Fontainebleau, France was somewhere that I’d wanted to go for a few years. It’s home to some of the most amazing bouldering in the world; tens of thousands of problems scattered around a beautiful forest not far south of Paris. I’d been trying to encourage friends to come with me for a while but I couldn’t get anyone to join me—so I decided I’d just go on my own.
For me, friends are the main reason I climb. Climbing on my own just doesn’t interest me that much; it’s the laughs and adventure with others that I enjoy. Driving the six hundred or so miles to another country with no solid plan or friends to accompany me brought on a lot of concerns; I’d have to find others to climb with, and if things did go wrong there might not be anybody to help me. This trip was going to be way outside my comfort zone.
When I finally arrived, these concerns were playing on my mind. Yet I pulled into my pitch at the campsite and said “Hello” to the guys set up next to me, and within a few minutes I had somebody to climb with the next day.
There ended up not being a single day where I had nobody to climb with. One day, after pulling into the carpark at the famous L'Elephant, I immediately met a group to climb with. This was one of the best days of the trip, featuring a group made up of climbers from all around the world—Canada, the USA, the UK and Germany—all trying boulders together.
On another day I found myself jumping into the river for a swim with some friends I’d made not more than an hour before. It was a great way to cool off after a sweaty day trying my first circuit in the forest.
It may seem strange to say this but I think that by going on my own I was actually surrounded by more people than I would have been if I’d gone with friends. I learned on this trip that there are advantages to travelling alone.
I’d still be nervous about doing this again but my comfort zone has definitely broadened from the experience. I’m pretty sure there has been some sort of longer term change in me as a result and I’d now be a lot more willing to do other trips or adventures on my own in the future. It is scary to just head out on your own, but the community we have is super friendly and welcoming.
If you’ve been thinking about it, do it.
Filmmaker, photographer and climber from the UK