Just outside Paris you find one of the top bouldering areas in the world – perfect for grown ups – and perfect for children.
– Watch me, mama!
Ella (6) is 2 meters over the ground, no rope, on a boulder in France. Mum has her hands in the air and is ready to catch her child falling. On the ground lies two pads, «crash pads» in case Ella falls all the way down.
The family is 50 km south east of Paris, outside the town of Fontainebleau. There you find the grand holiday castle of the French kings, among sand dunes – and thousands of boulders in all forms and shapes. Many of them is 2-5 meters high, and therefore perfect for playful climbers without ropes.
The parisian elite discovered this in the late 1800s, and had picnics in the sand and climbed on the rocks. That gave both lesiure and a sens of hight in the otherwise very flat landskape.
Now the area is world known for climbing without ropes – or «bouldering» as one calles this earlier obscure sport. Now it is maybe the biggest sector of the climbing field.
The word «bouldering» is probably derived from the word for a big rock; boulder.
The flat, sandy landscape is otherwise perfect for this activity, because you land on a soft or at least flat ground. Earlier one only used a door mat for keeping the climbing shoes clean for sand. In the late 90s thicker pads became more and more common. Nowadays big «crashpads» is a common sight in the woods of Fontainebleau, and on all bouldering areas in the rest of the world.
The risk of injury is low, and the most common case is a wrinkled ankle, which of course can be painful enough. All and all bouldering in Fontainebleau is a very safe – and fun – activity.
The forest offers over 10 000 boulder «problems», so even those who live there must be pretty active to reach over it all.
Todays situation is great for family and children. A lot of easy problems is developed, also special areas for children.
That means mother and father can climb while the child is in the carrier, since the ground is flat. When the child learns to walk it can tumble around in the sand. When it is a bit older it also can try climbing on the small rocks. When it is 4-5 years old it can try the higher boulders. And so on.
Ellas mother is travelling with several families with children. They have rented a place through Gites de France, where houses is out for rent in nice locations throughout the Fontainbleau forest area.
– Come on Ella, you can do it!
Ella tries a problem and her best friend Hedvig (6) watches and chairs her. They are in the same kindergarten together, and climbes indoors once a week back home.
Ella reaches the top of the boulder, and Hedvig climbs after.
– We are the princesses of the rock, you are the queen and I am the princess!
Both are so happy and ride the sharp edge on the top. It is 4 meters down and daddy is a bit nervous. Then they slide 2 meters down and do the 2-meter jump to the ground. They both have a natural angle to hight and climbing, as most kids have.
– Do you want to go back here, we ask.
– Yes, they both answer.
The mothers are also in to that.
– This is the perfect easter, and we will order a house also next year.
And as a little tip at the end; the flight down is easy. Most capital has direct flights to Paris (Orly), an hour by car away, and if you order in a good time in advance you get the flight for a good price.