Author Interview: Natalie Berry, Translator of Bleau Blocs by Stéphan Denys
- Wednesday 21 April 2021
Gérôme Pouvreau, then Florence Pinet, move along the white corridor of the Marie-Rose. © Stéphan Denys
Bleau Blocs: 100 of the finest boulder problems in the Fontainebleau forest is an inspiring book for all levels of climbers and visually celebrates the vast bouldering venue of the Fontainebleau forest through the eyes of Stéphan Denys, an experienced photographer and climber. Split into four sections, Bleau Blocs explores the context and characteristics of 100 specially selected and fascinating boulder problems in Fontainebleau.
In this interview we speak to journalist and climber, Natalie Berry, the translator of Bleau Blocs and the Editor-in-Chief of UKClimbing. Natalie gives us an insight into the magic surrounding the Fontainebleau forest, shares her advice for beginner climbers and reveals a number of excellent climbing spots a little closer to home.
Do you have any advice for someone new to climbing or bouldering who has bought Bleau Blocs?
Climb with people who are more experienced than you who can teach you about spotting and creating safe landings. Take plenty of bouldering mats, and if you go to Font be sure to stock up on pastries, baguettes and cheese for sustenance.
When you’re not climbing in Fontainebleau, where else in the world do you most enjoy climbing?
I love European limestone for sport climbing, but I also enjoy the granite climbing around Chamonix. The UK is hard to beat for its variety of rock types and climbing styles though.
What is so special to you about the Fontainebleau forest?
There is something for everyone in Font and there is always a great atmosphere, whether you want to boulder with a group of friends or make new ones, or climb in peace away from the crowds. The sandstone climbing is also very technical and relies a lot on good footwork and body positioning, which I enjoy.
Below Jérémie Cogan enjoys himself climbing barefoot. © Stéphan Denys
What is your favourite area of the forest to go bouldering? Do you have a favourite rock? If so, what is it?
My favourite areas of the forest would be 95.2 or Cul de Chien. I have fond memories of climbing in these sandy areas as a kid with my GB Climbing team friends. It felt like a playground and it was a great introduction to bouldering and climbing outdoors.
What inspired you to translate a book about the 100 finest boulder problems in Fontainebleau?
I immediately said yes when asked to translate the book as I have climbed there on multiple occasions and the photographs and texts made me want to return. It was good motivation during lockdown when I couldn't climb. I have only done a few of the climbs listed in the book, so now I have a very long checklist!
Kajsa Rosen succeeds on the dynamic crux. © Stéphan Denys
The Fontainebleau forest is all about outdoor climbing. Do you think that the various lockdowns have encouraged previous indoor climbers to get outside more?
Definitely. I know that many indoor-only climbers tried outdoor climbing for the first time out of necessity and found their feet on rock. I don't think it will stop them climbing indoors, but it's great that it gave some the push they may have needed to try something new.
Do you have any recommendations for great climbing locations closer to home in the UK?
If you want to prepare for Fontainebleau, Northumberland is like a miniature Font in the UK on sandstone. St Bees is a coastal sandstone bouldering spot in Cumbria. Southern sandstone in the South-East offers easy-access bouldering and top-roped climbs. Scotland, Northern Ireland and North Wales arguably have more varied rock types than England. I couldn't pick a favourite, but I do love climbing at Malham Cove or anywhere above the sea.