Wear and tear in the bouldering Mecca

The last three weeks here in Fontainebleau haven’t been only golden moments, good climbing and pain au chocolat. For the first time I really felt that some reflections about the future of bouldering and the current state of the holds should be needed. 

I have been in the climbing scene since 14 years now, and almost 10 in the rock climbing world. I also grew up in a gym like wide part of the new generation of kids does nowadays. I must admit I haven’t been always perfect, pure and 100 % ethically clean in what I have climbed so far. I made several mistakes during the past and, still now, I am often learning new shades about this topic, trying to go deeper and deeper into the knowledge of the good approach that a rock climber needs. Hard to admit, but learning the unwritten laws of bouldering might take a while. Ethics and respect are probably values you acquire during a relatively long path. The learning process happens if you are flexible to catch small details and if you are lucky enough to meet the few climbers who still put passion and respect into the outdoor bouldering.

All of this is hard to match by these days, especially considering that even the most media climbers aren’t often the most clean. In fact, most of the celebrities can’t be taken as examples under this side. 10 years ago we were definitively living in a different community, and I felt blessed to have know the last wave of this way of living bouldering. It was somehow harder and less comfortable, but definitively richer with dreams, magic and real values.

Rocks aren’t stationary as we imagine. They changed from the smallest details to the biggest chunk. Our short lives hide us the truth that the game we are playing is just a matter of time. Everything we climb was dust and it will return to dust in the future. This is the nature we belong to.

But, dramatically, even in a shorter period of time, boulders can be altered. And certainly not only for natural reasons.

Having put up a decent numbers of lines, I could note how the holds change during the flow of the seasons and how the holds can alter ascent after ascent. Even if it deals of micro details, it’s rare that we can repeat the problem in the exact and same state as the first ascentionist did. There are plenty of examples around, especially on soft kinds of rock like sandstone or limestone. Boulders change for natural reasons in long terms of time and for human being impact in a shorter period of time. We can definitively manage our use, limiting the ruin of the rock. So, we are somehow responsible of all of this deterioration process.

And seeing how bouldering is getting more and more popular by these days, the state of the rock will probably depend more and more on our behavior as the years roll on. We are responsible of the heritage we have and protecting all of this should be our first priority. It should, because apparently it is not what we are actually doing.

I walked through many areas this time here in Font and it was, in some sort of ways, sad and ridiculous to note how some holds currently are. If you would take few steps into the Forest, you can count endless doses of tickmarks left and, most impressive, touching some holds which are not the same anymore. Few times ago climbers who haven’t any ethic didn’t brush the boulders at the end before leaving. Now it seems that they don’t even use a brush for their whole session, complaining about the conditions when they should only need to clean and take care a bit more. Slopers, crimps and jugs are surrounded and covered by a chalky layer which is pretty heinous to remove and it’s getting more and more into a permanent state. And this is going to change completely the nature of the texture.

This is probably due to the quantity of people which is getting into the climbing world, and, more important, to the very low qualities values that these people are bringing into the outdoor world. Hard to say where the source of the issue is and even harder to imagine  a possible solution to stop the loop and restart from the beginning. It seems that the baton of the old Bleausards generations has been somehow lost for unknown reasons.

Bouldering is becoming like business. Business that deals with personal egos, glory and certainty not money for most cases.. I am pretty sure some climbers don’t even like climbing anymore.

Having patience, failing, falling, learning, improving, experiencing, respecting, being humble is all now replaced with illusionary good performances, quick sending time and loads of insta likes. It might be only an opinion of few, but we are getting into a valueless climbing world.

Almost nobody still cares about the only and simple rule we should follow which is the one to impact as less as possible while we do bouldering. We are lucky to practice an activity that only counts an handful of unwritten rules; we are free and nobody catches us with a red card if we get wrong. We just need to preserve our heritage in order to continue to enjoy our level of freedom and to respect  all the other climbers who want to enjoy rock with passion, sacrifices and efforts.

Every of us owns a brush. Use it. Carefully. For your performances, but even more to limited the ruin of the rock we all love.

1. "Deforestation" in Rocher Du Cassepot

2. Tickmark for a foothold on "Digitale" in Bas Cuvier