tiled floor (but thats common to many Gites). Near to the large Carrefour for easy shopping. Owners live upstairs and are very helpful (at the time they had contact details for a babysitter).||Car needed...||None...||Yes||lagerstarfish|
Innumerable campsites dotted about the forest...
Les Courtilles du Lido - Nice large campiste with static caravans and tents for rental as well as camping. Swimming pool, crazy golf and nice pizza's from the onsite bar and a Supermarche is passed on the drive in/out of the campsite (saves driving to the Carrefoure). One possible downside is the proximity of the railway line. Walking distance to the beautiful fortified town of Moret sur Loing where an excellent meal can be had in the La Gavotine Reasturant.
Camping Grez - Large campsite (with English speaking owner), choice of individual plots, or a more open field where fires are allowed (rare in France). Has an excellent pizza van on Sunday nights, but get back early to order as the queue/wait can be very long.
La Musardière - In the heart of the forest with a swimming pool (trunks no swim shorts!). Ideal if you've not got a car as you can walk to several areas from here.
Free Bivy Sites
There is a long tradition of bleusards bivying in the forest though and the remains of some of these sites can still be found. However, wild camping is banned in the forest and you may well find you're asked to move on if you try kipping in your car/van in the car-parks. Nowadays there are a handful of official sites dotted around the forest, although some, such as the one near Bas Cuvier, have been closed due to misuse/abuse (DO NOT BIVY HERE). One that remains open is Bourron Marlotte, its very basic, but has a running water from a tap and a hut with a drop-pit style toilet in.
If you are in a gites, camping or any other form of self-catering there is a large Carrefour at Villiers en Bière. As of writing IT IS NOT OPEN ON SUNDAYS!!, but up-to-date details can always be found here. There is also a McDonalds and a large Decathlon which is well worth a browse.
Milly la Foret
There is a well stocked Intermarche in Milly. Worth going to see the Coypu in the lake adjacent to the car park! Location Also in the market square is a small but well stocked mini mart type place - probably a bit more expensive though. Milly also has a proliferation of amazing boulangeries, a pizza delivery place and even a Japanese restaurant!
For recommendations of restaurants in the forest see this thread.
Pad Hire Edit
There are a number of options for hiring crash pads in the forest.
|The House||Hire Ronin and Edelrid pads, see Pad Hire|
|Maisonbleau||Only rent pads if you are staying there|
|Gite in Tousson||Daily or weekly rates see this post|
|Pizzeria in Arbonne||See this post|
|Roc et Resine||See this post|
Child/Family Friendly Venues Edit
A common question on UKB is which areas are suitable for families and kids. Common answers include...
Disclaimer:- Children love climbing, and (almost) any area in the forest will provide suitable entertainment.
The Trois Pignons forest is situated on sandy ground and some of the trails are difficult with pushchairs. It will make a big difference to your enjoyment if your children are capable of walking or if you are carrying them in. Children are fickle and can like or dislike an area for reasons completely unconnected with climbing.
|Beauvais Nainville||D75||Excellent for kids, and mixed groups, there are two white circuits, one suitable for ages 6+, the other a bit older. There is also a yellow and an orange that follow the same route through the forest. The climbing starts at the car park, the rock is rough and the problems are low with many traverses. Ideal for a mixed ability/ age group. Shady, though not too humid, good for hot summer days.|
|Beauvais Telegraph||Good childrens spot, 2 childrens circuits, one for very small ones, one for 10+, next to the carpark with picnic tables in situe. Little for adults except the beginning of the blue circuit.|
|Canche aux Merciers||Two white circuit, one of which can be combined with the the yellow, both end near the start of the blue/red circuits. The childrens circuits can easily be including with blue/red circuits, a good mixed group choice. The rock is quick to dry (although some say a little greasy). The boulders are low with flat landings. The walk in is about 5 minutes. Maybe avoid on Wednesdays in term time, as this is a favourie destination for school groups from the local area.|
|Roche aux Sabots||Nice childrens circuit, close to the car park (on the right before the beginning of yellow/blue/red circuits. Unfortunately this means that there is little to occupy adults as the yellow/blue/red circuits are not run on the same boulders.|
|Rocher des Potets||Croix Saint-Jerome||Fairly short walk in, There are no childrens circuits but an easy yellow/orange on low boulders. Friendly rock, with safe landings. Ideal for beginners and older children.|
|J.A Martin||White circuit plus a yellow/ orange that start close to the car park. The other circuits in this area are not easily combined. To be avoided on Hot days.|
|Rocher Canon||White children circuit starts from the car park. Easy to mix with the yellow/ orange and some blue/red problems. Good choice for a mixed group.|
|Apremonts Bizons||A Short walk in finds a small area of low boulders located away from the other circuits. Ideal picnic area and kids are virtually unloseable. A firm favourite. There are some off-cicuit problems, although the rock is a little sandy on some of the problems.|
|Franchard Isatis||Short walk in, flat area of lowish boulders at the start make an ideal location for parents wanting to do the blue/red/white plus off-circuit problems. Usually plenty of families picnicking and playing on slacklines. Not a great choice for beginners due to lack of easy circuits.|
|Petit Bois||A low yellow circuit will entertain competent kids and beginners. Right next to the car park, although without a map you might end up lost. Probably the dampest place in the forest, ideal in hot condition althogh it can sometimes be too muggy. Easy to combine with a trip to Lidl in Nemours.|
|L'Elephant||A white and yellow circuit start in the low boulders near the car park although they soon go in completely different directions. The white continues into the main area with the other circuits. The rock is full of holes and pockets and on flat sand. Family groups with beginners may find the problems in this area a little high for comfort, although the yellow circuit that goes up onto a plateau to the right of the main area may well be suitable.|
Many circuits start off friendly enough but quickly become difficult to follow if you are carrying a lot of stuff. A lot of circuits date back many year and are not really suitable for crash-pads due to the amount of time spent retrieving them. Running entire circuits in many areas is something that is best suited to solo or small groups climbing. Places that are commonly recommended to avoid when you've family/young kids in tow are...
- Bas Cuvier - What's in the sand your kids are digging in? The areas close to the parking should be treated with care.
- Gorges du Apremont - With the exception of the Bizons area mentioned above the main area is very difficult to navigate alone, with kids, pushchairs and picnic baskets it quickly becomes a nightmare.
Recommended Problems Edit
Because of the potential for lists of recommended problems to be very long and overshadow the content of areas across the whole of France a new page on Recommended Font Problems collates such information.
Granite bouldering in the foothills of the Pyrennes in the South of France.
Alpine bouldering, a topo was online some time ago and is mirrored here.
France is big, the weather will depend on where you are and the time of year.
Gorge du Tarn