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Classic Routes: Fontainebleau's La Marie Rose

Fontainebleau’s groundbreaking first 6a, No. 22 on the Bas-Cuvier Red Circuit

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Mael Serre clings to La Marie Rose, Font’s first 6a and problem No. 22 on the Bas-Cuvier Red Circuit. Stéphan Denys

Catching out a cold but sunny day on the front end of my eighth trip to Font in January 2019, I wandered into the Place du Cuvier, the central gathering spot at Bas-Cuvier, to find Jimmy Webb and company stretched out in the winter sun. “Howdy, folks—some warming up? How bout this ol’ thing here?” I asked with a knowing smile, pointing at a steep white slab that defines one edge of the Place, arguably the heart of Fontainebleau.

“Sure I’ll fall off Marie Rose with you!” Jimmy, one of the world’s strongest boulderers, said. He’d been here before: The line has ensnared, frustrated, and elated thousands of suitors—even mighty Ondra missed the flash. After all my visits to the Magic Forest, I still use this footwork-intensive bloc as a barometer and fortune-teller for my Font reintroduction upon each return.

Set within a horseshoe of pale-gray blocs that curl around a sandy picnic spot well situated for peanut-gallery seating, La Marie Rose is a centerpiece of Bleau bouldering. Opened in 1946 by René Ferlet, it stands as the first 6a (V3/4) in Fontainebleau. A member of the historic Cuvier Academic Club—one of many prolific climbing clubs of the day to whose spirited competition we owe a great deal in terms of advances in difficulty, technique, and technology—Ferlet snagged the FA from his friend Pierre Allain. (Allain himself was a legendary Bleausard, and established the forest’s first 5+ [V2]—the arête of L’Angle Allain [1934]—as well as several proud FAs in the Alps, including the North Face of the Dru; he also invented alloy carabiners and the smooth-soled climbing shoe.) Dancing up this lovely slab, Ferlet named the problem for his lady love, now a part of history.

On the problem itself, grasping a small crimp brings you up sloping footholds, somewhat polished with 70-plus years of appreciation. Then dual opposing sidepulls let you dance your feet up to a seam now hidden from sight. To finish, two long reaches bring you to a pair of slopers and then a rounded semi-jug: a fine mantel into history on a flat-topped bloc overlooking the famous Place du Cuvier.


Bas-Cuvier, Fontainebleau, France


6a (V3/4)



First Ascent

René Ferlet, 1946