Bouldering Circuits of Fontainebleau

The forests of Fontainebleau, an hour south of Paris, are home to the thousands of sandstone boulders that have served as both the birthplace and the epicenter of the sport of bouldering.

Bouldering circuits were developed in Fontainebleau in the 19th century by local alpinists wanting to improve their strength and fitness for longer climbs in the Alps. To identify the order and difficulty of the boulders, they took to labeling each problem with a painted arrow. The color of the paint gave an indication of the general difficulty of a particular circuit. The object was to climb a variety of boulder problems that would prepare them for their alpine adventures.

The rock in Fontainebleau is notoriously technical and subtle, with hundreds of boulders of varying difficulty and angles. From the iconic giant slopers to the tiniest crimps and footholds, getting up even easy slabs can require several attempts and perfect body positioning. The climbing in Fontainebleau may have started as training for alpine ascents, but it quickly became a climbing discipline in its own right.

We draw and expand on this idea as the foundation and inspiration for the setting and climbing at the Bouldering Project.


Photo: Nathan Hadley, Bishop CA


Bouldering Project Circuits

In 2013 we brought Tonde Katiyo over from France, to be the head setter at Seattle Bouldering Project. The concept of circuits was already gaining popularity in climbing gyms across Europe, but it was new in the US. The style of indoor setting and climbing here was following the trend of the popular outdoor bouldering — steep physical climbing on single unrelated boulders.

Tonde was on a mission to bring circuits to the Seattle Bouldering Project. He had the setting framework and the canvas to develop and push new ideas in the diversity of movement and quality of climbing. [this thought isn’t quite resolved.]

Our circuits are designed to reflect progression in climbing, and create a way to navigate our boulders with an open mind, letting you put aside the expectations of the v-scale difficulty as a measure of success or failure. Don’t refrain from trying colors that are both easier and harder than your usual level; the challenge of a bouldering session should always remain in tune with your desired challenge and intensity.

Our circuits at Bouldering Projects are set with color-coded holds, where the color of the circuit represents difficulty. Our circuits – in order from easiest to most challenging – are yellow, red, green, purple, orange, black, blue, pink, and white. Each color circuit has boulder problems that span a range of difficulty. You may find a problem in an easier circuit to be more challenging than a problem in a harder circuit.



Training With Circuits

— This needs content. The concept is to provide “how to scenarios” of how people can structure a circuit session. There is also a concept of starting instructor led circuit sessions in the gym. they aren’t classes, per se. they are opportunities for people to be guided through a circuit session and be educated on ways to use circuits. —