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Carlo Traversi: A Video Guide to Fontainebleau’s Hard Classics—Part 2

Friday, April 13, 2018
In Part 2 of Carlo Traversi’s Font Faves, we get the royal tour, complete with raw send videos, of classic magic forest testpieces. Like Traversi mentions in Part 1, climbing in Fontainebleau is a rite of passage for any devout boulderer, and after watching him slap the perfectly sculpted sandstone slopers in these videos, you’ll know why.

Ready to see Carlo Traversi style six of Fontainebleau’s ultra-classic boulder problems? Cool, but before we get started, we wanted to take a brief but very important minute to discuss a few climbing practices that can make all the difference for a sustainable climbing future. For Fontainebleau—an area that sees heavy use year after year—these good climbing practices will keep the environment and boulders clean, enabling future generations the chance to enjoy one of the most amazing bouldering areas on earth. So without further delay, here are our top climbing practices for Font:

  • *Brush off chalk and tickmarks
  • *Clean your climbing shoes before stepping on the rock
  • *No climbing on wet sandstone, it's fragile
  • *Only use a soft brush with hair bristles on sandstone
  • *Take rubbish home
  • *Stay on trails
  • *Camp only in designated areas
  • *No fire in the forest
  • *Spread the word about good climbing practices

OK, now for some action!

Image: Mary Mecklenburg

The second half of my trip to Font in early 2017 was characterized by discovery. Most of the problems that remained on my list were ones I had seen before but never tried; long walks in the rain on previous trips did wonders for planting the seeds of inspiration. It was nice to return to them and explore the possibilities they offered. I also had the chance to explore some zones I had never seen before and once again expanded my understanding of how massive Font actually is. It’s both overwhelming and comforting to know that Font has more climbing than I will ever have the chance to complete, but that won’t stop me from trying.

L'Insoutenable Légèreté de l’Être 8B (4/7/17)

I randomly stumbled upon this line while roaming through the woods in late 2016, after the Paris World Champs. I didn’t know what it was at the time, but the line was striking. A thin crimp seam follows the length of a steep roof and exits with a difficult looking mantle. When I returned in 2017, I figured out what the line was and mid-way through the trip found some time to try it out. The first day on it was really warm and I focused mainly on completing the 7C mantle and hopefully finding a way to make it feel easy. After more attempts than I care to admit, I was able to get through the mantle two different ways. One with a rock-over on my right heel and the other with a rock-over on my left. Both ways felt really hard and I wondered about my ability to complete the section from the bottom. I finished the first day by figuring out the lower moves. Though they were the crux, they fit me well, and I felt like all I really needed were some cold conditions to make it through.

I returned early the next morning in hopes of finding success in the cold morning air. During my warm up on the mantle, I found a subtle mono stack that made one of the mantle methods a bit easier. This find gave me the little boost in motivation I needed to give it everything from the start. I fumbled the lower section a few times but finally pulled it together. I wasn’t sure how many times I could actually get through the low part, so the mantle was nerve racking on the send go. It was maybe the hardest I’ve tried while pressing out a mantle. I thought my quad and tricep were going to explode.

Tostaky 8A+ (4/7/17)

I had never even heard of this line before this year. It’s funny how social media works in that way, bringing things quickly out of obscurity. I saw some friends post about it before I arrived in the forest and soon enough it was “the line of the month.” I didn’t make it out to try it until late in my trip, but I was pleasantly surprised by the quality and uniqueness of the line. It follows a tall and gently rounded arete on a strange variety of holds. Crimps, slopers, a pocket, a crack, and a few “non” holds. I quickly solved the stand start after having trouble with the hop off the pads into the start holds. Sucks to be short for those kinds of things! I turned my attention to the sit and was quickly frustrated and confused. I just couldn’t reach between a few of the holds. After spending an hour getting completely shut down by the typical beta, I started getting a bit creative with it. And then I went really outside the box. I found that by turning my body sideways near the beginning, I could lock in an extended toe-hook and use that to pull myself through a series of the usual holds and some “non” holds to get myself into the stand. By the time I solved the puzzle I was exhausted and a good go on the full line would have to wait.

After completing L’Insoutenable in the morning, I took the middle of the day off and ate pastries and lounged in the sand at the Elephant area. As the light started fading, I walked up to Tostaky and started warming up again. Turns out fresh arms were all I needed and after a few slips I was able to pull through from the sit start.

Opium 8A (4/8/17)

In early 2013, I encountered some nasty, snowy, and wet weather in my few days in the forest. On one of those days, in between flurries of snow, a group of us attempted the problem Opium. Its overhanging nature kept it relatively protected from the elements. That day I struggled on the line. The holds were generally really large but the reaches were massive for me and I finished the day without a solution for the ending crux.

I returned in 2017 on a warm day and set to work trying to decipher the moves. The beginning felt easier than in the past, but the last section still escaped me. Your left foot is stuck in a low toe-hook and you stretch for progressively better holds at the lip. If you’re taller you can reach a decent hold and then hold the swing. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t quite have the reach. After some fiddling around with options, I realized that the only way through the section for me was to cut the toe and use that momentum to jump into a gaston above my head. The resulting swing was difficult and awkward to hold, but it worked out.

Paddy 7C+ (4/8/17)

I like to joke that climbing in Font is just topping out. While this isn’t completely true, some problems prove the point. Paddy revolves around a few easier moves to the lip and then an absolute battle on basically nothing to finally stand on top. I’m happy this problem went quick, because it felt like it could have taken a lot longer. Regardless it was a great learning process for maneuvering your body through a top out with minimal holds.

Tigre et Dragon 8A (4/8/17)

Following the send of Paddy, a few of us drove down the street to check out the well-known Tigre et Dragon. The line is absolutely stunning. A perfect hanging arete. The first few tries felt difficult. I had a hard time moving from the starting wall onto the hanging arete. The typical hold on the undercut section of the arete was too low for me, so I adapted and started using a closer, but worse hold. It made the move off of it a lot more uncomfortable but it worked. After a quick run up the highball top-out to gain some confidence, it went quickly from the start. Despite being one of the cooler looking lines in the forest it wasn’t my favorite in terms of movement and holds. Some things don’t climb as nice as they look.

Khéops Assis 8B+ (4/11/17)

While the sit to Kheops isn’t the most obvious starting position, it’s always fun to challenge yourself by starting from the lowest set of holds. It helps that the movement on this one is top notch. Nearing the end of my trip, I knew that this was the last problem that I really wanted to complete. I had done all the moves fairly easily, but warm conditions thwarted a day or two of efforts. The crux slopers of the stand are particularly finicky when climbing from the sit. On my final day in the forest, I was able to pull it all together in one last morning session.


In 16 years of climbing I’ve never finished a trip feeling so completely content as this one. Maybe it’s because the stark contrast of failures in previous trips and successes on this one has never been so clear? I’m sure it’s at least some of that. But the more years I climb and the more trips under my belt, the more I begin to understand the framework for success. For me, the difference between a successful climbing trip and an unsuccessful one is all about managing expectations. Font is a perfect place to learn this lesson. Whether you are flailing on the slick starting feet of a 6B slab or squeezing your way up through the desperate slopers of an 8B arete, it’s hard to not be having the time of your life and that’s all that really matters.

--Carlo Traversi

***Check out Part 1 of Carlo’s Font Faves here.

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