My Fontainebleau Experience: Boulder, Projects, and Mental Game

Victor Baudrand
6 min readApr 23, 2021

The Mental Battle of Projecting Boulders at your Max Level

This year’s winter was cold and wet in Northern France. It rained and even snowed (which is rare) so many days in a row. For someone like me, living in Paris without a car, it was incredibly complicated for me to get out to the Forest. However, despite all of the rain, I had the opportunity to make a little trip down to visit this magical place. I spent 4 amazing days climbing and exploring the historical playground with my incredibly kind Paris host family. To make the trip even more memorable, I had the pleasure to stay and sleep in a castle south of Fontainebleau, in a little village called Bourron Marlotte. Pictured here.

In the picture, the main castle is behind our little homestead near the water.

I was incredibly fortunate to be surrounded by a historical climbing destination, as well as stunning, immemorial French architecture.

Where I Climbed

Dave Graham climbing the boulder Gourmandise in Cuvier Rempart

I got to spend time in some classic Font areas such as Cuvier Rampart, located north of the town of Fontainebleau. At the Cuvier Rampart, I climbed the historical Vincent Cantrelle boulder problem: Gourmandise Raccourci 8A+/V12 (pictured below) and many others boulders.

Me climbing the boulder Gourmandise (Raccourci) 8A+/V12

I also tested my climbing on the legendary boulder called Gecko (assis). Although this boulder is not as historical as some other Font classics I got to climb on. Recently Gecko (assis) has had noticeable media attention as a difficult boulder that many international climbers want to test their strength and ability on. I am inspired to return to continue to project this beautiful and certainly very difficult boulder in the near future.

April 12th, 2021:

My Return to the magical forest of Fontainebleau.

Two reasons for my quick ONE — WEEK trip back to Paris.

ONE, to retrieve some belongings I left at my host family’s house before I migrate across France into my new apartment in Voiron.

TWO, to give my last effort on my Fontainebleau project before the summer conditions roll in and make the boulder much more of a challenge than it already is.

Me sticking the notoriously difficult left-hand move from the start of Gecko (assis) I fell shorty after.

Story Time: Projecting Gecko (assis)

The objective was to attempt my climbing project, Gecko (assis) V14/ 8B+. The night before, I had organized my entire day trip to the forest. it was especially difficult. The friends I had contacted to make the drive from Paris to Fontainebleau to support me on my mission were unfortunately unavailable. Before the nightly Parisian curfew of 7 PM, I sent, what felt like thousands of messages to all the climbers I knew in Paris who had a car. If I am being completely honest, I still do not have the whole writing in French thing dialed, so it always takes more time to communicate with people through the internet.

10 PM that night, I still had no knowledge of if I would be able to go to actually go Fontainebleau the next day. I did not want to miss out on the good conditions and the opportunity to test myself on one of the most incredible boulders ever for the last time. Luckily, the homies came through. I planned my day with the two friends who responded. The next morning, I woke early, packed my climbing gear, grabbed my metro card, strapped my crash pad on my back, and waddled to the local boulangerie to snatch a few provisions.

A climber who owns a car in Paris and travels in and out of the city is like a warrior who is constantly departing or returning from a long day in battle. First of all, you can never find parking. Secondly, when you do find a parking spot, it is never the one you were hoping for. Lastly, the walk home is always unpleasantly long. All in all, maneuvering through the tight city, often with a car packed full of people and crash pads is not the easiest to do every time you want to get out to climb in Fontainebleau. Especially during all of the strict COVID-19 regulations, and the national 7 PM curfew.

I took the metro, 40 minutes to our meeting point just outside of the city. And BOOM, just like that the four crash pads were in the car and we were off to Font.

The wind was fresh and the crux holds on Gecko felt sticky under my fingertips. The conditions were amazing. Rays of sunlight pierced through the trees which gave me some comfort and much-needed warmth during my warm-up. This boulder has an intense right heel hook and for someone who is not very flexible (like me) stretching out my hips and hamstrings was incredibly important. Once I had finished my warm-up, I was ready to give tries from the Stand Start of the boulder which is rated as 8A+/V12. I had done the Stand Start of Gecko only once before so that day the goal to repeat so I have it dialed from the Gecko (assis). Everything seemed to be working out but I did not feel good climbing. I wasn’t myself. I couldn’t find my flow. Two hours later, still unable to do the Stand Start that I had already previously competed when there were worse conditions. Even if I felt strong physically, my mind was not in it and I wasn’t able to execute. As I was resting between my attempts, I took a moment to appreciate the presence of the environment around me. I noticed how majestic the boulder was, and how fortunate I was to be able to have this experience this day; even with the slight feelings of frustrations I couldn’t help but smile. Next try I resent the Stand Start with ease. It was quite a good feeling and boost of confidence. Although I had rediscovered my flow, I was just too physically exhausted to climb through the beginning moves of the boulder and make it to the Stand Start. I had to recenter my objective and focus on simply climbing to relearn the movements. We ended the day shortly after I gave a few good efforts from the very bottom. With a little time left before the curfew, we headed over to a sector on our way home called Reclose. A large overhanging face with a mixture of dynamic moves on jugs and small crimping waited for me. Opium 8A climbs the right side of the boulder on a mixture of big holds and tiny razor crimps. The last move has to be the most difficult because extremely dynamic and committing. It was refreshing to climb another boulder other than Gecko (assis). The send of Opium was amazing and extremely refreshing as it cleared my mind from the emotional day.

After a day of rest, I attempted Gecko (assis) one last time during my trip to Fontainebleau. I didn’t send the boulder, but I definitely learned a lot. Failure in climbing is always difficult. The definition of failure especially in rock climbing is different for everyone. I don’t think that I necessarily failed because I learned so much about myself through the process, however, I surely didn’t succeed in the objective that I was aiming for. So maybe, rather than defining this event as a failure, I define it as “malfunction.” It just didn’t work out and that’s rock climbing at your maximum level. The mental side of climbing is often timing the most under looked side of performance. It’s incredibly complex and one must always be ready to adapt and attune one mental game.



Victor Baudrand

I’m an 18-year-old from the US, currently living and traveling through France to pursue competitive rock climbing, and taste lots of delectable French pastries.